In an effort to enhance aquatic plant production and habitat diversity on the Upper Mississippi River (UMR), resource managers considered water level reduction as a management tool to increase the area of emergent and submersed aquatic vegetation by natural seed germination. To quantify the availability of seed, we assessed the potential seed bank of selected areas of Navigation Pool 8 of the UMR from substrate samples collected in spring 2000. We tested these samples for viable seed content under four hydrologic conditions: dry, moist, shallow flooded and submerged. Forty-seven species were identified in the seed bank, including 27 obligate wetland, 10 facultative wetland and 7 upland species. Dominant taxa within the seed bank included Sagittaria spp., Lindernia dubia, Zosterella dubia, Cyperus spp., Eragrostis spp. and Leersia oryzoides. Of the four hydrologic treatments, moist substrates had the greatest species diversity and were the most productive, yielding an average density of 1420 seedlings m-2. Emergent and submersed aquatic species were widely distributed, each type occurring in more than 90% of the samples. Timing of seedling germination varied among species and has implications for scheduling drawdowns to promote establishment of desired species. Seed bank results were correlated with the vegetation response on substrates exposed during a reduction of water levels of Pool 8 during summer 2001. Experimentally determining the composition and viability of seed banks from drawdown areas provides information useful in predicting the types of vegetation that may develop on exposed substrates. Further, these findings provide resource managers a better understanding of the potential for achieving desired vegetation response through water level reductions.