The drift dynamics of larval shovelnose sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynchus (1, 2, 6, and 10 d posthatch [dph]) and pallid sturgeon S. albus (1, 2, 5, 9, 11, and 17 dph) were examined in a natural side channel of the Missouri River to quantify the vertical drift location of larvae in the water column, determine the drift velocity of larvae relative to water velocity, and simulate the cumulative distance (km) drifted by larvae during ontogenetic development. Larvae were released at the side-channel inlet and sampled at points 100, 500, 900, and 1,300 m downstream. Larvae drifted primarily near the riverbed, as 58-79% of recaptured shovelnose sturgeon and 63-89% of recaptured pallid sturgeon were sampled in the lower 0.5 m of the water column. The transition from the drifting to the benthic life stage was initiated at 6 dph (mean length, 15.6 mm) for shovelnose sturgeon and at 11-17 dph (mean length, 18.1-20.3 mm) for pallid sturgeon. Across ages, the drift rates of larval shovelnose sturgeon averaged 0.09-0.16 m/s slower than the mean water column velocity. The drift rates of pallid sturgeon were similar to or slightly slower (0.03-0.07 m/s) than the mean water column velocity for 1-11-dph larvae. Conversely, 17-dph larval pallid sturgeon dispersed downstream at a much slower rate (mean, 0.20 m/s slower than the mean water column velocity) owing to their transition to benthic habitats. Drift simulations indicated that the average larval shovelnose sturgeon may drift from 94 to 250 km and the average larval pallid sturgeon may drift from 245 to 530 km, depending on water velocity. Differences in larval drift dynamics between species provide a possible explanation for differences in recruitment between shovelnose sturgeon and pallid sturgeon in the upper Missouri River. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2008.