The Missouri River, the nation's longest, travels over 2,300 miles from Three Forks, Mont., to join the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Mo.
For centuries, the river has served as the center of life for the inhabitants of North America's Great Plains. Following exploration and mapping by Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery in the early 1800s, the Missouri River became the gateway to the west.
Historically, the dynamic and untamed Missouri River has produced violent floods in the spring and summer with erosive forces that ate away its banks and turned its waters the color of mud.
Since Lewis and Clark returned from their expedition, the Army Engineers have had very close ties to the Missouri River. Over the years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been charged by Congress to remove snags, protect banks, construct navigation channels and build flood risk management structures (levees and dams) on the Missouri River to provide social and economic benefits to the nation. Some of these development activities on the Missouri River have come at the expense of the river's native fish and wildlife.
The River Today
Today, the Missouri River hosts a wide variety of interests and uses, all of which are considered in the river's recovery program. They include the authorized purposes of the Missouri River Main stem Reservoir system of fish and wildlife, flood control, hydropower, irrigation, navigation, recreation, water supply and water quality. Other important considerations include Tribal interests, cultural resources, and ecosystem services.
These uses have resulted in significant impacts to the Missouri River ecosystem:
Three million acres of natural river habitat altered
51 of 67 native fish species now rare, uncommon or decreasing
Reproduction of cottonwoods, historically the dominant floodplain tree, largely has ceased
Aquatic insects, a key link in the food chain, reduced by 70 percent