A map of MissouriThe state of Missouri is located in the Midwest region of the United States. The Missouri River flows through the state, meeting the Mississippi (which forms the state's eastern border) just north of St Louis. North of the river are low, rolling hills covered by glacial till: clay, sand, gravel and boulders laid down by an ice sheet that once covered the area. South of the river is the Ozark Mountains, a plateau crossed by deep valleys. The limestone, or karst, topography of the Ozarks features many caves and sinkholes. The plateau gives way to plains in the southwest. This southeastern corner, known as the Bootheel (named after its shape), is part of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. It is the flattest and most fertile part of the state.
The state is named after the Missouri River. The river takes its name from the Native American Missouri, a Siouan-speaking people. The Illini, another native people, knew them as the ouemessourita or wimihsoorita, meaning "those who have dugout canoes”. The Illini were the first native peoples encountered by Europeans exploring the region, so it was their name for their neighbours that stuck. It was later simplified to “Missouri”.
The starting points for the Pony Express (St Joseph), Santa Fe Trail (Franklin) and Oregon Trail (Independence, later Westport) were all located in Missouri.
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