Upper Mississippi River

Level III Ducks Unlimited conservation priority area, providing a migration corridor for hundreds of thousands of dabbling ducks and significant numbers of divers

© Timothy Cummings

Millions of waterfowl rely on habitat along the Upper Mississippi River for breeding, migration and foraging habitat. This area provides a major migratory corridor for the Mississippi Flyway, which funnels more waterfowl to the wintering grounds than any other flyway. Habitat restoration and protection programs in the upper reaches of the watershed significantly improve water quality in the Mississippi River and impact waterfowl habitat as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. Through DU's Upper Mississippi Ecosystem Initiative, DU is working to conserve migratory habitat in the southern part of the initiative area, and breeding habitat in the north.

Importance to waterfowl

  • The Mississippi River and its major tributaries provide a migration corridor for hundreds of thousands of dabbling ducks, and significant numbers of ring-necks, canvasbacks and scaup.
  • Managed areas and restored bottomland forests provide wintering and migration habitat for mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, northern pintails and Canada geese.
  • The Illinois River Valley provides some of the most significant mid-migration habitat for mallards in the Mississippi Flyway.
  • The river systems in Ohio provide important migration and wintering habitat for mallards, black ducks and pintails.
  • Wetland/grassland complexes provide beneficial breeding habitat for mallards and blue-winged teal.Upper Mississippi River map

Habitat issues

  • The area has suffered the greatest wetland loss of the entire Great Lakes/Atlantic region.
  • Timber harvest, levee construction and surface mining have altered habitat conditions for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife.

DU's conservation focus

  • Conservation goals primarily focus on migratory issues in the southern parts of the initiative and on breeding issues in the northern area.
  • Restore wetlands and associated grasslands on public and private land.
  • Develop hydrological restoration and management systems that emulate natural conditions.
  • Protect mid-migration habitat vulnerable to loss.
  • Increase public awareness of the benefits of wetlands.

States in the Upper Mississippi River region

Alabama | ArkansasIllinoisIndianaIowaKansas | Kentucky
Maryland | MinnesotaMissouriNebraskaNew York | Ohio
Oklahoma | South DakotaTennesseeWest Virginia | Wisconsin

More information