Can You Tell Us if These Places Are East or West of the Mississippi From Memory Alone?


By: Beth Hendricks

6 Min Quiz

Image: Unsplash by USGS

About This Quiz

Ol' Man River. The Big Muddy. Old Blue. The Gathering of Waters. Whatever you call it, the Mississippi River is one impressive body of water. Stretching 2,340 miles from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to its mouth in southern Louisiana, the river's expansiveness makes it the third-largest watershed in the world, behind only the Amazon and Congo Rivers.

It has been the subject of song (we've already alluded to "Ol' Man River"), literature (Mark Twain was a big fan) and stage (Broadway musical "Show Boat"). For most of us, it serves as a pinpoint on a map, marking boundaries of states and locations of state capitals and serving as a vital source of drinking water for nearly 20 million Americans.

In this quiz, however, the Mississippi River is the dividing line of U.S. geography. Sure, you probably know whether Los Angeles and New York are east or west of this waterway, the second-longest in North America. But what about St. Louis? Nashville? New Orleans? (OK, that last one is a trick question, since "The Big Easy" is situated right on the Mississippi.)

We won't ask you to spell it (M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I, in case you were wondering), but we will ask you to use it to determine where these U.S. cities lie in relation to it. Are we headed east or going west? You tell us!

You’ll find the world’s largest office building in Arlington, VA. Would you find Arlington to the east or west of the Mississippi River?

Did you know that the world’s largest office building is located in Arlington, Virginia? The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, holds that title. Virginia is quite a ways east of Ol’ Man River.


Phoenix is three states away from the Mississippi River. Is it located to the river’s east or west?

If you lived in arid Phoenix and wanted to see the Mississippi River, you’d have to travel through New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to get there. In fact, Phoenix is pretty far from any body of water; it’s about 75 miles to get to the nearest lake.


Not only is Indianapolis the only city of its size not on a navigable river, but it’s at least a state away from Ol’ Man River. Which direction?

Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, is a state away from the Mississippi (you’d have to cross Illinois to get to it). While it is located on a river (the White River), it is to shallow to be navigable.


Florida’s state capital is Tallahassee. Is it to the east or west of Ol’ Man River?

Tallahassee is located in Florida’s Panhandle and is the largest city in that region as well as the state’s capital. It was chosen for its equal proximity to Pensacola and Saint Augustine, which were the one-time capitals of West and East Florida.


Houston boasts the world’s largest medical center, but which side of the Mississippi is it on?

Houston is well to the west of the Mississippi River and is home to the Texas Medical Center, which holds the title of the world’s largest. The Texas Medical Center sees more than seven million visitors each year.


If you’re in Charleston, you’re about halfway between Washington, D.C., and Miami, Florida. Are you east or west of the Mississippi?

Charleston, South Carolina is indeed on a body of water, but it’s considerably larger than the Mississippi River that it’s east of. Charleston is located on the Atlantic Ocean; its Charleston Harbor is home to Fort Sumter.


The city of Nashville is known for its music scene, but what do you know about its relation to the Mississippi River? Is it to the east or west of the river?

Nashville is situated to the east of the Mississippi River, which helps form part of the state of Tennessee’s western border. Nashville is best known as the “Music City,” home to the Grand Ole Opry.


Tulsa sits on the Arkansas River, but is it situated east or west of the river at the center of this quiz?

Tulsa, inside of the borders of Oklahoma, is no stranger to rivers; the Arkansas River flows right through it. The Mississippi is east of the city, however, since the entire state is west of Ol’ Man River.


Is the town of Augusta, named for Princess Augusta of Wales, east or west of the Mississippi River?

Augusta, Georgia, named for Princess Augusta of Wales, is east of the Mississippi River, located on the eastern border it shares with South Carolina. Augusta sits on the Savannah River.


You’ll find Ohio’s first public library in Toledo, but which side of the Mississippi is it on?

Ohioans would have to travel west through Indiana and Illinois in order to get to the get to the “Big Muddy.” That marks its place geographically in relation to the Mississippi to its east.


It’s home to the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” but is Amarillo east or west of the Mississippi?

Amarillo is located in the panhandle of Texas and is home to Palo Duro Canyon, second only to the real Grand Canyon. Amarillo, known as the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” is west of the Mississippi River.


Salem, Oregon is the center point between the North Pole and the equator, but where it is from the Mississippi River?

Go (far) west, young man! Salem, Oregon, is most definitely west of the Mississippi River — all the way to the Pacific Northwest, in fact. Salem does sit on the 45th Parallel, though, which is the half-way point between the North Pole and the equator. Cool, right?


Birmingham is Alabama’s largest city, but we’re curious: Do you know whether it’s east or west of Ol’ Man River?

Birmingham is Alabama’s most populous city with roughly 210,000 residents. Alabama is sandwiched between Mississippi (the state) to its west and Georgia to its east, making it one state removed from North America’s second-longest river.


Columbus is home to the Buckeyes and situated ________ of the Mississippi River. What words fills in the blank?

Columbus is not only home to the Ohio State University Buckeyes, but also serves as the capital city of the state of Ohio. Columbus, and all of Ohio, in fact, are located east of the Mississippi River.


You’ll find the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, which is _______ of the Mississippi. Is it east or west?

There’s no mistaking Atlanta’s place on the eastern coast of the United States, perfectly positioned to get travelers to and fro via the world’s busiest airport. You’d have to pass through Mississippi and Alabama to get to the river’s edge.


Denver’s the “Mile High City,” but which direction is it from Ol’ Man River?

With the Mississippi River primarily in the mid-section of the country and Denver out west, it’s safe to say that the two don’t really have much of a relationship, at least distance-wise.


If you’re soaking in the sun in Myrtle Beach, where are you in relation to the Mississippi River?

Myrtle Beach is located on the coast of South Carolina, steps to a significant body of water — but it’s not the Mississippi River. Rather, Myrtle Beach is east of Ol’ Man River and on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean.


Memphis is just barely one of these directions from the Mississippi River. Which is it?

The western border of Memphis, Tennessee, is none other than the Mississippi River itself. The river runs right through the town, which has welcomed famous musicians the likes of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to record albums.


East or west? Which direction is Salt Lake City from the Mississippi?

Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah and also its most populous town. Its Great Salt Lake is the largest lake west of the Mississippi River, though, and is, in fact, a salty body of water.


If you were at the Mississippi River and wanted to travel to Kansas City, which direction would you need to go?

Kansas City is located in Missouri, which is one of 24 U.S. states west of the Mississippi River. While you’re there, check out some of Kansas City’s 200 fountains; they have more than any other place on Earth, except Rome!


Standing at the Mississippi River, which direction would you need to head to get to Greensboro?

Greensboro is east of the Mississippi River, located in the “Tar Heel State” of North Carolina. Fun fact: Greensboro is the birthplace of the drugstore product known as Vicks VapoRub. The more you know ...


Where would you find Illinois’ “Windy City,” Chicago, in relation to the Mississippi River?

The entire state of Illinois lies to the east of the Mississippi River, thanks in part to the river helping to form the state’s western border. While Chicago sits on Lake Michigan, it is considerably further away from the Mississippi.


Hollywood hunk Jason Momoa was raised near Des Moines, Iowa. (Don’t get distracted!) Is Des Moines east or west of the river?

OK, in fairness, Momoa was born in Hawaii and raised in Norwalk, Iowa, about 10 miles outside of Des Moines, but we’re counting it. What was this quiz about again? Oh yeah, Des Moines is west of the Mississippi.


Dallas is famous for Cowboys, big hair and being the birthplace of 7-Eleven. Where is it in relation to the Mississippi River?

Dallas, like the rest of Texas, is due west of the southern part of the Mississippi River, separated by only the state of Louisiana. Dallas is also the birthplace of everyone’s favorite convenience store: 7-Eleven.


The design of Fort Collins is said to have inspired a major tourist attraction. What side of the Mississippi is Fort Collins on?

Fort Collins is located in Colorado, and the design of the town is said to have inspired the look of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom and other Disney parks. Disney himself was inspired by pictures of a co-worker’s hometown.


Lexington is great for horse lovers and those who want to be _______ of the Mississippi. Which is it?

Journey to Lexington, Kentucky, and you’ll find yourself east of the Mississippi River in the heart of horse country in the “Bluegrass State.” The very western tip of Kentucky extends to a small section of the river.


The “Queen City,” Charlotte is located which direction from the Mississippi — east or west?

Charlotte, nicknamed the “Queen City,” is located in North Carolina, east of the grand Mississippi. Did you know Charlotte is the Pimento Cheese Capital of the World? Now you know! Time to plan a visit.


Hitch a ride to Wichita from the Mississippi and you’ll find yourself traveling which direction?

Wichita, a city in Kansas, is west of the famous river. It is separated from the Mississippi by the state of Missouri. Wichita is pizza-famous for being the site of the first-ever Pizza Hut.


Little Rock is home to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Can you find it on the east or west side of the “Big Muddy?”

Little Rock, Arkansas, is located on the west side of the Mississippi River. It is known for being the site of the library and museum named after former U.S. President Bill Clinton.


You can visit the Arch in St. Louis, but which side of the Mississippi is the city located on?

The Arch and all of St. Louis, in fact, are west of the Mississippi River. Actually, the Mississippi runs through the town, and St. Louis is perched on its western side. That was a close one!


It’s a shorter drive to Dallas from Shreveport than it is to New Orleans, but where does Shreveport sit in relation to the Mississippi River?

Shreveport is located to the west of the Mississippi River, like most of its home state of Louisiana. In fact, the Mississippi River helps form part of the eastern border of the “Pelican State.”


Green Bay is pretty far north, but is it east or west of the Mississippi River?

Green Bay in Wisconsin is east of the Mississippi River and, by most people’s thinking, quite a ways north of the river as well. The truth is, the Mississippi helps form the western border of Wisconsin. Not so far away after all!


Minnesota’s state slogan is “The Star of the North,” but is Minneapolis to the west or east of the Mississippi?

This is technically a trick question since parts of Minneapolis are west of the Mississippi and parts are east of it. With that said, however, a majority of the city is on the west side of the river, with just a smaller part on its east side.


It’s the “Big Raggedy!” Baton Rouge sits on which side of the Mississippi River?

Located right on the Mississippi, Baton Rouge is situated on the river’s eastern bank. Baton Rouge is home to the tallest state capitol building in the United States, stretching 34 stories!


If you head to the “Land of Lincoln,” Lincoln itself, are you east or west of the “Big Muddy?”

Lincoln, as in the capital city of the state of Nebraska, is definitely west of the Mississippi, missing it by one state: Iowa. The city was, in fact, named after the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.


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