Mississippi, river, principal river of the United States, c.2,350 mi (3,780 km) long, exceeded in length only by the Missouri, the chief of its numerous tributaries. The combined Missouri-Mississippi system (from the Missouri's headwaters in the Rocky Mts. to the mouth of the Mississippi) is c.3,740 mi (6,020 km) long and ranks as the world's third longest river system after the Nile and the Amazon. With its tributaries, the Mississippi drains c.1,231,000 sq mi (3,188,290 sq km) of the central United States, including all or part of 31 states and c.13,000 sq mi (33,670 sq km) of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. Cotton and rice are important crops in the lower Mississippi valley; sugarcane is raised in the delta. The Mississippi is abundant in freshwater fish; shrimp are taken from the briny delta waters. The delta also yields sulfur, oil, and gas.
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