Upper Miss Designated Wetland of National Significance

Swans flying over Upper Mississippi River Refuge

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, is an international treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. The convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation of wetlands around the world.

In January 2010, the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands became one of more than 1,800 Ramsar sites worldwide. Over 302,300 acres of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin are included in the Ramsar designation.

In making the announcement, Secretary Salazar said, “The ecological, social, and economic values of the Upper Mississippi River make it one of the crown jewels of this nation’s wetlands. This marks the 27th U.S. wetland designated under the Convention on Wetlands. The U.S. became a party to the convention in 1987, which now includes 150 countries. It’s certainly fitting that this area has now officially received international recognition.”

The designation includes just over 300,000 acres of federal and state lands and waters of the Upper Mississippi River floodplain from near Wabasha, Minn. to north of Rock Island, Ill. The designation includes all of the 240,000-acre Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge headquartered in Winona, Minn. and the adjacent 6,226-acre Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

Other designated sites in the U.S. include such wetland icons as Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia and Florida, Everglades National Park in Florida, and Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.

The site consists primarily of flowing main and side channel habitats, backwater marshes, and floodplain forests.

Facts about the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands of International Importance:

  • Home to more than 100 native fish species and 42 native mussels including the nationally endangered Higgins eye pearlymussel
  • Located at the core of the Mississippi Flyway, through which 40% of North America’s waterfowl migrate. Treasures of the floodplain wetlands are the canvasback duck and tundra swans.
  • Well over 3 million people visit each year