Great Blue Heron

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)

The land, water, and sky of the upper Mississippi River are teaming with life. The Mississippi and the surrounding land provide food and shelter for migrating birds, unique fish, and remarkable mammals. The upper Mississippi is home to one of the largest populations of nesting bald eagles in the lower 48 states of the US, and many eagles can be seen roosting in enormous white pines along its banks. In the waters of the Mississippi, over 200 species of fish make their home, along with many of Minnesota's 48 freshwater mussel species. Mammals, including otters and muskrats, live along the banks and in the waters of the Mississippi River as well.

To keep these magnificent animals healthy and abundant, the National Park Service routinely conducts studies to monitor and evaluate animal populations. The park also assesses the quality of their habitat and the amount that humans are impacting their increasingly fragmented living space. Concern about loss of wildlife habitat and corridors within the park has resulted in a number of partner organizations working with the park to restore, expand, and connect the remaining natural areas. There is also a great deal of concern about invasive species, like Asian carp and zebra mussels, and emphasis is being put on ways to prevent them from causing more damage.

Featured Pages

Invasive Asian Carp
The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is working on an Action Plan to stop Asian carp as far down stream as possible. Are you curious about why these fish are so bad? Read about how they might impact our rivers and lakes, how they spread, and what they eat.


River Otters
North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) were nearly extinct 100 years ago in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. Their return to the Twin Cities since the 1980's is a success story for water quality on the Mississippi River.

Bald Eagle Survey
Chances are high that you've seen a bald eagle along the Mississippi recently. The National Park Service is studying bald eagles to determine the persistence of various chemicals in the upper Mississippi River, the Saint Croix and the Apostle Islands. These studies provide insight into how many eagles are here, and the health of the river and related ecosystems.

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