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The Mighty Mississippi River

North America's largest river in its' grandest setting.

Nowhere does the Mississippi River shine brighter than the Driftless. As surrounding glaciers melted away at the end of the ice age, giant waterfalls and streams carved some of the valleys and bluffs you see today. The stretches of the Great River Road here have been named as among the most scenic in the country.

The river here is federally protected under the US Fish & Wildlife Service as the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. It was founded in 1924 by Will Dilg, the founder of the Izaak Walton League, to prevent the river from being drained for agriculture. This refuge went on to set the stage for more national refuges across the country.

A description of the refuge is below, but can be found in the proposal on page 28.

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge

A refuge unlike any other.

(From U.S. Fish and Wildlife) Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (UMRNWR) has been a haven for migratory birds, fish, wildlife, and people since 1924. The refuge stretches 261 river miles from Wabasha, Minnesota, to Rock Island, Illinois, and protects more than 240,000 acres of Mississippi River floodplain. The refuge hosts more than 3.7 million annual visits for hunting, fishing, wildlife observations, and other recreation. The refuge is a Wetland of International Importance.
(From Driftless NP Proposal) The refuge includes tens of thousands of acres of land that could easily be incorporated into a potential Driftless National and connect to other protected areas. The refuge is divided into various districts further divided into pools by which the river is dissected by USACE locks and dams. Pools are named for the area upriver of the corresponding lock and dam. Pools 4-6 (the Winona district) are included in this report. Pool 5 could be incorporated in plan 2, pool 5A in plan 3, some portions of pool 4 in plan 4, and pool 6 in potential expansion east into Wisconsin and the Great Bluffs area.
The refuge boasts a maze of islands and channels that make for excellent boating, kayaking, camping, and wildlife viewing opportunities .Park & Preserve designation for the refuge would increase wildlife protection and help disperse visitors through the park. That said, refuge inclusion under an NPS unit is not essential to the plan.
The refuge includes some lands across the river in Wisconsin, including blufflands. While parts of this might be included in the park & preserve with changing management, this report mainly focuses on Minnesota lands for legislative purposes.

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