Nine Things You Can Do for the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River flows through many aspects of our lives and we all share a responsibility to protect it. America’s Greatest River is an economic engine for our state’s tourism, agriculture and industry, a vital home for wildlife, an important source of drinking water for 20 million people, and a place for families and recreation. Our greatest authors, musicians, and explorers have been inspired by its power. But sometimes, even a river this powerful needs help.

Today, the once mighty Mississippi River is vulnerable and needs our protection from pollution, overdevelopment and local neglect. Fortunately, it’s not too late to make a difference. You can do your part by choosing just one thing below to help protect our Mississippi River.

  1. Join a River Cleanup

    Nearly every Mississippi River community holds an annual river cleanup. Besides being good for the River, cleanups are fun, often with free food and live music. You'll meet other river lovers, introduce kids to river stewardship and spend a day in nature. Give something back to the River and your local community by joining like-minded volunteers who are working to improve and protect the Mississippi River for the residents and families of our next generation.

  2. Get Your Lawn off Drugs

    Avoid using costly and dangerous chemical fertilizers and pesticides in your yard and garden. These chemicals, which are often over-used, are carried in run-off from rain and sprinkler water into local storm drains, which may pour into the Mississippi River and its streams and wetlands.

  3. Buy Organic, Locally-Grown Produce

    When you buy organic, locally-grown produce, you’re playing a key role in reducing the leading source of pollution in the Mississippi River: fertilizer. In addition to supporting your local economy, organically-grown foods are a great choice for your family because they taste great and don’t rely on the phosphorous and nitrogen-based chemicals that pollute the waters and kill off fish and other aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. Act Locally

    Is your city putting off improving its sewer system? Is it filling in wetlands to build an industrial park? Does a local business have a lot of hazardous waste accidents and spills? In many communities, just a couple of persistent citizens can motivate local officials to do a better job. Speak up and demand that polluters and others who threaten the River’s health be held accountable. Ask for clean water protections for you, your family and your community.

  5. Respect the Storm Sewers

    Storm water is a major contributor to water pollution in the Mississippi River and its many watersheds. Household waste, from pets and garden chemicals to automobiles and street litter, are carried into our community storm sewers by rain and snowmelt. Although each storm sewer drain contributes just a small amount of pollution, there can be thousands of such sewer inlets around your community! These storm sewers often drain untreated waste water into local streams, rivers and wetlands. You can help reduce storm water pollution by never pouring paints, oils, and other chemical wastes down the sewers and by committing to keeping a drug- free lawn.

  6. Landscape with Native Plants and Trees

    The Mississippi River region is home to an endless supply of beautiful native plants, flowers and trees. When you choose native plants for your lawn and garden, you not only save yourself money and trouble, you also help to reduce flood levels in your community. Native plants are accustomed to our local soil types, weather patterns, pests and diseases. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they support our wildlife and natural systems of flood control.

  7. Support River Access

    Parks, gardens and recreational trails beautify our communities and, when properly managed, help protect the Mississippi River. Green spaces filled with native trees and plants and managed with limited chemical fertilizers and pesticides provide homes for wildlife, clean our air, and help maintain our underground water resources. River trails, boat launches and other access points bring added value and tourism dollars to our communities.

  8. Get to Know Your River

    Never been to your nearby riverside park? Pack a picnic and your kids, grandkids or neighbors and head out to explore America’s Greatest River at your doorstep! Sign up for a canoe trip and have fun identifying waterfowl and other wildlife. Visit an interpretive nature center or join other families at a community riverside event. Research your town’s historic River connections and discover why the Mississippi River is an important part of your community and family heritage.

  9. Be a River Citizen in your Community

    If you love the Mississippi River, don’t be shy. Tell your friends, neighbors and elected officials that the Mississippi River is important to you. You can make a difference.

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