Hot Spot - Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, MN

The Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge is experiencing severe impacts from outdoor activities. As one of the 2018 Leave No Trace Hot Spots, this protected area will receive a site-specific blend of targeted training, expert consulting, education programs, and service projects to help this threatened area on its road to recovery. 

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge stretches along 261 miles of the Mississippi River and includes over 240,000 acres. This Hot Spot focuses on the Winona District which manages about 45 miles and 40,000 acres of refuge. The majority of the 500,000 annual visits to this area occur during the summer and is comprised visitors using boats (motorized and non-motorized) to access backwaters and islands for day uses such as fishing, sunbathing and picnicking but also for overnight camping. Camping is free and is permitted on sand beaches that have access to the main commercial navigation channel of the Mississippi River. Though the Upper Mississippi River Refuge encourages the use of small pocket beaches that can accommodate just a few boats, but on a busy day, long stretches of beaches are filled hundreds of people at one spot. This high visitation has caused numerous recreation-related impacts including litter, the erosion of shoreline and damage to trees from large boat wakes, and the transport of invasive species on boats. 

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is teaming up with the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge to execute a week of targeted training, education programs and service work with agency staff, key stakeholders and members of the local community. The overall goals of these efforts are the long-term improvement of resource conditions, increased awareness of impacts at the refuge, elevated Leave No Trace programs within agency management plans and increased use of Leave No Trace skills and ethics by the visiting public. This week of action based events is just one step in helping the Refuge on its road to recovery.