National Park Service


Date of this Version



River Res. Applic. 29: 493–501 (2013)


U.S. Government Work


Flow regulation has had pervasive effects on aquatic ecosystems within the world’s large rivers. While channelization on the lower Missouri River has led to major changes in the river and its floodplain, including the loss of shallow water habitats, effects of upstream dams on unchannelized reaches on the Missouri have not been formally assessed. We quantified changes in the number and size of off-channel habitats, specifically backwaters and side channels, on the 95-km unchannelized reach of the Missouri below Gavins Point Dam (Yankton, South Dakota) using historical (1941, 1983–1985, 2008) aerial imagery. Total and mean areas of side channels declined by 77% and 37% and total and mean length decreased by 79% and 42% from 1941 to 2008. Total area of backwaters increased by 40% from 1941 to 2008, whereas mean area decreased by 36%. Our findings suggest that sharp declines in the area and length of side channels have occurred on this unchannelized remnant reach of the Missouri River, with likely significant impacts on aquatic ecosystem processes.