THE RIVERS AND LAKES OF THE USA
The United States has many thousands of streams. Some of them are mighty rivers, which cross the state and even international boundaries. Others are tiny streams. Some rivers flow lazily across wide, flat valleys, others rush swiftly down deep canyons and steep gorges which they have carved out for their paths. The rivers of the United States belong to the Atlantic and the Pacific basins. The chief drainage system of the country is the Mississippi River System. The Mississippi is one of the world's great continental rivers. Its waters are gathered from two-thirds of the United States and, together with the Missouri (its chief western branch), the Mississippi flows some 6,400 kilometres from its northern sources in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, which makes it one of the world's longest waterways. It is a swift and wide river, and navigable almost throughout its entire length. The Mississippi has been called the "father of waters". Curving through the heart of the whole western half of the Central Basin is the Missouri River, the principal western branch of the Mississippi. In the past it was the most destructive river in the United States. When the first explorers reached this river, they were amazed by the mighty stream of dirty water pouring down from the west. Before the Missouri reaches the Central Basin, it runs for 1,600 kilometres through a region where there are long droughts and sudden, extremely heavy rains. The Missouri is really two rivers: one of water, and one of small bits of soil washed off the land. Where the Missouri pours into the Mississippi from the west, it colours the river deep brown with small pieces of soil. Other important tributaries of the Mississippi, which rank among the most important rivers of the world, are the Ohio River, the Arkansas River and the Red River. Like the Mississippi, all the rivers east of the Rockies finally reach the...
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