Intensive management of the Missouri River for navigation, flood control, and power generation has resulted in substantial physical changes to the river corridor. Historically, the Missouri River was characterized by a shifting, multithread channel and abundant unvegetated sandbars. The shifting channel provided a wide variety of hydraulic environments and large areas of connected and unconnected off-channel water bodies.
Beginning in the early 1800s and continuing to the present, the channel of the Lower Missouri River (downstream from Sioux City, Iowa) has been trained into a fast, deep, single-thread channel to stabilize banks and maintain commercial navigation. Wing dikes now concentrate the flow, and revetments and levees keep the channel in place and disconnect it from the flood plain. In addition, reservoir regulation of the Missouri River upstream of Yankton, South Dakota, has substantially changed the annual hydrograph, sediment loads, temperature regime, and nutrient budgets.
While changes to the Missouri River have resulted in broad social and economic benefits, they have also been associated with loss of river-corridor habitats and diminished populations of native fish and wildlife species. Today, Missouri River stakeholders are seeking ways to restore some natural ecosystem benefits of the Lower Missouri River without compromising traditional economic uses of the river and flood plain.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
River-Corridor Habitat Dynamics, Lower Missouri River