What Drains Into The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America and serves as a critical resource for agriculture, shipping, transportation, energy production, recreation, and biodiversity. Its drainage basin is the fourth largest in the United States, encompassing much of western and central ten states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.
Throughout the length of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, hundreds of streams, creeks, and other waterways drain into the river and form an immense watershed. The Mississippi River’s watershed covers an area of close to 1.8 million square miles, and it contains a diverse range of habitats, ecosystems, and species.
Scientists believe that the Mississippi River is the most heavily impacted river on the continent, primarily due to its large watershed, extensive tributaries, and vulnerable wildlife populations. For example, the Mississippi River is home to more than 200 species of fish, including the endangered pallid sturgeon, lake sturgeon, and the piping plover.
In addition to its aquatic species, the Mississippi River also supports an array of wildlife, including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. While many of these species are threatened or endangered, they are still an important part of the Mississippi River ecosystem. Unfortunately, industrial pollution and agricultural runoff have caused significant damage to the river and its associated wildlife populations.
Experts have determined that human activities are the primary factors responsible for the degradation of the Mississippi River. Human activities include agricultural practices such as excessive fertilizer usage, sedimentation from road construction, urban runoff, and oil spills. Additionally, dams, levees, and other water extraction projects have increased levels of pollution in the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
These pollutants have had devastating impacts on the health of the river and its associated wildlife populations. In particular, pollutants have been linked to algal blooms, dead zones, and fish kills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pollutants have caused a 70 percent reduction in the Mississippi River’s dissolved oxygen levels, a critical factor in maintaining healthy water bodies.

Societal Impact

The degradation of the Mississippi River has also taken its toll on the surrounding communities. In recent years, the Mississippi River has seen record-breaking flooding, leading to the displacement of thousands of residents and the destruction of homes and businesses. In addition, the river’s high levels of sedimentation, algae blooms, and pollution have made it unsafe for swimming, recreation, and fishing.
The health of the Mississippi River is also closely connected to the global climate crisis. As the earth continues to warm, rising sea levels have caused significant flooding and erosion along the river. Furthermore, climate change has caused an increase in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events. This, coupled with human activities such as pollution and unsustainable water management, have further exacerbated the health of the Mississippi River.

Mitigation Efforts

To help restore the health of the Mississippi River, there has been a number of initiatives, programs, and policies put in place. For example, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative was launched in 2008 to bring together hundreds of federal, state, and local governments, watershed groups, universities, and citizen groups to work together to identify and address water quality issues.
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Reduction Program in 1997, focusing on reducing nutrient levels in the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The program involves a series of actions to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen levels and to restore wetlands.
Finally, infrastructure projects such as river locks, levees, and dams are being constructed to increase flood control, reduce navigation delays, and improve the environment.

Environmental Benefits

The restoration efforts for the Mississippi River have many environmental benefits. A cleaner river will mean better water and air quality, with improved habitats for plant and animal species. A healthier Mississippi River and its associated tributaries will be less susceptible to flooding and sedimentation, which could potentially prevent the destruction of vital ecosystems, wetland habitats, farmland, and low-lying cities.
Furthermore, restoring the Mississipp River will also benefit the local communities in the form of increased recreational opportunities, improved fisheries and wildlife habitat, and improved water quality for drinking and irrigation.

Government Regulation

In order to protect and preserve the health of the Mississippi River, the government is taking measures to limit human activities in the watershed. Federal, state, and local regulations are in place to limit the discharge of pollutants into waterways and thus to limit the contamination of the river.
Furthermore, the government is also taking steps to protect the river’s fragile wetlands, which serve as important breeding grounds and nurseries for wildlife, prevent flooding, and reduce soil erosion. Wetlands restoration projects, such as the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain Wetlands Restoration Project, have been implemented in an effort to restore wetland habitats that have been impacted by human activities.

Public Involvement

The health of the Mississippi River is also dependent upon public involvement. There are a number of public initiatives and programs to help restore the watershed. Citizens are encouraged to volunteer to help restore impacted habitats, join in local clean-up efforts, and raise awareness about the river’s health.
Individuals can also do the simple things, such as reducing fertilizer use, disposing of chemicals properly, and choosing more sustainable farming practices. Lastly, citizens can become involved in their local watershed councils and other grassroots organizations to advocate for the river’s health and to help raise funds to support restoration initiatives.


The health of the Mississippi River is of critical importance to the communities in the watershed and to the nation as a whole. By increasing public awareness and involvement, implementing government regulations and restoration projects, and working together to mitigate human activities, the river and its associated species and habitats can be protected and restored.


The current state of technology is also helping to improve the health of the Mississippi River. Remote sensing techniques and advanced water quality monitoring systems are being used to increase awareness and to help identify water contamination sources. Additionally, advanced mapping tools can help create preventative or protective plans and models to reduce the potential impacts of floods or spills.
Moreover, researchers are utilizing predictive models such as neural networks and machine learning tools to forecast floods and to detect anomalous activity or changes in water quality. This data can be used to inform policy decisions, as well as to make better management plans for the Mississippi River’s watershed areas.
Finally, computer simulations and predictives models can be used to predict the effects of future climate change on the Mississippi River. For example, scientists can use extensive data to analyze the potential effects of sea level rise and increased precipitation on the watershed.


To ensure the health of the legacy the Mississippi River, it is necessary to take proactive steps to reduce pollution and to restore wetlands. Governments and citizens must work together to implement sustainable practices and to develop new policies and initiatives to protect the river.
Educational programs, public involvement, responsible farming practices, and monitoring systems are just a few of the solutions that can be implemented to protect the river, its habitats, and its associated species. Furthermore, policymakers must work with researchers and scientists to develop long-term strategies and solutions, such as restoring habitats, controlling oil spills and other pollutants, and conserving water reserves.

International Collaboration

International collaboration also plays an important role in restoring the health of the Mississippi River. Due to its large watershed, the Mississippi River is connected to many other countries. For example, pollutants from the U.S. can travel down the river and end up polluting bodies of water in Mexico and Canada.
That’s why the United States, Mexico, and Canada have worked together to institute a series of joint initiatives and projects to reduce pollutants, protect wildlife, promote sustainable practices, and encourage public education and involvement. An example of this is the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Reduction Program, which was endorsed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada in 1997.


The Mississippi River is a critical resource that supports a variety of ecosystems and species in the United States and beyond. In order to protect and restore the river’s health, it is necessary to implement various initiatives and to work collaboratively. Governments and citizens must work together to reduce pollutants, to implement sustainable practices, and to protect and restore habitats. Only then can the legacy of the Mississippi River be preserved for future generations.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

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