Missouri River Facts: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 The Missouri River
  • 0:29 Length & Location
  • 1:40 Uses
  • 2:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The Missouri River is a long river that runs through the western United States. Learn where the Missouri River starts, the states it runs through, and where it ends as well as some of the benefits of this useful river.

The Missouri River

The Missouri River has a miserable nickname! Despite the fact that this mighty river winds through seven western states, it has earned the not-so-flattering nickname the ''Big Muddy.'' The Missouri River earned this nickname because its waters contain a lot of silt, meaning the water is filled with bits of sand and clay. The silt gives the water a dirty brown appearance.

Length & Location

The Missouri River is the longest river in the United States. Its muddy waters flow for more than 2,500 miles. The Missouri River starts in Montana and flows mainly south and east to end its journey near St. Louis, Missouri, where it empties into the Mississippi River.

Do you live near the Missouri River? The river starts in the Rocky Mountains of Montana near a town called Three Forks. Rivers that lead into other rivers are sometimes referred to as forks. Three Forks, Montana, got its name because this is the spot where three rivers come together to form the Missouri River. Those rivers are the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson rivers.

From Montana, the river continues on its path passing through or alongside North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa before moving to Missouri where it flows into the Mississippi River near the city of St. Louis. As it travels through these states, it pulls in water from many smaller tributaries, which are rivers or streams that flow into larger waterways.

Benefits & Uses

The Missouri River has been a useful river since the early days of America. The famous explorers Lewis and Clark followed the Missouri River as they explored the western states on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Early American pioneers used the course of the Missouri River as a guide as they ventured out west to find land to raise their families.

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