Mississippi River Delta

Mississippi River Delta

Mississippi River Delta

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The Mississippi River Delta is the modern area of land (the river delta) built up by alluvium deposited by the Mississippi River as it slows down and enters the Gulf of Mexico. The deltaic process has, over the past 5,000 years, caused the coastline of south Louisiana to advance gulfward from 15 to 50 miles (24 to 80 km).

It is a biologically significant region, comprising 3 million acres (12,000 kmĀ²) of coastal wetlands and 40% of the salt marsh in the contiguous United States. It is also a commercially significant region, supporting the economy of New Orleans with significant shipping traffic, providing 16 to 18% of the oil supply in the U.S., and providing 16% of the fisheries harvest in the U.S., including shrimp, crabs, and crayfish.

The Mississippi River Delta is not to be confused with the Mississippi Delta region, an alluvial plain located some northward in western Mississippi along the river.

Recent influences

About every thousand years, the Mississippi River has changed course. Each Mississippi River deltaic cycle was initiated by a gradual capture of the Mississippi River by a distributary which offered a shorter and steeper route to the Gulf of Mexico. After abandonment of an older delta lobe, which would cut off the primary supply of fresh water and sediment, an area would undergo compaction, subsidence, and erosion. The old delta lobe would begin to retreat as the gulf advanced, forming bayous, lakes, bays, and sounds.

In the last nine thousand years or...
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