A Lagrangian strategy for sampling large rivers, which was developed and tested in the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers of South America during the early 1980s, is now being applied to the study of toxic chemicals in the Mississippi River. A series of 15-20 cross-sections of the Mississippi mainstem and its principal tributaries is sampled by boat in downstream sequence, beginning upriver of St. Louis and concluding downriver of New Orleans 3 weeks later. The timing of the downstream sampling sequence approximates the travel time of the river water. Samples at each cross-section are discharge-weighted to provide concentrations of dissolved and suspended constituents that are converted to fluxes. Water-sediment mixtures are collected from 10-40 equally spaced points across the river width by sequential depth integration at a uniform vertical transit rate. Essential equipment includes (i) a hydraulic winch, for sensitive control of vertical transit rates, and (ii) a collapsible-bag sampler, which allows integrated samples to be collected at all depths in the river. A section is usually sampled in 4-8 h, for a total sample recovery of 100-120 l. Sampled concentrations of suspended silt and clay are reproducible within 3%.