Mississippi River History
The Mississippi River is part of the largest river system in North America. Originally carved by glacier run off from the Laurentide Ice Sheet, the river begins in Minnesota and streams southward for 2,320 miles to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. The River valley is formed by the thick layers of its silt deposits, making the area one of the most agricultural regions in the country, which helped result in the steamboat era. The Mississippi River is known as the birthplace of several music genres, the boyhood home of famous author Mark Twain and its important role during the Civil War Era.
During the American Civil War, the river played a pivotal role as a route for trade and travel. The Union essentially took over the Mississippi, virtually splitting the Confederate territory in two while also controlling the South's main artery of transport.
The Mississippi River, meaning the “father of waters”, provided much inspiration to famous author Mark Twain. Samuel Clemens first signed his author name Mark Twain in February 1863 as a newspaper reporter in Nevada. The name Mark Twain means “Mark Number Two”, a Mississippi River term for the second mark on the line measuring the depth signified by two fathoms or twelve feet, the safe depth for a steamboat. In 1857, at the age of 21, Twain became a “cub” steamboat pilot.
The Civil War ended his career four years later by halting all river traffic. Twain never lived in the Mississippi River Valley again, but he went back to the river in his writings throughout his life. He visited several times, most notably in 1882 when he wrote Life on the Mississippi, his fullest and most autobiographical account of the region and its inhabitants. Another prominent visit was in 1902, when he made his final trip to the scenes of his childhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. His boyhood home is now a museum open to the public.
The roots of American Music history run through the Mississippi River Country. Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Country and Folk music can all find their origins in America’s heartland. As the main transportation route during the nation’s early years, the Mississippi River carried not only people and goods, but also different cultures and forms of music. Memphis is known as the birthplace of the Blues genre, while Arkansas is called the “folk music capital of the world”. Arkansas, along with Missouri, contributed to the making of Country, Bluegrass, Folk and Gospel music. Jazz and Blues originated in the south, but the genres made their way north to Illinois and the metropolis of Chicago.
Experience the Mississippi River's rich history for yourself. We offer several cruises to discover this iconic part of American History. Daily shore excursions, on-board historians and special guest lecturers bring the history of the river to life.
Enjoy eight days cruising the dramatic landscapes of the upper Mississippi River, including stops in historic destinations including St. Louis, Hannibal, Dubuque and Red Wing.
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New Orleans- Memphis
Explore Memphis, Civil-War era Vicksburg,, and the legendary New Orleans, on this eight day cruise travelling through the lower Mississippi River delta.
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The Complete Mississippi River
Cruise America’s heartland on this epic 22-day journey that travels the entire length of the Mississippi River. Visit fascinating destinations including New Orleans, Vicksburg, Chester, Davenport, La Crosse and St. Paul.
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Memphis – Nashville
Spend eight days travelling the Mississippi and Cumberland rivers from Memphis, TN to Nashville, KY, including stops in Paducah, Cape Girardeau, Dover and Clarksville.