GOAL: Provide world-class recreation opportunities.
Enrich the quality of life for people and recreation-based economies by maintaining and enhancing riverine, lake and wetland-associated recreation within the basin.
Photo Credit: Steven Gnam / TNC
Photo Credit: Karine Aigner
Photo Credit: Erika Nortemann
Photo Credit: Mark Godfrey
Photo Credit: Ark. Parks & Tourism
Communities and economies benefit from robust nature-based recreational activities in the Mississippi River Watershed. Every year in all seasons, millions of people fish, boat, hike, watch birds and visit cultural sites along the rivers. These activities support a multi-billion dollar recreational economy that is vital to the communities and businesses that provide related equipment and services. A major challenge in the future will be accommodating current and expanding opportunities for recreational uses as populations and demands continue to grow and change.
Entire Mississippi Watershed
The Mississippi River Watershed received a C for Recreation in the Report Card as participation in most basins were at or below what has been seen in the recent past. Much more needs to be done to support current and emerging recreational opportunities through effective management of natural resources that support recreation. Additional information is also needed to evaluate some recreational uses.
Upper Mississippi Basin
The Upper Mississippi Basin received a grade of C+ for Recreation. The outdoor participation indicator received a C- and the hunting and fishing licenses indicator received a B.
Ohio & Tennessee River Basin
The Ohio River Basin received a grade of D for Recreation. The outdoor participation indicator received a D grade and the hunting and fishing licenses indicator received a Failing grade.
Lower Mississippi Basin
The Lower Mississippi Basin received a grade of B for Recreation, receiving the highest score in the watershed for this goal. The outdoor participation indicator received a C while the hunting and fishing licenses indicator received a B, which was the highest of all basin scores for this indicator.
Arkansas River & Red River Basin
The Arkansas River & Red River Basin received a grade of C for Recreation. The outdoor participation indicator received a C- grade and the hunting and fishing licenses indicator received a C.
Missouri River Basin
The Missouri River Basin received a grade of C for the Recreation goal. The outdoor participation indicator received a C grade and the hunting and fishing licenses indicator received a grade of B.
What was measured and how it was evaluated
The Report Card used two indicators to assess water-related recreational opportunities in the watershed.
- Outdoor Participation measured and compared the most recent numbers of people for hunting, fishing, birding and national park visitation with the 20-year historical range of participation for those activities. Data was gathered from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation (FHWAR) performed every five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Census. The national park data measured visitation to all national parks located in the each of the five basins, not just visits to parks adjacent to the main stem rivers.
- Hunting and Fishing Licenses reported the sales of licenses, tags, stamps and permits for hunting and fishing reported in the National Hunting License Report 2004-2013 and National Fishing License Report 2004-2013. The score compared the three-year (2011-2013) average with the 10-year (2004-2013) historical range of results.
Feedback from watershed experts attending Report Card workshops encouraged inclusion of an indicator measuring the suitability of waters for recreational uses in the watershed based on data submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the state governments under section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act. However, as the data was gathered and analyzed, it became clear that it was inconsistent among the states, currently making it impossible to compile accurate information for the entire Mississippi River Watershed. During consultation with EPA staff and other experts, concerns were raised that resulted in this data being omitted from the Report Card. It is hoped this information will be used in future versions of the Report Card.
Stakeholders suggested the Report Card include an indicator to grade access to the rivers for recreational activities including activities such as boating, fishing and hunting. As we searched for these data, it became clear that available data wasn’t consistent and available for the entire watershed. Developing an accurate report with these varied and incomplete data sources for the entire watershed was not possible. If such information added to the Report Card in the future, ideally it would measure activities on rivers throughout the watershed rather than the main-stem rivers alone. In the future, we hope to include more information about recreational boating and will continue to evaluate access to the rivers for recreation.
The AWI Report Card was developed over two years with significant amount of information and feedback from hundreds of experts and stakeholders throughout the watershed and nation. View a comprehensive Report Card technical paper that includes data sources, calculations and analysis.