Mississippi River BasinExpedition

Upper & Middle Mississippi River Expedition, May–June 2013

Team Members: Alison M. Jones, NWNL Founding Director / Photographer;
Barbara W. Folger, Photographer

MISSISSIPPI BASIN: North America’s Mississippi River Basin, the fourth largest in the world, drains water from 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The ecological significance of the Upper Mississippi River (2552 miles long) and its watershed is critical for humans, birds, fish, wildlife and habitats. Sixty percent of all N. American birds and 25 percent of all N. American fish depend on the river and the basin’s valuable wetlands, prairies, plains and forests. Economically, the river serves as a crucial transportation corridor, as well as an essential source of water for agriculture, industry and cities.


  • Climate change: droughts, floods and intense weather threatening barge transport, fishing, farming, etc.
  • Infrastructure: lock-and-dam systems and levees built, maintained and adapted since the late 1800s
  • Invasive aquatic and land species: their reduction of biodiversity, change of river flow and economic impacts
  • Pollutants and excessive nutrients & phosphorus: causes of hypoxia in the river and Gulf of Mexico (from agricultural runoff , human/livestock effluent, industrial waste)
  • Erosion: resulting in heavy sediment loads and lower water quality for fish and people
  • Resource extraction (of oil, gas, wind, timber, etc.): potential threats to water resources and basin habitats

EXPEDITION METHODOLOGY: This expedition, based on scientific research, will document Mississippi River infrastructure, transportation services and habitat restoration. We will investigate the progress of partnerships between the US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Services, and other scientific and stewardship groups. NWNL will also interview those focusing on agricultural impacts on water quality, climate change, and possible mitigation actions as solutions to sustainable watershed management. Post expedition, NWNL documentation will be publicized, shared with other watershed stewards with other NWNL watersheds as a reference for solutions, and used as educational tools. All NWNL expedition outcomes are disseminated via print and online media, exhibits and lectures. Five prior NWNL expeditions have been made to the Mississippi River Basin, four of them in 2008 – 2012:

  • July 1993 Expedition: “The Great Mississippi Flood: as seen from St. Charles, Ste. Genevieve and the Ozarks”
  • Feb. 2008 Expedition: “The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta: No Water No Cotton”
  • May 2008 Expedition: “The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: Missouri-Mississippi Headwaters”
  • Oct. 2011 Expedition: “The Atchafalaya Basin: Controlled by Infrastructure and Resource Extraction”
  • Oct. 2012 Expedition: “The Canadian and Red River of the South: Dustbowl Days and Current Droughts”

EXPEDITION FOCUS: This expedition will examine solutions being implemented that apply to the cross-watershed issues NWNL established when it began in 2007, including:

Explorers Club

Global Info

  • Water quality – for human populations, flora and fauna
  • Water availability – for transportation and food security
  • Water usage – by cities, agriculture and industry
  • Water control systems as affected by climate change
  • Wetlands, forest and prairie restoration

EXPEDITION ENDORSEMENTS: NWNL thanks all who have endorsed its watershed expeditions, including The Explorers Club, The International League of Conservation Photographers and other generous donors. NWNL also thanks Wings World Quest, its fiscal sponsor, for support ongoing since 2007.