Missouri River

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The Missouri River is a major river of central North America, and is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It is the longest river on the continent at over 2,340 miles (3,770 km) and the second largest tributary of the Mississippi by discharge, after the Ohio River. The watershed of the Missouri River drains nearly 530,000 square miles (1,400,000 km2) of the eastern Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, spanning parts of 9 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Approximately 10 million people live in the drainage area, mostly concentrated in urban centers in the southern part of the basin such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, and Denver. Measured from its hydrologic source in the Centennial Mountains of southern Montana to the Mississippi's mouth at the Gulf of Mexico, it forms part of the fourth-longest river system in the world.

As early as 12,000 years ago, Paleo-Indians settled in the plains of the Missouri River basin.[7] Prominent Native American tribes that lived on the river prior to the arrival of Europeans included the Mandan, Sioux, Hidatsa, Osage, and Missouria – the latter for whom the river is named. French, Spanish and American explorers wandered the region in the 18th and 19th centuries, during the time that the Missouri basin became part of France's Louisiana territory. When France ceded Louisiana to the United States, the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled the river in search of a water route to the Pacific coast of North America. Settlers' expansion into the Great Plains pushed most of the Native Americans out of their traditional lands, leading to multiple wars. The Missouri River served as an unofficial boundary for the American frontier in the 19th century, and many prominent pioneer trails such as the Oregon Trail had their starting points on the river.

Although it once was, by far, the longest river of North America, today its length is comparable with the Mississippi River because of channelization of its waters to eliminate meanders and facilitate boat travel. The lower Missouri valley has become a highly productive agricultural and industrial region. Barges shipping gravel, wheat, fertilizer, and other grown, mined or manufactured products provide much of the commerce on the river today. In response to the growing amount of water traffic, federal and state agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers heavily dammed and channelized the river in the 20th century. Although this development has contributed to the economic growth of the region, it has taken a toll on the ecology and the water quality of the Missouri.

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