Water Quality in the Mississippi River


Want to know what you can do at home to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the river? Incorporate a few water quality tips into your daily life and make a difference? Learn more about research that fuels new discoveries and helps us to manage the national parks, including the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

A large culvert diverts water to the Mississippi River.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman

Current Status and Research

Stretches of the Mississippi River within the park corridor exceed water quality standards for mercury, bacteria, sediment, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), and nutrients. Unfortunately, these "impairments" can make the water unsuitable for fishing, swimming, and drinking.

The Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network

The national parks protect more than just outstanding waters. The parks are also a place to track wildlife and plant populations, changes in the landscape, and the effects of pollution on the environment. Great Lakes Network scientists use the parks for science and our science is used to help the parks. Learn more about the research and monitoring projects at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

State of the River Report

How is the health of the Mississippi River? Can I safely swim in it? Is water pollution improving? Can I eat the fish I catch? What can we do about invasive carp? Do I need to be concerned about bacteria in the river? How are bald eagles faring?

The National Park Service has partnered with the Friends of the Mississippi River to answer these questions in the State of the River Report. The State of the River Report provides a concise snapshot of the health of the Mississippi River. Based upon a broad range of water quality and other river data, the report zooms in on the status and trends of 13 key indicators of river health, highlighting the swimming, fishing, aquatic life and emerging contamination issues facing the river--as well as priority solutions for each.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is working with a number of partners to get the water to "fishable" and "swimmable" conditions. (Thanks to the great work of public utilities, treated drinking water from the Mississippi is safe and delicious!) The National Park Service is participating in the process to identify sources of bacterial contamination in the river and develop a plan to reduce that contamination.

The pollution that has led to these conditions cannot be cleaned up overnight-it will take years and widespread coordination to develop and implement effective pollution-reduction plans, and possibly many more years until they are successful.

As work to make the river "fishable" and "swimmable" advances, so will our website. The goal is to offer up-to-date information regarding the status of the river, while providing features and information that can be employed in your daily life.

Last updated: March 6, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center.

Contact Us