Mississippi River Bluffs

The Bluffs region stretches along the Upper Mississippi River as it runs between Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. The area is characterized by its dramatic hills and valleys, prairies, oak savanna, riverine wetlands and deciduous forests, interwoven in a mosaic of farms, small towns and cities. Iowa’s largest remaining contiguous tracts of forest rise above and along the Mississippi and the rivers that flow into it.

The region's beauty draws visitors from all over the nation and the world to the Great River Road Scenic Byway.  Despite the beauty of the area, few of the bluffs themselves are permanently protected.

The landscape

The Blufflands region was bypassed by the last continental glacier, resulting in a steep and rugged landscape. For this reason, it is often called "the driftless area." The land’s diverse geology and soils harbor globally rare natural communities with amazing contrasts: from hot-dry "goat prairie" sites with prickly pear cactus, to lush, wildflower-studded woodlands, and amazing cold air slopes with animal and plant species that are relics of the last ice age.

Unifying the region is the nation's "Big River, the Mississippi, declared by Congress in 1986 to be nationally significant for both its ecosystem and commercial navigation system.

The wildlife

The Bluffs region is critically important for migratory wildlife. Its diverse habitats provide crucial grounds for breeding and migration, especially for waterfowl and neotropical migratory birds that have suffered drastic population declines over the last few decades. Nineteen species of neotropical migrants that nest within the four-state Blufflands region are endangered, threatened or considered “of special concern.”

In addition, the rivers and backwaters of the Bluffs country provide popular waters for anglers, including outstanding trout streams.

This special place is designated as a highest priority for all four State Wildlife Action Plans.

Blufflands Alliance

INHF has been a leader in the Blufflands Alliance, a multi-state coalition of nongovernmental organizations that partner to protect and foster appreciation for the region's scenic values and high quality resources.

America's Great Outdoors

In Fall 2011, the Mississippi River Bluffs region was named as a multi-state priority within the national America's Great Outdoors initiative. The area was recognized as one of seven multi-state projects due to its regional significance. Other multi-state efforts identified for special attention as part of AGO include the Indiana Dunes, the Dakota Grasslands and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.



 

Bluffs along the Mississippi on a permanent easement protected by the landowner and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

The scenic Capoli Bluff along the Mississippi is protected by a permanent land protection agreement between landowners Raleigh and JoEllyn "Joey" Buckmaster and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Photo by Lisa Hein/INHF.

Other Bluffs region info from INHF:

- Showcase projects: Effigy mounds national monument (April 2010)
- Capoli easement protects bluffland ridge (January 2005)
- Osterholm easement protects trout, land (March 2004)