The Mississippi River forms a unique and complex ecosystem spanning 2000 miles. From its origin at Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota to its outlet in the Gulf of Mexico the river encompasses a diversity of life found only in a very few places on earth.
The river's history spans 750,000 years, having its beginning during the "Great Ice Age," or Pleistocene Epoch. As the glaciers retreated the glacial meltwater formed what is now the Mississippi River Basin. The north/south orientation of the Mississippi River helped to make it one of the most diverse habitat systems on the earth.
Of the 600 freshwater species of fish in North America, 43 percent are found in the Mississippi River - Bass and Walleye are just two types of fish one finds here.
40 percent of North America's migratory birds use the Mississippi River flyway on their way to breeding grounds in the north.
The Mississippi River drains 60 percent of the North American Continent, carrying 22 trillion cubic feet of water annually to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi River also carries over 500 million tons of sand, silt and clay. Nine thousand years of erosion and runoff have slowly filled the once deeply incised river channel. Here at the confluence of the Mississippi and Rum Rivers the basin becomes shallow and broad. Where the Rum River crosses the sandy plains of Anoka county, meandering streams that have become separated from the flow, small crescent shaped lakes called "oxbows."
This diversity of life is fragile and depends heavily on a clean environment. The Metropolitan Council Environmental Services has worked hard through the years to make the river here free of harmful chemicals. Evidence of this can be seen annually when once again the mayflies hatch by Two Rivers Historical Park.