Upper Mississippi

The Upper Mississippi River is home to 50 species of mammals, 45 species of reptiles and amphibians, 37 species of mussels, and 241 species of fish. It's also home to millions of Americans who depend on a healthy river for jobs, drinking water, outdoor recreation, and more.

Rivers are naturally dynamic. They change across seasons and years in flow, depth, and content, and the animals and plants that live there change with them.

That natural flow has been drastically altered on the Upper Mississippi, not just by impounding the river behind a series of dams but also through land development (primarily for agriculture), urban pollution, and agricultural runoff.

The problems created by these changes include:

  • Sedimentation: Eroded soils fill the pools behind dams and eliminate backwaters and side channels that are vital for fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.
  • Disconnected Floodplains: Levees isolate rivers from large segments of their floodplain and limit forest diversity.
  • Hydrological Changes: Dams alter water levels and annual pulses in ways that decrease biodiversity.
  • Pollution: Excess nutrients in agriculture runoff, primarily fertilizers and pesticides, damage water quality, as does urban runoff.

The League is working with our members and partners across the Upper Mississippi region to restore this vital resource while promoting sustainable agriculture and the development of farm conservation programs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can learn more by watching the videos on this page.

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