Without question America's greatest river, the Mississippi, has made major contributions to the physical and economic growth of the nation. It is a navigation artery of great importance to the nation's transportation system, carrying an ever-growing commerce. Coursing through the heart of America, it supplies water for the cities and industries that have located along its banks.
More and more the Mississippi's importance is emphasized as America continues to grow. This great river is, truly, one of the Nation's outstanding assets. Uncontrolled, it would be just as great a liability.
The Mississippi River always has been a threat to the security of the valley through which it flows. Garciliaso de la Vega, in his history of the expedition begun by DeSoto, described the first recorded flood of the Mississippi as severe and of prolonged duration, beginning about March 10, 1543, and cresting about 40 days later. By the end of May the river had returned to its banks, having been in flood for about 80 days.
Since that time, explorers, traders, farmers, men of commerce, and engineers have known -- sometimes too well -- the Mississippi in flood.