As the Mississippi River enters the Gulf of Mexico, it loses energy and dumps its load of sediment that it has carried on its journey through the middle of the North American continent. This pile of sediment, or mud, accumulates over the years building up the delta front. As one part of the delta becomes clogged with sediment, the delta front will migrate in search of new areas to grow. The area shown in this false-color image is the currently active delta front of the Mississippi. The migratory nature of the delta forms natural traps for oil. Most of the land in the image consists of mud flats and marsh lands. There is little human settlement in this area due to the instability of the sediments. The main shipping channel of the Mississippi River is the broad stripe running northwest to southeast. This scene covers an area of 54 by 57 km, and was acquired on May 24, 2001 by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) aboard NASAs Terra satellite.