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The Longest River in North America

What’s The Longest River In North America? What To Know

A Brief Introduction Of North America

Third among the largest continents of the world, North America lies between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancer. North America extends for over 5,000 miles to within just 500 miles from both the North Pole and the Equator. It also has 5,000 miles east-west extension. The total area covered by North America is 9,355,000 square miles.

North America is home to the largest island in the world, Greenland. Greenland covers a substantial part of the continent. Its total area is reportedly 836,000 square miles. It is as big as the biggest state in the United States, Alaska.

The largest city of North America is Mexico City with an area of 573 miles and has an approximate population of 22 million. New York City and Los Angeles take up the second and third spots respectively.

The largest country of the North American continent is Canada with an area of 3.8 million square miles. Canada is not only the largest country in North America but also the second-largest country in the world after Russia.

North America Is Divided Into 5 Regions

  • Great Plains
  • Canadian Shield
  • Eastern region
  • Mountainous west
  • The Caribbean

Talking about the rivers of North America, the Missouri River is the longest. With an astronomical length of 2,341 miles, it travels from Montana to Missouri and ends up joining the second largest river on the continent, the Mississippi River.

Rivers Of North America

The North American rivers flow towards either one of the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the interior water basin of Mexico City, or towards the land-locked Great Basin in the western region of the United States.

As mentioned above, the longest river in North America is the Missouri River followed by the Mississippi River, which is the second-longest river on the continent. Other longer rivers of the North American Continent are the Rio Conchos that’s about 350 miles long and is also the longest river in Mexico, and the Mackenzie River, which is the longest river of Canada with a length of 1080 miles.

Mentioned Below Are Some Rivers Of The North American Continent

  • Alabama River
  • Colorado River
  • Columbia River
  • Kettle River
  • Delaware River
  • Thompson River
  • Hudson River
  • Mackenzie River
  • Rio Conchos
  • Mississippi River
  • Canadian River
  • Missouri River

Missouri: The Longest River In North America

Around the west of Bozeman, Montana where rivers like the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison converge giving birth to North America’s longest river. This convergence and birth point of the Missouri River is called Three Fork. Missouri then proceeds to travel over 2,300 miles before eventually joining the second-longest river of North America, the Mississippi, where it is at a namesake state at St. Louis.

They together form the world’s fourth longest river system and start rolling down to the south towards the Gulf of Mexico.

The Missouri River is considered the Center of Life for the Great Plains and has served as the center stage for exploration, trade, food, and transportation for millions of people around the continent for centuries. Almost one-fourth of the total agricultural land in the United States is found in the watershed of the Missouri River. All of this accounts for more than one-third of the whole country’s barley, wheat, and oats. The Missouri River’s significance and contribution to the great American culture of the past and future can never get measured.

Over the years the Missouri River earned a nickname with people starting to call it the “Big Muddy”. The major reason behind calling the Missouri River, Big Muddy, is the huge amount of sediment it pushes through the river system. Nevertheless, the enormous amount of sediment has eventually diminished as levees, and dams increase the channelization of the river with time.

In the modern-day, the Missouri River can be precisely termed as a gentle or harmless giant. Although, in the upper reaches, Missouri still resembles the same attributes.

Even the slightest summer float through the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument can send a 150 mile wild and scenic section of the Missouri River winds downstream from Fort Benton down to Montana.

Rare native species are often encountered by fishermen in the area. Some of these rare species include ancient-looking paddlefish or the pallid sturgeon, which is on the verge of extinction. Almost 150 species of rare fish are found within the entire Missouri River basin. The river basin is also home to as many as 300 species of birds, and various mammals such as the mule deer, whitetails, and trophy elks assisting immensely to the seasonal hunting economy of the state.

Fort Benton has also felt the occasional presence of the wayward grizzly. Numerous other endangered and rare species have also found a home alongside the Missouri River. However, restoring the population of numerous fish and wildlife is possible but it does demand flow modifications of epic proportions.

The History Of The Longest River Of North America 

The Missouri River and major floods alongside it have always had a love affair. Almost all of us have grown up learning numerous essential lessons about river management regarding this issue.

For almost eight decades now, Congress has directed the United States Army Corps of Engineers in administering irrigation, flood control, and navigation on the banks of Missouri by dredging, channelizing, and impounding the river. All of these have worsened the condition risking the wildlife, communities, recreation, and river health affecting the surroundings of the river and the lifestyle there.

With time, floods alongside the Missouri River have increased in severity and frequency endangering one and all. Unpredictable climate change, communities are left helpless needing progressive flood protection techniques as levees and dams no longer offer the protection needed. Only with smarter, innovative, and better natural strategies, the restoration of normalcy alongside the Missouri River is possible.

Restoration of floodplains and wetlands along the Missouri River that absorbs and stores the floodwater has to be instrumental in flood management in the coming years.

What Does The Future Hold?

Science and public developments have taken a front seat and we are optimistic that they can turn things around for the good.


Learning about the longest river of North America or for that matter all the rivers of North America will significantly affect your perspective towards rivers. Its dynamics, shortcomings, and advantages cover almost all the knowledge an individual needs regarding rivers. The Missouri River in all of its glory also brings a lot of hardships and happiness to the people of North America and you will always cherish the knowledge of this gentle giant.

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