The 10 Longest Rivers in Missouri

Missouri River flowing through Jefferson City, the capital of the state of Missouri.
Missouri River flowing through Jefferson City, the capital of the state of Missouri.

The state of Missouri, located in the Midwestern US, boasts of a diverse landscape consisting of a mixture of Ozark Mountains, dissected till plains, alluvial plains, rivers, lakes, and streams. It has a large network of rivers, streams, tributaries, and flowing water in general that not only provide water for its population but also act as wildlife habitat. From any point within the state, there is a river just a few drives away. Some of these rivers flow entirely within the state while some originate from other states or countries and only flow through it. Here are some of the longest rivers in Missouri.

Longest Rivers

Missouri River

Missouri River is North America’s longest river. The river originates from the Rocky Mountains in the state of Montana and flows for approximately 2,341 miles before emptying into the Mississippi River. The river covers a drainage area of 529,350 square miles while its catchment area covers about one-sixth of the US. Missouri River and the Lower Mississippi River combine to form 4th longest river system in the world. The river and its tributaries have been the major source livelihood and transport for the people for over 12,000 years. It was one of the routes that were used in the westward expansion of the US in the 19th century.

Mississippi River

Mississippi River has the second largest drainage system in North America after the Hudson Bay drainage system. Although it flows entirely in the US, its drainage system extends to Canada. The Mississippi River originates from Lake Itasca in Minnesota and flows for approximately 2,320 miles before emptying into the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. It has several tributaries with its watershed draining 31 states in the US and two provinces in Canada. The Mississippi River is the 4th-longest and 5th-largest river in the world by discharge.

White River

The White River flows through the states of Missouri and Arkansas covering a distance of 722 miles from its source to its mouth. It originates from the Boston Mountains in Arkansas and heads northwards into southern Missouri before returning Arkansas and finally to its mouth at the Mississippi River. Although the White River is shorter than the Arkansas River, it carries nearly as much water. Its tributaries include Little Red River, Crooked Creek, Cache River, Buffalo River, and Black River among others.

Des Moines River

The Des Moines River is one of the tributaries of the Mississippi River. It is approximately 525 miles long and forms part of the Missouri-Iowa border. The Des Moines is the longest river flowing through Iowa. It originates from Lake Shetek in southwestern Minnesota and Okamanpeedan Lake on the Minnesota-Iowa border with the two forks joining at Humboldt County. The stream then flows southwards into the Mississippi River at Keokuk. The river has to experience seasonal flooding with the Great Flood of 1993 forcing the evacuation of much of the Des Moines city.

Other Significant Rivers In Missouri

The longest river that flows entirely in Missouri is the Gasconade River. It is approximately 280 miles long and flows in the central and south-central Missouri. The river originates from Ozarks and flows through several counties and Mark Twain National Park before emptying into the Missouri River. Another significant river in Missouri is Meramec River, the 9th longest river and the longest free-flowing waterway in the state. The river is 218 miles long and originates near Salem and empties into Mississippi River at Arnold and Oakville.

The 10 Longest Rivers in Missouri

RankRiverLength (miles)Length (km)
1Missouri River 2,3403,770
2Mississippi River 2,3203,730
3White River 7221,162
4Des Moines River 525845
5St. Francis River426686
6Black River 300480
7Gasconade River 280450
8Osage River276444
9Meramec River229369
10Chariton River 218351

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