History of the Missouri River

Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet passed the mouth of the Missouri on their way down the Mississippi in 1673. During the first half of the 1700's, French and Spanish explorers—Bourgmont, La Vérendrye and his sons, the Mallet brothers, Villasur, and others—penetrated the lower part of the basin, both by following the river and by journeying overland. The first full exploration and account of the Missouri came with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804–06.

The basin was acquired by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Settlers poured into the area in ever increasing numbers. Some remained; others continued westward by way of the Santa Fe and Oregon trails, which began near Kansas City. The Mormons reached Utah by way of the Mormon Trail. Steamboats brought increased trade to the basin after 1819. After the Civil War they gave way to the railways.

The basin has become one of the leading agricultural regions in the nation. In the west it is particularly noted for wheat, cattle, and sheep; in the east, for corn, soybeans, cattle, and hogs. Mining and lumbering are important in the Rockies.

In 1993 torrential rains caused the lower Missouri River to flood. From Omaha, Nebraska, to St. Charles, Missouri, widespread flooding occurred, causing billions of dollars' worth of damage.