Mississippi River BasinExpedition


Expedition Team:
Alison M. Jones (NWNL Founding Director, Expedition Video & Photography);
Jasmine Graf (NWNL Assoc. Director, Expedition Planning);
Judy & Bruce Shaw (Expedition Logistics)

NO WATER NO LIFE (NWNL): Since 2007 NWNL has combined photography and science to raise public awareness of the vulnerability of North American and African watersheds, by educating the public, advocating a change in consumption patterns, and supporting protection of fresh-water resources. NWNL funds come from grants, generous donors and in-kind gifts, and our expeditions have carried flags from The Explorers Club and Wings World Quest (a nonprofit supporting science education, exploration and conservation that provides 501c3 status for NWNL donors).

THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER BASIN: The Mississippi River Basin is the 4th largest in the world, draining water from 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The Tennessee River (652 miles) and Ohio River (981 miles) are its 2 major eastern tributaries and contribute the highest drainage flowing into the Mississippi. They affect the health of resident humans, birds, fish, wildlife and habitats in their basins – and in the Lower Mississippi River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi Basin supports 60% of North America’s birds and 25% of North America’s fish. Economically, it serves as a crucial transportation corridor and source of water for agriculture, industry and cities. Over 230 million tons of cargo (valued at $27.4 million) is transported on these 2 eastern tributaries yearly – of which 70% is coal and other energy products. The Ohio is one of the most biologically rich waterways in the U.S. and supplies drinking water to over 3 million people; but it has been described as the “largest barge-floating cesspool in America.” The Ohio is the most polluted river in the U.S., per 2009 and 2010 data.


  • Climate change: Droughts, floods and intense weather effects on transport, fishing, farming, etc.
  • Infrastructure: US Army Corps of Engineers and TVA dams; the Tombigbee-Tennessee Waterway
  • Biodiversity: A decline of 150 species of fish & 102 species of freshwater mussels; but more bald eagles
  • Pollution: Sources include raw sewage; industrial and acid mining waste; and agricultural chemicals
  • Resource extraction (of coal, gas, timber, etc.): Impacts on water resources and basin habitats

EXPEDITION METHODOLOGY: This expedition, informed by scientists’ research, will create still and video documentation of ten states. NWNL will interview stakeholders and stewards working on water quality and ecosystem conservation. Post expedition, NWNL will publish its documentation, share watershed management solutions, and create more educational reference tools. As with previous NWNL expeditions, outcomes are disseminated via print and online media, exhibits and lectures. Five prior NWNL expeditions have covered the greater Mississippi River Basin:

  • 2008: “The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta: No Water No Cotton”
  • 2008: “The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: Missouri-Mississippi Headwaters”
  • 2011: “The Atchafalaya Basin: Controlled by Infrastructure and Resource Extraction”
  • 2012: “The Canadian and Red River of the South: Dustbowl Days and Current Droughts”
  • 2013: “The Upper and Middle Mississippi: Lake Itasca MN to Ste. Genevieve MO”

EXPEDITION FOCUS: This expedition will examine threats and solutions being used in the Tennessee and Ohio River Basins re:

Explorers Club

Global Info

  • Water quality – for humans, flora and fauna
  • Water availability – for transportation, energy, recreation
  • Water usage – by cities, agriculture and industry
  • Water control systems as affected by climate change
  • Mountain, forest and riverine conservation

EXPEDITION ENDORSEMENTS: NWNL thanks all who’ve endorsed our 17 watershed expeditions thus far, including The Explorers Club, The International League of Conservation Photographers, and Wings World Quest – supporters since 2007.

Tributaries and sub-tributaries of the Tennessee River

Hierarchically listed from mouth of Tennessee River to headwaters.
Source: Wikipedia.

  • Horse Creek Savannah (Hardin County)
  • Big Sandy River (Tennessee)
  • White Oak Creek
  • Duck River (Tennessee)
    • Buffalo River (Tennessee)
      • Green River
      • Little Buffalo River
    • Piney River (Tennessee)
    • Little Duck River
  • Beech River (Tennessee)
  • Shoal Creek
  • Bear Creek (Alabama, Mississippi)
    • Buzzard Roost Creek (Alabama)
  • Colbert Creek (Alabama)
  • Cotaco Creek (Alabama)
  • Malone Creek (Alabama)
  • Mulberry Creek (Alabama)
  • Cane Creek (Alabama)
  • Dry Creek (Alabama)
  • Little Bear Creek (Alabama)
  • Spring Creek (Alabama)
  • Cypress Creek (Alabama)
  • Shoal Creek (Alabama)
  • First Creek (Alabama)
  • Elk River (Tennessee, Alabama)
  • Flint Creek (Alabama)
  • Limestone Creek (Alabama, Tennessee)
    • Beaverdam Creek (Alabama)
  • Indian Creek (Alabama)
  • Barren Fork Creek
  • Flint River (Alabama, Tennessee)
  • Paint Rock River (Alabama, Tennessee)
  • Sequatchie River (Tennessee)
    • Little Sequatchie River
  • Mountain Creek (Tennessee)
  • Lookout Creek (Tennessee, Georgia)
  • Chattanooga Creek (Tennessee, Georgia)
  • Citico Creek (Tennessee)
  • South Chickamauga Creek (Tennessee, Georgia)
  • North Chickamauga Creek (Tennessee)
  • Hiwassee River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
    • Conasauga Creek (Tennessee)
    • Ocoee River (Tennessee, Georgia)
    • Nottely River (North Carolina, Georgia)
  • Piney River (Tennessee)
  • Clinch River (Tennessee, Virginia)
    • Emory River (Tennessee)
      • Little Emory River
      • Obed River (Tennessee)
        • Little Obed River
    • Poplar Creek
      • East Fork Poplar Creek
    • Beaver Creek
    • Powell River (Tennessee, Virginia)
  • Little Tennessee River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
    • Tellico River (Tennessee)
    • Tuckasegee River (North Carolina)
    • Nantahala River (North Carolina)
    • Cullasaja River (North Carolina)
  • Little River (Tennessee)
  • French Broad River
    • Little Pigeon River (Tennessee)
    • Nolichucky River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
    • Pigeon River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
    • Swannanoa River (North Carolina)
  • Holston River (Tennessee)
    • North Fork Holston River (Tennessee, Virginia)
    • South Fork Holston River (Tennessee, Virginia)
      • Watauga River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
        • Doe River (Tennessee)
    • Middle Fork Holston River (Virginia)