The Mississippi River provides an opportunity to examine models of sediment transport in large alluviated floodplain systems. We test the idea that sources of sandy sediment in such settings are invariable on timescales <104 y because of storage and recycling in the floodplains. To reconstruct the development of the Mississippi sediment load over the past 2500 years we collected sediment from an abandoned point bar complex nearby at False River, Louisiana, USA. We also took annual samples from the lower reaches between 2015 and 2021 to assess changes on that timescale. Optically stimulated luminescence dating indicated that the point bar accreted between 2460 and 860 years ago. Detrital zircon U-Pb dating was used to assess sediment source and variability over time. We confirm a dominant sediment flux from the Rocky Mountain foreland but with higher relative erosion from the Superior Province during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) based on existing data from the Gulf of Mexico. There have been resolvable changes in the sources of sediment particularly since the LGM and after 860 years ago, but also over shorter, even sub-annual timescales in the recent past. These changes may reflect seasonal weather or storm events in the headwater regions and imply limited floodplain buffering of the sand load. In recent times this may reflect the installation of levees in the lower reaches, suppressing reworking. Changes over 102–103 y time periods may be related to changes in climate (e.g., the Medieval and Roman warm periods) and to the development of agriculture across North America after ~2000 years ago. Detrital zircon dating is an effective provenance tool and does not appear to be strongly biased by the grain size of the sediment in this setting.

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