The name Mississippi comes from an American Indian word meaning "big river" or "father of waters." The waterway is one of the most important and longest rivers in the country. It travels through 10 states (see map). Because of drought conditions, water levels on the mighty river have fallen to at least 10 feet below normal. That threatened to stop traffic on the river. On January 14, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard completed a project to keep the river open for boats and barges.
Barges carry everything from grain to steel down the river. Some of these goods are then sold to other countries. Shutting down parts of the river would mean the loss of jobs and billions of dollars in trade.
KEEPING THE MIGHTY RIVER RUNNING
The shallowest parts of the river are in the 180-mile stretch between St. Louis, Missouri, and Cairo, Illinois. It is there that workers have been removing rocks and sand to make the river deeper and filling it with water from nearby reservoirs and lakes. Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the Army Corps, says the work has made it possible for barges to continue to get through.
Recent wet weather has also helped boost water levels. "We are thankful for the rain, and we look forward to more," Anderson told TFK. We are optimistic that the river will remain open."
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