The Mississippi Delta — what is that, anyway?

PAPER SON drops July 2, at which time all those of you who’ve pre-ordered (and I sorta hope that’s lots of you) will find your copies winging your way. To celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event — well, THIS book will never have a first day again — I’ll be posting historic photos of the Delta, from which I have just returned and in which the book is set. Those will start tomorrow, but I thought I’d offer, first, a little orientation. This is on account of because a friend of mine asked yesterday whether the Delta was the area around the mouth of the Mississippi River, down by New Orleans.

A reasonable assumption. But incorrect.

A river delta is, rightly, where a river breaks into smaller flows at the place where it hits the sea. (Called a “delta” because it’s usually a roughly triangular shape, like the Greek letter.)

The Mississippi Delta, though, is a misnomer. Broadly speaking,  this Delta is the floodplain to the east of the river. Check out the map, below. The Delta’s outlined in green. It’s said to start just below Memphis, TN, and extend to Vicksburg, MS. Most of PAPER SON takes place in and around Clarksdale, MS.

So why do they call it the Delta?

Ya got me. Anyone?



  1. Eric Stone says:

    Well, it is actually the delta, in a manner of speaking, of the Yazoo River that flows along its eastern side and empties into the Mississippi River near Vicksburg. As a flat flood plain with numerous waterways running through it, it does kind of resemble an actual delta. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine.

  2. Michael. says:

    In math, Delta is the symbol for “difference,” as in the difference between 9 and 7 is 2. So “What is the Delta?” translates to “What’s the difference?”

  3. SJ Rozan says:

    Michael — Hah! Perfect!

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