Geography of Missouri

10 Facts about the U.S. State of Missouri

Gateway Arch across the reflection pool

Mike Kline / Getty Images

Population: 6,137,428 (July 2019 estimate)
Capital: Jefferson City
Land Area: 68,886 square miles (178,415 sq km)
Bordering States: Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois
Highest Point: Taum Sauk Mountain at 1,772 feet (540 m)
Lowest Point: St. Francis River at 230 feet (70 m)

Missouri is one of the 50 states of the United States and it is located in the Midwestern portion of the country. Its capital is Jefferson City but its largest city is Kansas City. Other large cities include St. Louis and Springfield. Missouri is known for its mixture of large urban areas such as these as well as its rural areas and farming culture.

The state has most recently been in the news however because of a large tornado that destroyed the town of Joplin and killed over 100 people on May 22, 2011. The tornado was classified as an EF-5 (the strongest rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale) and it is considered the most deadly tornado to hit the U.S. since 1950.

The following is a list of 10 geographic facts to know about the state of Missouri:

  1. Missouri has a long history of human settlement and archaeological evidence shows people living in the area since before 1000 CE. The first Europeans to arrive in the region were French colonists descended from French colonists in Canada. In 1735 they founded Ste. Genevieve, the first European settlement west of the Mississippi River. The town quickly grew into an agricultural center and trade developed between it and surrounding regions.
  2. By the 1800s the French began arriving in the region of present-day Missouri from New Orleans and in 1812 they founded St. Louis as a fur trading center. This allowed St. Louis to grow quickly and become a financial center for the region. In addition in 1803 Missouri was a part of the Louisiana Purchase and it subsequently became the Missouri Territory.
  3. By 1821 the territory had grown considerably as more and more settlers began to enter the region from the Upper South. Many of them brought enslaved people with them and settled along the Missouri River. In 1821 the Missouri Compromise admitted the territory into the Union as a pro-slavery state with its capital at St. Charles. In 1826 the capital was moved to Jefferson City. In 1861, the Southern states seceded from the Union but Missouri voted to remain within it but as the Civil War progressed it became divided on opinions regarding the issue of slavery and whether it should remain in the Union. The state did stay in the Union however despite a secession ordinance and it's being recognized by the Confederacy in October 1861.
  4. The Civil War officially ended in 1865 and throughout the rest of the 1800s and into the early 1900s Missouri's population continued to grow. In 1900 the state's population was 3,106,665.
  5. In the modern day, Missouri has a population of around 6 million (2019 estimate) and its two largest metropolitan areas are St. Louis and Kansas City. The 2010 population density of the state was 87.1 people per square mile (33.62 per square Kilometer). The main demographic ancestry groups of Missouri are German, Irish, English, American (people who report their ancestry as Native American or African American), and French. English is spoken by the majority of Missourians.
  6. Missouri has a diversified economy with major industries in aerospace, transportation equipment, foods, chemicals, printing, the manufacture of electrical equipment, and beer production. In addition, agriculture still plays a large role in the state's economy with major production of beef, soybeans, pork, dairy products, hay, corn, poultry, sorghum, cotton, rice, and eggs.
  7. Missouri is located in the midwestern United States and it shares borders with eight different states (map). This is unique because no other U.S. state borders more than eight states.
  8. The topography of Missouri is varied. The northern parts have low rolling hills that are remnants of the last glaciation, while there are many river bluffs along the major rivers of the state—the Mississippi, Missouri, and Meramec Rivers. Southern Missouri is mostly mountainous due to the Ozark Plateau, while the southeastern part of the state is low and flat because it is part of the Mississippi River's alluvial plain. The highest point in Missouri is Taum Sauk Mountain at 1,772 feet (540 m), while the lowest is the St. Francis River at 230 feet (70 m).
  9. The climate of Missouri is humid continental and as such it has cold winters and hot, humid summers. Its largest city, Kansas City, has a January average low temperature of 23˚F (-5˚C) and a July average high of 90.5˚F (32.5˚C). Unstable weather and tornadoes are common in Missouri in the spring.
  10. In 2010 the U.S. Census found that Missouri was home to the mean population center of the U.S. near the town of Plato.

To learn more about Missouri, visit the state's official website.
References (n.d.). Missouri: History, Geography, Population, and State Facts - Retrieved from: (28 May 2011). Missouri- Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Missouri." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, July 30). Geography of Missouri. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Missouri." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).