The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States and the largest by volume. In Memphis the river is both an attraction and a thoroughfare for commerce and transportation.
Here is everything you need to know about the river, including how wide and how long the Mississippi River is, plus ideas for how to enjoy it. Now you can walk across the river or ride your bike with the Big River Crossing.
The Mississippi River acts as the western border of Memphis. Downtown, it runs adjacent to Riverside Drive. Additionally, the Mississippi can be accessed by Interstates 55 and 40 and Meeman Shelby State Park.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How wide is the Mississippi River? The width of the Mississippi River ranges from 20 feet to 4 miles.
- How long is the Mississippi River? The River runs approximately 2,300 miles.
- How deep is the Mississippi River? The River is anywhere from 3 feet to 200 feet deep and ranges from 0 to 1,475 feet above sea level.
- How fast does the Mississippi River flow? The Mississippi River flows at 1.2 miles per hour up to 3 miles per hour.
Each day, a steady stream of barges can be seen traveling up and down the Mississippi. These cargo bearing vessels carry sixty percent of all grain exported from the United States. Other products being shipped via the river include petroleum and petroleum products, iron and steel, grain, rubber, paper and wood, coffee, coal, chemicals, and edible oils.
There are four bridges that span the Mississippi River in the Memphis area. The Harahan Bridge and The Frisco Bridges are currently only used for rail traffic. In October 2016, the Harahan Bridge’s pedestrian and bicycle pathway opened to the public.
There are two bridges open to car traffic that connect Memphis to Arkansas by spanning the Mighty Mississippi.
- The Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge carries Interstate 55 across the river to West Memphis. It is better known as the Old Bridge, as it opened in 1949.
- The Hernando de Soto Bridge is shaped like the letter M and carries Interstate 40 across River to West Memphis. It is more commonly referred to as the New Bridge, as it opened in 1973.
There are almost 5 miles of public land along Memphis' banks of the Mississippi. These parks from north to south are:
- Greenbelt Park
- Mud Island River Park
- Mississippi River Park (formerly known as Jefferson Davis Park)
- Memphis Park (formerly known as Confederate Park)
- Vance Park
- Butler Park
- Tom Lee Park
- Ashburn-Coppock Park
- Martyrs Park
- Crump Park
- Chickasaw Heritage Park
Recreation and Attractions
The Mississippi River and its adjacent land provide the perfect setting for numerous recreational activities and special events. According to the Riverfront Development Corporation, some of the top river and river park uses include:
- Water activities (canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and sailing)
- Exercise (walking, jogging, running, and biking)
- Family time (picnicking, kite flying, and model airplane flying)
- Relaxation (reading, painting, meditating)
Mud Island River Park offers a to-scale model of the Lower Mississippi River, a Mississippi River Museum, a monorail, and an amphitheater. It's only open in the summer.
Beale Street Landing is a six-acre section of the Memphis riverfront area (adjacent to Tom Lee Park) that includes a docking area used by riverboats, a restaurant, a splash park, and public art in a park-like atmosphere. The Memphis Grizzlies RiverFit is a fitness trail that meanders through Tom Lee Park beginning at Beale Street Landing; it offers pull-up bars, monkey bars, other interval training equipment, a soccer field, and beach volleyball courts.
On October 22, 2016, the Harahan Bridge Big River Crossing project officially opened to the public. It provides a way for visitors and residents to cross the Mississippi River on foot or by bicycle. Big River Crossing is the longest active rail/bike/pedestrian bridge in the country; it is a part of the Main to Main project connecting Memphis Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas.
In November 2018 the River Garden Park opened in downtown Memphis. It has life-size bird nests where you can crawl in and take photos. It also has special events in the summer like s'mores night.