Free Old Mississippi River Maps Including Harold Fisks’

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The meandering maps of the Mississippi river by Harold Fisk must be the most beautiful maps I’ve ever seen. These stunners look more like works of art than geographical diagrams.

I first came across these maps in the gift shop of the V&A Museum of London. And actually mistook them for a piece of artwork. The maps are full of colorful curves and swirls. I have since seen prints of the maps for sale for hundreds of dollars in fancy interior shops.

These maps of Harold Fisk are in the Public Domain. I have managed to find some good digital downloads of them. In my search, I also came across some other wonderful vintage Mississippi river maps. Which you can also download and print for free.

If you like maps of rivers then the chances are you will probably enjoy the wonderful mountain sketches and charts on Pictureboxblue. Some of these illustrations have the world’s longest rivers on them too.

Harold Fisks’ Meandering Maps of the Mississippi River

Harold Fisk was a geologist and cartographer employed by the US Army Corps of EngineersIn 1944 he published a rather bland government report “The Nature and Origin of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River”.  There was a visual gem within this report, 15 colorful maps of the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi Alluvial Valley represents the historic floodplain and valley of the lower Mississippi River. 

Fisk had spent three years researching the historical flow of the river. By using a mixture of aerial photography and geographical study, Fisk plotted the geographical history of the Mississippi in an artistic way. 

The maps were designed as a visual way of showing how the meandering flow of the Mississippi River had changed over time.

Fisk used greens blues reds and oranges wandering across the maps. The colors represent the Mississippis fluctuations and flow over time.

The path of the river when the map was drawn in 1944, is in black. The green path is the course of the river in 1880, the salmon-pink 1820, and the light blue 1765.

The maps also illustrate the color-coded traces of where the river flowed even earlier, stretching back to prehistoric times.

As well as cartographers and geographers the artistry of these river maps has been appreciated by creatives. Some have even used them as inspiration for their own creations, such as the stunning art quilts of Timma Tarr and Cathy Fussell.

Meandering Mississippi River Maps

Ancient Courses Mississippi River Meander Belt

There are fifteen of these colorful maps. Click on the title above the map you want to download, and the menu option will appear to save it to your device. These maps can then be either printed at home or sent to an online print service. Warning these are large files.

All these maps are stunning, but if I’d just have to pick two to print and frame, I’d probably pick maps 3, 13 & 14.

1. Map 1 – Cape Girardeau, MO – Donaldsonville, LA. 

Fisks Meandering Mississippi River Map 1

2. Meandering Map 2

Fisk Meandering Mississippi River Map 2

3. Meandering Mississippi Map 3

Harold-Fisk-Meandering-Mississippi-River-Map-3

4. Harold Fisk Map 4

Harold-Fisk-Meandering-Mississippi-River-Map-4

5. Meandering Map 5

Harold-Fisk-Meandering-Mississippi-River-Map-5

6. Meanderings 6

meanderings 6

7. Meandering Mississippi 7

Meanderings 7

8. Harold Fisk River Map 8

River course map 8

9. Harold Fisk 9

10. Harold Fisk 10

map-10-Meandering-Mississippi-river

11. Mississippi River Map 11

map-11-Meandering

12. Mississippi Map 12

map-12-Meandering-Mississippi-river

13. Mississippi River Map 13

map-13-Meandering

14. Meanderings 14

15. Map 15 Harold Fisk Mississippi Meanderings

Meanderings 15

Fun Facts About the Mississippi River

Whilst hunting for the wonderful Mississippi river maps of Harold Fisk, I came across some other wonderful vintage maps of the river. Before I share these below, I will share some fun facts about the river.

Even though I’m a Brit living in the UK, I have a romantic idea of the Mississippi river from the writings of Mark Twain. Many of his famous stories center around the river.

These books included the famous Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which depicted the people and places along the river.  The adventures of Tom Sawyer, the story of a young boy growing up along the watershed. He also wrote Life on the Mississippi, which was about his life as a Mississippi steamboat pilot.

  • The Mississippi River is 2,340 miles from beginning to end this makes it the third-longest river in the US. But it’s probably the most famous!
  • It takes 90 days for a single drop of water to travel the Mississippi River’s entire length.
  • The Mississippi River starts from its water source, fed by Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota. It then flows all the way down into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The river flows through 10 states in the U.S. These include, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota
  • At its narrowest point at Lake Itasca, the river is 20 -30 ft wide.
  • The widest point is at Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena, MN, where it is wider than 11 miles.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency says that over 50 cities rely on the Mississippi for daily water supply.
  • A quarter of all fish species in North America live in the Mississippi River. That’s over 260 different species.
  • At least 145 species of amphibians and reptiles inhabit Mississippi

16. 1718 French Map of The Mississippi

The translation on this French map showing the Mississippi river flowing into the Gulf of Mexico is, “The course of the Mississippi, or of St. Louis, the famous river of North America around which is the not called Louisiana.”

1718 Map of the Mississippi River

17. Lloyd’s Map 1863

Map of the Lower Mississippi River from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico. Exhibiting the sugar and cotton plantations, cities, towns, landings, sand bars, islands, bluffs, bayous, cut-offs, the steamboat channel, mileage, fortifications, railroads along the river.

llyods Map 1863

18. Lloyds Map 1862

Map of the lower Mississippi River from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico.

1862 Map of Lower Mississippi

19. Chart of Mississippi 1877

Print of four maps, charting the Mississippi River from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico. The map on the far left is a representation of where the Ohio River runs into the Mississippi at Cairo.

From left to right the river is mapped going from north to south. The map on the far right shows the Mississippi River delta and the Gulf of Mexico.

Chart_of_the_Mississippi_River

20. Norman’s Chart of Lower Mississippi 1858

Hand-colored map showing landowners shows plantations with names of owners.

Normans Chart of Lower River

21.  Mississippi River Steamboat

 Mississippi river steamboat and tourist map from 1895.

Mississippi Steamboat

22. 1884 Birdseye View

Bird’s-eye view of the Mississippi River: from the mouth of Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico, 1884.

You can find more bird’s view maps here, these are of San Francisco Bay.

Bird's eye view of Mississippi

I hope you have enjoyed all these wonderful maps, especially those of Harold Fisk which are stunning.

If you liked the maps for their geographical qualities, then you should check out the amazing educational Geography posters of Yaggi.

There are many other maps of the United States on the blog, including many Southern US State maps. There are also maps of New York City.

Free Mississippi River color maps

8 thoughts on “Free Old Mississippi River Maps Including Harold Fisks’

  1. These are amazing maps. And I agree with you that those by Harold Fisk do look like works of art! And, I find it rather funny that I’ve learned facts about a river that is in my country from someone who lives in another country! (I was surprised that at its narrowest point that the Mississippi River is only 20-30 feet wide.)

    Thanks so much for sharing this at our Party in Your PJs link party. I always love what you share.

    1. Thank you, Nina. As well as loving vintage images, I’m a bit of a fact nerd. I think it stems from a love of the old-fashioned illustrated encyclopedias that I used to read as a child.

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