The United States’ Mississippi River ranks among the largest rivers in the world at approximately 2,320 miles (3,734 kilometers) long. From its humble headwaters in Minnesota to its delta at the Gulf of Mexico, it drains 31 states and two Canadian provinces.
More than 400 native species of freshwater fish call the basin home, and its delta gives life to a seafood industry at the country’s largest port. The Mississippi also supports migratory birds, mammals, and diverse populations of native mussels, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates.
Likewise, a multitude of industries thrive because of this great waterway—including agriculture, hydropower, barge transportation and recreation. In fact, more than half the goods and services consumed by U.S. citizens are produced with water flowing through the Mississippi and its tributaries.
In order to meet development demands, the Mississippi has been heavily modified over the last century by way of locks, dams and levees. In most places, the river no longer inundates its floodplains during heavy rainfall, contributing to a decline in wetlands that would otherwise filter the river's flow and provide habitat for wildlife. The results include increased flood risk to cities and river communities and run-off of excess nutrients and sediment, which reduces water quality.
A river so vital to life and economic prosperity in the U.S. requires science- and partner-based management decisions that incorporate the needs of people, industries and the environment. The Great Rivers Partnership works across sectors to take an integrated approach through collaboration with the transportation industry, flood management efforts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and fish monitoring work with U.S. Geological Survey that has enabled exchanges with China. These activities, and many others, allow the GRP to eliminate management silos and ensure partners are working across jurisdictions to make progress toward sustainable development of this Great River system.