Mississippi River BasinExpedition


Expedition Team: Alison M. Jones (NWNL Director, Photographer);
Office Support: Jasmine Graf (NWNL Associate Director)
and Alysha Bartunek (NWNL Archivist)

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. NWNL funds come from grants, donors and in-kind gifts. Our expeditions have carried flags from The Explorers Club and Wings World Quest (a nonprofit supporting science education, exploration, and conservation that provides 501(c)(3) status for NWNL donors).

THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER BASIN: The Mississippi drains parts of 2 Canadian provinces and 31 states covering 41% of continental U.S. Ecologically, according to author Tennessee Williams, this basin contains “the richest soil this side of the valley Nile,” and was considered “The U.S. Amazon” before 20 million acres of forest were reduced to 2 million acres. The Mississippi Basin, 4th largest in the world, supports 60% of N. America’s birds and 25% of N. America’s fish. Economically, it is a crucial resource for transportation, agriculture, industry and municipalities.

Lower Mississippi R. courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
See full-size map

THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER BASIN and DELTA: The Lower Mississippi – land of floodplains and deltas – runs 1000 miles (16 km) from Cairo IL to the Gulf of Mexico. After the “Dug-ditch River” becomes a meandering, heavily traveled “Built-Up River,” its tributaries include the Ohio, White, Arkansas, Yazoo, Red, and Atchafalaya Rivers. This stretch of “Old Man River” drains parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana from the east and Missouri, Arkansas and more of Louisiana from the west. Assisted by levees and channelization, the river services agriculture and transportation, timber, fishing and recreation. The river also provides cool water for industry and for municipal drinking water. Significant regions include the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta (cotton), The Atchafalaya Basin (cypress and shellfish) and the Mississippi Delta (oil, gas, fishing and tourism). Species of concern include finfish and shellfish; Mississippi Flyway migratory birds and waterfowl; cypress, pine and hardwood forests; and the Louisiana bear.

EXPEDITION ROUTE: Mississippi Delta, Atchafalaya Basin, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, Yazoo Delta, Memphis and smaller river towns.

EXPEDITION FOCUS: Urban and Rural Resiliency to Climate Change

  • Coastal Erosion and Changes in Sediment Loads
  • The Value of Mississippi River Transportation
  • Pollution from Industrial, Agricultural and Urban Runoff
  • Protection of Migratory Birds and Watershed Biodiversity
  • Loss of Cypress, Hardwood Forests and Wetlands
  • Effectiveness of Levees, Locks and Dams, and Floodways
  • Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Resource Management

EXPEDITION METHODOLOGY: Informed by scientific research, NWNL will create still/video documentation and interview stakeholders/stewards. NWNL will publish its materials, sharing management solutions and creating educational tools, via print and online media, exhibits and lectures. Prior NWNL Mississippi River expeditions include:

Global Info

Explorers Club

  • 2008: The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta
  • 2008: The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
  • 2011: The Atchafalaya Basin
  • 2012: The Red River of the South
  • 2013: The Upper Mississippi River Basins
  • 2013: The Tennessee and Ohio River Basins

EXPEDITION ENDORSEMENTS: NWNL thanks all who have endorsed our 18 watershed expeditions, including American Rivers, The International League of Conservation Photographers, The Explorers Club, and Wings World Quest.