The river floodplain that bisects the Driftless was declared the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in 1924. This 240,000- acre refuge, which runs for 261 miles along the river valley, provides habitat for 40% of America’s waterfowl, more than 300 bird species and 260 species of fish. With more than 500 access points and harbors, the river is a recreational resource to more than 3 million people annually (more than Yellowstone), supporting a $6.6 billion annual recreational/tourism economy. Just a few years ago, the Upper Mississippi River was designated a RAMSAR wetlands of global significance.

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