8 Highlights Of A Mississippi River Cruise
From Huckleberry Finn to the jazz-fuelled decadence of New Orleans via the blues, the Mississippi is part of the American psyche.
Those who opt for a cruise along the famed river banks are granted sights and experiences found no where else in the world. We take a look at some of the highlights for a typical cruise.
1. It's Huge
From its source near the Canadian border to where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi stretches 3,734 kilometres, making it the fourth longest river in the world (behind the Nile, Amazon and Yangtze).
Its many tributaries mean it serves as a drainage system for 31 of the 50 US states. It's estimated that almost 15 million people are reliant on the Upper Mississippi alone for their domestic water supply.
The river's source is traditionally accepted as Lake Itasca, one of the 100 or so lakes at Itasca State Park, Minnesota.
The twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, a common stopping-off point on Mississippi cruises, are known for their many lakes, strong Scandinavian heritage and for being the birthplace of rock virtuoso Prince.
Situated at the Mississippi's confluence with the Minnesota River, the area can be explored via the many boat tours that are on offer. The Minneapolis Queen is an old paddle steamer that conducts tours of the city, while group kayaking tours are also available.
3. St Louis
Recent events in nearby Ferguson may have marred some views of St Louis, but it remains one of the key cultural centres of the American midwest.
As with other cities on the Mississippi, there is a deep-seated blues and jazz scene, as well as a strong suit in breweries and distilleries. And there's the Gateway Arch, the city's foremost landmark which was built in the 1960s as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States.
From Elvis Presley to Justin Timberlake, Memphis has produced many of the world's most famous musicians and can lay a strong claim to being the birthplace of rock and roll.
Visitors should make time for Sun Studio, where artists such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison all made recordings with celebrated producer Sam Phillips. Blues aficionados should also head to Beale Street, where the likes of B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf congregated.
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5. Civil War Battlefields
Given the Lower Mississippi's location at the heart of the Deep South, it is unsurprising that its banks saw some of the most vicious fighting of the American Civil War.
A popular stop on many Mississippi cruises is the historic battlefield at Vicksburg, where Union troops overran the Confederates in what is now considered one of the conflict's two main turning points (the other being Gettysburg).
Prior to the Civil War, abundant wealth generated by the cotton trade meant the southern gentry enjoyed a sophisticated lifestyle.
The opulence of the era is apparent in the paddle steamers that still cruise the river, as well as the stunningly preserved town of Natchez.
Its antebellum architecture makes it a popular destination for excursions with lines such as American Queen, who run Southern Culture cruises throughout the year.
7. New Orleans
As with St Louis and Memphis, New Orleans is famous for its contribution to American music, not least because it's the city where jazz originated.
But there is so much more to the Big Easy, such as the city's historic French Quarter and the world-famous Mardi Gras festival.
8. The Wildlife
The Mississippi can boast an abundance of wildlife. The upper portion of the river is home to beavers and pelicans.
The delta is a popular destination for animal enthusiasts, due to the many endangered species that live there, such as the Louisiana black bear, piping plover and green sea turtle.
Although river cruise boats do not make regular stops at the delta, keen ornithologists may wish to extend their stay in the USA to take in the wildlife that might be spotted.
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This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.