Yazoo River

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Yazoo River flows from Greenwood to Vicksburg. Not all tributaries are shown. Yazoo river.gif
Yazoo River flows from Greenwood to Vicksburg. Not all tributaries are shown.

The Yazoo River is a river in the U.S. state of Mississippi. It is considered by some to mark the southern boundary of what is called the Mississippi Delta, a broad floodplain that was cultivated for cotton plantations before the American Civil War. It has continued to be devoted to large-scale agriculture.

River Natural flowing watercourse

A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water. Small rivers can be referred to using names such as stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill. There are no official definitions for the generic term river as applied to geographic features, although in some countries or communities a stream is defined by its size. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; examples are "run" in some parts of the United States, "burn" in Scotland and northeast England, and "beck" in northern England. Sometimes a river is defined as being larger than a creek, but not always: the language is vague.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.

Mississippi State of the United States of America

Mississippi is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Mississippi is the 32nd most extensive and 34th most populous of the 50 United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana to the south, and Arkansas and Louisiana to the west. The state's western boundary is largely defined by the Mississippi River. Jackson, with a population of approximately 167,000 people, is both the state's capital and largest city.


The Yazoo River was named by French explorer La Salle in 1682 as "Rivière des Yazous" in reference to the Yazoo tribe living near the river's mouth at its confluence with the Mississippi. The exact meaning of the term is unclear. One long held belief is that it means "river of death". [1]

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle French explorer

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was a 17th century French explorer and fur trader in North America. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. He is best known for an early 1682 expedition in which he canoed the lower Mississippi River from the mouth of the Illinois River to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.

The river is 188 miles (303 km) long and is formed by the confluence of the Tallahatchie and the Yalobusha rivers, where present-day Greenwood developed. The river parallels the Mississippi River in the latter's floodplain for some distance before joining it north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Natural levees which flank the Mississippi prevent the Yazoo from joining it before Vicksburg. A "yazoo stream" is a hydrologic term that was coined to describe any river or major stream with similar characteristics. Potamologists believe the Yazoo River had its origins as the lower Ohio River. [2]

Confluence Meeting of two or more bodies of flowing water

In geography, a confluence occurs where two or more flowing bodies of water join together to form a single channel. A confluence can occur in several configurations: at the point where a tributary joins a larger river ; or where two streams meet to become the source of a river of a new name ; or where two separated channels of a river rejoin at the downstream end.

Tallahatchie River river in the United States of America

The Tallahatchie River is a river in Mississippi which flows 230 miles (370 km) from Tippah County, through Tallahatchie County, to Leflore County, where it joins the Yalobusha River to form the Yazoo River. The river is navigable for about 100 miles.

Yalobusha River river in the United States of America

The Yalobusha River is a river, 165 miles (266 km) long, in north-central Mississippi in the United States. It is a principal tributary of the Yazoo River, via which it is part of the watershed of the Mississippi River.

The French (and later European Americans) historically called the surrounding area of Mississippi and Alabama the Yazoo lands, after the river. This became the basis for naming the Yazoo Land Scandal of the late 18th and early 19th century.

Yazoo lands

The Yazoo lands were the central and western regions of the U.S. state of Georgia, when its western border stretched back to the Mississippi River. The Yazoo lands were named for the Native American Yazoo tribe, that lived on the lower course of the Yazoo River, in what is now the state of Mississippi.

The Yazoo land scandal, Yazoo fraud, Yazoo land fraud, or Yazoo land controversy was a massive real-estate fraud perpetrated, in the mid-1790s, by Georgia governor George Mathews and the Georgia General Assembly. Georgia politicians sold large tracts of territory in the Yazoo lands, in what are now portions of the present-day states Alabama and Mississippi, to political insiders at very low prices in 1794. Although the law enabling the sales was overturned by reformers the following year, its ability to do so was challenged in the courts, eventually reaching the US Supreme Court. In the landmark decision in Fletcher v. Peck (1810), the Court ruled that the contracts were binding and the state could not retroactively invalidate the earlier land sales. It was one of the first times the Supreme Court had overturned a state law, and it justified many claims for those lands. Some of the land sold by the state in 1794 had been shortly thereafter resold to innocent third parties, greatly complicating the litigation. In 1802, because of the ongoing controversy, Georgia ceded all of its claims to lands west of its modern border to the U.S. government, in exchange for which the government paid cash and assumed the legal liabilities. Claims involving the land purchases were not fully resolved until legislation passed in 1814 established a claims-resolution fund.

The river was of major importance during the American Civil War. The Confederates used the first electrically detonated underwater mine in the river in 1862 near Vicksburg to sink the Union ironclad USS Cairo. The last section of the Cairo was raised on December 12, 1964. It has been restored and is now on permanent display to the public at the Vicksburg National Military Park. There are 29 sunken ships from the Civil War beneath the waters of the river. The steamer Dew Drop was reportedly sunk near Roebuck Lake as an obstruction to the United States Navy, but Union sources claim the vessel was captured and burned. [3]

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Naval mine explosive weapon for use in seas and waterways, triggered by the targets approach

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any vessel. Naval mines can be used offensively, to hamper enemy shipping movements or lock vessels into a harbour; or defensively, to protect friendly vessels and create "safe" zones.

Vicksburg National Military Park

Vicksburg National Military Park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863. The park, located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign which led up to the battle. Reconstructed forts and trenches evoke memories of the 47-day siege that ended in the surrender of the city. Victory here and at Port Hudson, farther south in Louisiana, gave the Union control of the Mississippi River.

Variant names of the Yazoo River include Zasu River, Yazous River, Yahshoo River, Rivière des Yasoux, and Fiume del Yasous.

In 1876, the Mississippi River changed its course, shifting west several miles and leaving Vicksburg without a river front. In 1902, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers diverted the Yazoo River into the old river bed, forming the Yazoo Diversion Canal. The modern-day port of Vicksburg is still located on this canal. Commercial navigation of the Yazoo River has declined considerably since the 1990s and is mainly concentrated on the section from Vicksburg to Yazoo City. [4]

Vicksburg, Mississippi City in Mississippi, United States

Vicksburg is the only city in, and county seat of, Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is located 234 miles (377 km) northwest of New Orleans at the confluence of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and 40 miles (64 km) due west of Jackson, the state capital. It is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River across from the state of Louisiana.

See also

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Yazoo City, Mississippi City in Mississippi, United States of America

Yazoo City is a U.S. city in Yazoo County, Mississippi. It was named after the Yazoo River, which, in turn was named by the French explorer Robert La Salle in 1682 as "Rivière des Yazous" in reference to the Yazoo tribe living near the river's mouth. It is the county seat of Yazoo County and the principal city of the Yazoo City Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of the larger Jackson–Yazoo City Combined Statistical Area. According to the 2010 census, the population was 11,403.

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Yazoo Pass Expedition

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Yazoo stream Tributary stream that runs parallel to, and within the floodplain of a larger river for considerable distance

A Yazoo stream is a geologic and hydrologic term for any tributary stream that runs parallel to, and within the floodplain of a larger river for considerable distance, before eventually joining it. This is especially the characteristic when such a stream is forced to flow along the base of the main river's natural levee. Where the two meet is known as a "belated confluence" or a "deferred junction". The name is derived from a now vanished Native American tribe, the Yazoo Indians. The Choctaw word is translated to "River of Death" because of the strong flows under its bank full stage.

Mississippi Alluvial Plain (ecoregion)

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  1. Johnson's (revised) Universal Cyclopaedia. 1886.
  2. Mills, Gary B. "New life for the river of death:development of the Yazoo River Basin, 1873-1977". Journal of Mississippi History. 41. (Nov. 1979) 4, p. 287.
  3. Smith, Frank E. (1988). The Yazoo River. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 150 ISBN   0-87805-355-7
  4. Stole, Bryn. (23 May 2015). "Goods moving on Yazoo River declines". The Greenwood Commonwealth. (Greenwood, Miss). Retrieved 9 December 2015. Clarion Ledger website

Coordinates: 32°20′8″N90°53′50″W / 32.33556°N 90.89722°W / 32.33556; -90.89722