Water QualityWater Quality Monitoring Network

The Water Quality Monitoring Network studies the main river and its tributaries. The network monitors physical, biological and chemical aspects of water quality.


  • Provides baseline and historical dataset
  • Analysis of water quality changes through time
  • Details impacts of storm events
  • Examines impacts of tributaries

Interactive map and database
Contact: Tim.Cowman@usd.edu, Missouri River Institute

ThalwegThalweg Mapping

The Missouri River between Gavins Point Dam and Ponca State Park is unchannelized. This means that the river shows varying water depths and velocities, which frequently change. The portion of the main channel with the fastest moving and often deepest water is known as the thalweg. The Missouri River Institute has been mapping the thalweg of the river since 2009.

Thalweg mapping efforts
Contact: Tim.Cowman@usd.edu, Missouri River Institute

Cottonwood ForestAssessment of Land Cover Change and Cottonwood Forest Structure along the Missouri River

This project describes the current status, past changes and future projections for cottonwood forests along the Missouri River, from Montana to Missouri.

Key components of the project include:

  1. Use of GIS with current and historical imagery to quantify floodplain land cover, historic change and present-day cottonwood area and age distribution.
  2. Vegetation sampling to assess species composition and age structure of remnant cottonwood forest stands.

This project uses land cover change analyses and vegetation sampling to forecast future changes in cottonwood forest area, composition and age structure within the Missouri River floodplain.

Contact: Mark.Dixon@usd.edu, University of South Dakota

Geological MappingNew Geologic Mapping Along the Missouri National Recreational River

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the MRI and other partners, is mapping the geology of the Missouri River corridor within the Missouri National Recreational River (MNRR) of southeastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska.

The basic geology of the river corridor greatly influences the physical habitats and ecology of the entire river basin. The region of the corridor included within the MNRR contains several geologically significant formations. The river valley, with a width of 3-6 km throughout most of the Dakotas and eastern Montana, expands below Yankton, SD, to a width of 10-16 km. The expanded reach coincides with the southernmost extent of the glacial ice sheet during the most recent glacial period. In the uplands south of the river valley in eastern Nebraska, an older distinctive glacial formation is partially covered by wind-deposited glacial silt called loess. Both formations include extensive aquifers, which merge with the aquifer that underlies the river and its valley.

Project poster
Contacts: Scott Lundstrom (sclundst@usgs.gov), U.S. Geological Survey or Tim.Cowman@usd.edu, Missouri River Institute

TurtleTurtle ecology within the 59-Mile section of the Missouri National Recreational River

Turtle populations within the Missouri National Recreational River (MNRR) are impacted by a number of factors. These include limited access to nesting sites and winter mortality. This study focuses on false map (pictured) and softshell turtles. Both species are of conservation concern in South Dakota. This study uses mark-recapture methods to examine habitat relationships, population dynamics and abundance of turtle populations on the river. The study also uses radio-tracking to document turtle movement patterns and habitat use for nesting and hibernation. These data will help inform conservation and management of turtles within the MNRR.

Contact: Aaron.Gregor@coyotes.usd.edu, University of South Dakota