The Mississippi River and its last major downstream distributary, the Atchafalaya River, provide approximately 90 percent of the freshwater input to the Gulf of Mexico. Analyses of sediment cores using organic and inorganic tracers as well as bethic foraminifera appear to provide a reliable record of the historic variability of hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past few centuries. Natural variability in hypoxic events may be driven largely by flooding cycles of El Nin??o/La Nin??a prior to recent increases in nutrient loading. Specifically, large floods in 1979, 1983, 1993 and 1998, compounded with the widespread use of fertilizers, also appear at least partially responsible for the recent (post-1980) dramatic increase of hypoxic events in the Mississippi Bight.