River Science

Our great River has influenced life in the Americas for hundreds of years. As human consumption has changed we have in turn had a greater, often harmful, influence on the River. Because of the River’s vast tributary system, you don’t have to live on the River to impact its waters. Learn more about the human relationship with the Mississippi River in these three subject-specific fact sheets on River Wildlife, Water Quality and the Dead Zone.

The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico where life cannot exist because there is little oxygen in the water. It sometimes grows to the size of New Jersey. Fertilizer pollution from Corn Belt states and raw sewage from cities contribute to the Dead Zone. Read more.

Water Quality and Drinking Water

Over 18 million people depend on the Mississippi River for drinking water. But sewage is a large-scale threat to the Mississippi River’s water quality. According to the Clean Water Act, America’s waters are supposed to be “fishable and swimmable,” but those activities are simply unsafe in about half of the streams and rivers in the Mississippi River watershed. Read More.

River Wildlife

The Mississippi River system is an oasis for life. It supports over 400 species of wildlife, many of which are endangered. Wildlife refuges protect some of the River’s most vital habitats, like the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the longest river refuge in the United States. It alone hosts 119 species of fish! Read more.

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