Mississippi Alluvial Valley

Level I Ducks Unlimited conservation priority area, the most significant winter habitat area for mallards in North America

© Jake Brand

The Mississippi Alluvial Valley represents the historic floodplain and valley of the lower Mississippi River. It is easily the most significant winter habitat area for mallards in North America. The MAV was once a 24.7 million acre complex of forested wetlands interspersed with swamps, cypress-tupelo brakes, scrub-shrub wetlands and emergent wetlands. This vast complex of wetlands, through which nearly 40 percent of North America drains, provided wetland functions and wildlife values of incalculable worth. However, the landscape in the MAV has changed dramatically during the last 200 years, with the most rapid change occurring within the last 75 years. Today, only about 20 percent of the original forest remains in the MAV. The rest has been cleared for agricultural production and other land uses.

Importance to waterfowl

  • The MAV is the continent's most important wintering habitat for mallards and wood ducks, but other species, such as gadwall and green-winged teal also are common.
  • Following widespread land conversion, the region has become more significant to northern pintails, green-winged teal and northern shovelers, as well as snow and white-fronted geese.
  • Catahoula Lake and the lower Mississippi River delta together winter approximately 10-25 percent of the continental population of canvasbacks.

Habitat issues

  • Mississippi Alluvial Valley mapApproximately 80 percent of the forested lands in the MAV have been cleared.
  • Natural flooding in the MAV has been reduced by 50-90 percent.
  • The availability of feeding habitat or forested habitats that provide pair isolation and thermal refuge during cold snaps has been significantly reduced.
  • Mechanized cultivation has contributed to the excessive growth of lesser snow goose populations in the region.

DU's conservation focus

  • Restore or protect key public lands in cooperation with state and federal partners.
  • Permanently protect private lands through DU's donated conservation easement program.
  • Assist landowners to restore or enhance private land through partners' programs.
  • Encourage management of habitat for waterfowl on private lands, including rice agriculture.
  • Learn more about DU's America's River Initiative

States in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley region

Louisiana | Mississippi | Arkansas
Tennessee |  KentuckyIllinois | Missouri