The river is 188 miles long and is formed by the confluence of the Tallahatchie River and the Yalobusha River. Due to the geography of the terrain, the river parallels the Mississippi River for some distance before joining it north of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The river was of major importance during the American Civil War. The first electronically detonated underwater mine was used on the river in 1862 near Vicksburg to sink the Federal ironclad USS Cairo.
There are 29 sunken ships from the American Civil War beneath the waters of the river.