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Although the Miami River was originally just 4.5 miles in length, it has been a robust working river since the incorporation of Miami in 1896. With a volume of trade exceeding $4 billion annually, the Miami River has been central to the story of Miami for thousands of years. Native Miamians lived along the river for millennia and used it as their expressway, as well as their source for food and water. The riverbanks have been home to exotic animals, Jesuit missions, slave plantations, Army forts, Julia Tuttle (the Mother of Miami), and a grand Gilded Age hotel. Even with the postWorld War II rise of suburbia and the flight of residents away from the center of the city, the river has remained busy. Today, with a renaissance in central Miami, there has been a significant increase in appreciation for the role of the river in this revival and in the rich history of the city.