Priority Landscapes

Mississippi River Basin

Mississippi River Valley in Wisconsin/Iowa
Mississippi River Valley Looking east across the Mississippi River valley from Iowa towards Wisconsin near Prairie du Chein. © © Mark Godfrey/TNC

The Mississippi River is Indispensable to Our Way of Life

For centuries, we’ve used the Mississippi to quench our thirst, nourish our crops, energize our home, and transport our goods. The flowing water sustains robust fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, which provide food, jobs, and economic security to millions of people. But all of this is at risk.

The Mississippi River Basin The Nature Conservancy is working across 1,245 million square miles with partners, friends, and allies, to protect and restore the Mississippi River Basin.

Our Goal: A 20 percent reduction of nutrients entering the Mississippi River Basin by 2025

Stretching from the Allegheny Mountains across to the Rockies and south to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Basin spans 1,245 million square miles in 31 states and two Canadian provinces—forming the world’s fourth largest river basin.

One of the most critical challenges in the Mississippi Basin today is nutrient pollution. Each year massive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous from sewage treatment plants, farms and other sources runoff into the river, posing health hazards to people and wildlife, raising water treatment costs, and contributing to the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

The Nature Conservancy is working with farmers, agribusiness, policy makers and others to target science-based solutions in places contributing the highest levels of nutrients.

Mapping the Mississippi

Maps like the two below (and more in Nature Conservancy magazine's article "Letting the River Run") help to visually tell the story of flooding along the river and the impact on people who live in the river's floodplain. 

A map of the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois, shows areas that have been inundated in blue.
Cairo, Illinois This map shows the frequency of inundations near the point where the Ohio River (east) and the Mississippi River meet. The area is mostly farmland, and many farmers have started selling their land because it is too risky to continue farming there. © Scott Reinhard
A map of the Mississippi River near St. Louis shows areas that have been inundated in blue.
St. Louis The Mississippi River runs through the city of St. Louis, and it is the cause of frequent floods in densely developed and inhabited areas. © Scott Reinhard