Longest River in the US. Photo: KnowInsiders
Longest River in the US. Photo: KnowInsiders
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In certain parts of the US, summer isn’t really summer without a trip or two (or 20) to the river. Float trips with a full cooler of cold drinks under the hot sun. Camping at a river lot, sleeping under a clear, star-specked sky. Fishing, fishing, and more fishing.

Each river in the USA has its beauty, character, and unique story. These fantastic bodies of water provide food, security, and transportation to humanity.

You might instantly be thinking of the Mississippi River when you’ve read 'longest', but it is NOT the longest river existing in the USA.

What is the Longest River in America Today?

The Missouri River is considered the longest river in the US, just west of Bozeman in Montana. The Missouri River flows almost entirely through the United States, crossing seven states: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. The river starts where the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers meet in Montana. It flows into its main tributary, the Mississippi River, just north of St. Louis in Missouri.

The Missouri River stretches 2,466 miles, while the Mississippi River is 2,340 miles long, about a hundred miles apart from their respective lengths.

The Missouri River is regarded as the “Center of Life” around the Great Plains, as it has served as the primary source of food, trade, transportation, and exploration for millions over the years. It had a considerable impact on the culture of America in the past, and it still does, even in the present and in the future. At least one-fourth of the agriculture in the US is found in the watershed of the Missouri River.

Quick Facts About Missouri River - The Longest River In America

⇒ For over 12,000 years, the Missouri River has served many different purposes to the locals living around it. The river and its tributaries have become a means of transportation, water source, irrigation, and fishing.

⇒ Many believe that the Missouri River formed around 30 million years ago. Yet, due to its changes in course as time passes by, the current period of the river is estimated to be 115,000 years old.

⇒ The river was accidentally spotted and discovered in 1673 when two French explorers named Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette were floating along the Mississippi River.

⇒ In 1804, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, along with 40 other men in their crew, were the first to travel the entire length of the Missouri River.

⇒ An estimated population of 10 million people lives in the basin of the Missouri River. This number includes residents from 10 states, a small region in Canada, and 28 Native American tribes.

⇒ There is a 100-mile-long area designated along the South Dakota and Nebraska borders as the Missouri National Recreation Area, allowing tourists and locals to fish, boat, and enjoy recreational water activities.

⇒ Several national parks are located within the Missouri River watershed, including Glacier National Park, Badlands National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.

⇒ The Missouri River is the 15th longest river in the world.

⇒ The river has many nicknames, including “Big Muddy,” “Dark River,” “Wide Missouri,” “Father of Rivers,” and “Pekitanoui.”


In honor of the great times spent and the great times waiting to be had, here’s a list of the longest rivers in the United States.

The List of 10 Longest And Most Beautiful Rivers in the US

1. Missouri (2,341 miles)

2. Mississippi (2,202 miles)

3. Yukon (1,979 miles)

4. Rio Grande (1,759 miles)

5. Colorado (1,450 miles)

6. Arkansas (1,443 miles)

7. Columbia (1,243 miles)

8. Red (1,125 miles)

9. Snake (1,040 miles)

10. Ohio (979 miles)


Which are the 10 Longest And Most Beautiful Rivers in the US?

1. Missouri River

Photo: Roadtrippers
Photo: Roadtrippers

Nicknamed “Big Muddy,” the Missouri River is the longest river in the US. It has a whopping length of 2,341 miles and has over 95 significant tributaries, some of which are Platte River, Kansas River, Milk River, Yellowstone River and, James River. For millennia, the area around the upper Missouri River was home to Native American people such as the Blackfeet, Hidatsa, and Crow.

Considered the “Center of Life” for the Great Plains, the Missouri River has served as the main artery for exploration, food, trade, and transportation for millions of people over thousands of years. About one-fourth of all the agricultural land in the U.S. is found in the Missouri River watershed, which provides more than one-third of the country’s wheat, flax, barley, and oats.

Even though the Missouri River is slightly longer than the Mississippi, it only drains 529,200 square miles, comprising parts of ten U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. However, the Mississippi River drains 1.2 million square miles, including parts of 32 states and two Canadian provinces, approximately 40% of the continental United States. When combined as tributaries, the two rivers carry more water than any American river.

2. Mississippi River

Photo: Pikist
Photo: Pikist

The Mississippi is a 3778 Km long stream in the United States. Its source is Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota. Located around the mouth of the stream 160 Kilometer südlich von New Orleans, where it enters the Gulf of Mexico.

On his way, crosses the Mississippi River almost the whole territory of the United States from North to South and flows through eight U.S. States: Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. At St. It is joined with the already mentioned Missouri Louis. The Mississippi Delta, New Orleans is one of the largest estuary areas worldwide.

3. Yukon

Photo: World Wildlife Fund Canada
Photo: World Wildlife Fund Canada

Coming at number 3 among the longest rivers in the US is the Yukon River, which is 1,979 miles long. Derived from the Gwich’in language, the name Yukon means Great River. The mouth of the river is located at the Bering Sea. It is the longest river in the whole of Alaska. Despite its length, the basin of the Yukon River is among the most sparsely populated and least developed regions of North America.

However, the river is nevertheless essential due to its wealth of mineral deposits. Its mineral wealth has been known for a very long time going as back during the famous Klondike gold rush of the late 1890s. The mining activity has had little impact on development due to the limited transportation alternatives available through this river.

Top 10 Most Beautiful Rivers in the World Top 10 Most Beautiful Rivers in the World

Rivers have been an extremely essential part of people’s lives throughout centuries in all parts of the world, and undoubtedly they are incredibly charming.

4. Rio Grande

Photo: WildEarth Guardians
Photo: WildEarth Guardians

The Rio Grande or the “Big River” is one of the longest rivers in USA. Its mouth is at the Gulf of Mexico and has a length of 1,759 miles. The Rio Grande rises in the western part of the Rio Grande National Forest in the US state of Colorado. The river is formed by the joining of several streams at the base of Canby Mountain in the San Juan Mountains, Red River, San Juan River, Rio Alamo, Rio Salado, Devils River, Pecos River, Santa Fe River, are some of its well-known tributaries. Today, the significance of the river has diminished because of diversions which has led to a decrease in water flow of the river, but during the American Civil War, this was the only legitimate port of the Confederacy.

The river provides water for some 2,100,000 acres of cropland, excluding areas irrigated above the reservoirs. The leading industries of the Rio Grande area are mining (petroleum, natural gas, coal, uranium ore, silver, lead, gold, potash, and gypsum), agriculture and animal husbandry. The segments of the Rio Grande are among the most spectacular in America, including two designated National Wild & Scenic River stretch, a pair of National Monuments, and a National Park.

5. Colorado

Photo: Wallpaperflare
Photo: Wallpaperflare

The Colorado River rises in the Rocky Mountain National Park in the U.S. State of Colorado. It flows from the Rocky Mountains to Utah and Arizona. It flows of the Colorado to Mexico and between the States of Baja California and Sonora in the Gulf of California. The Colorado is 2330 Kilometers long and is the Pennywort for agriculture, Drinking water- and electricity supply in the southwest of the United States. A sad record was, however 2013 achieved, as the Colorado River place 1 of the ten most endangered rivers in the United States was set.

6. Arkansas

Photo: State Department
Photo: State Department

Arkansas River, the sixth-longest river in the US is 1,443 miles long and has its mouth at the Mississippi River. The rises past the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains close to Leadville at the heart of Colorado. This river has been very critical to the westward expansion of the United States. It used to provide hunting grounds along its length for Native Americans. Early explorers also followed the river as it stretched westward.

During the period starting from 1820 to 1846, the Arkansas River served as the boundary between Mexico and the United States. It has continued to contribute to the fertility of farmlands in central states. The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System is part of the inland waterway system stemming from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and stretching all the way southeast through Oklahoma and Arkansas into the Mississippi River.

7. Columbia River

Photo: State Department
Photo: State Department

The Columbia River has its mouth at the Pacific Ocean with a length of 1,243 miles and over a mile wide in some stretches. The river was named for Captain Robert Gray’s ship the Columbia Rediviva. Some of the main tributaries of the Columbia River include Spillimacheen River, Beaver River, Illecillewaet River, Incomappleux River, Kootenay River, Pend Oreille River, Spokane River, Snake River, John Day River, Deschutes River, Willamette River, Kicking Horse River, Blaeberry River, Canoe River, Kettle River, etc. Fishing has been an important activity in the Columbia River for as long as the region has been inhabited.

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8. Red River

Photo: The Texas Tribune
Photo: The Texas Tribune

Even though it is a tributary of the Atchafalaya River, the Red River is still one of the longest rivers in the United States of America. Before becoming a tributary of the Atchafalaya River, it used to be a tributary of the Mississippi River.

Its tributaries include the Little Red River, Salt Fork Red River, Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River, North Fork Red River, Washita River, Pease River, Kiamichi River, Little Wachita River, Sulphur River, Loggy Bayou and Little River. It is among the major rivers found in the southern part of the US and has long been viewed as the Texas-Oklahoma boundary.

It is said that you can’t really feel the enormity of the river until you get on the beautiful bridge constructed over it and has since become a tourist attraction. The Red River is home to some of the rarest animal species in the US including the blue catfish and striped bass. It is also a habitat for migratory birds such as falcons, hawks, bald eagles, geese, golden eagles, ducks, Great blue herons and belted kingfishers.

9. Snake River

Photo: Scenic USA
Photo: Scenic USA

The Snake River has a length of 1,078 miles. The river lives up to its name as it follows a complex path before reaching its final destination – it rises in the mountains of the Continental Divide near the southeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming and flows through the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho, then through the rugged Hells Canyon area via northeastern Oregon and the rolling Palouse Hills, to reach its mouth near the Washington Tri-Cities area, where it enters the Columbia River. The snake river has over 20 major tributaries- Hoback River, Salt River, Portneuf River, Henrys Fork, Malad River, Boise River, Payette River, Weiser River, Salmon River, Clearwater River, and Palouse River.

10. Ohio River

Photo: World Atlas
Photo: World Atlas

The Ohio is the largest left tributary of the Mississippi River. It is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela in Pittsburgh. It flows near the town in Cairo 1579 Kilometres long Ohio River in the upper Mississippi River. The Ohio drained most of the East of the United States. Its catchment area covers 14 Federal States, including the most southern States on the East Coast.

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