U.S. Department of Defense




Published by the U.S. Department of Interior and the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, 1-8


"At one time, most people believed that the only consideration in using this extraordinary resource was technological-what could we do the harness and control the river to maximize its productivity while minimizing the danger of its flooding. Now we all understand much more clearly that there are limits to our tampering with the river's natural state."

Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota made this observation during his remarks in June 1977 at a presentation of the Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River Umbrella study concerning possible designation of the stretch from Gavins Point Dam to Ponca State Park, Nebraska, as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The story of the river's values and appreciation for those values are as old as the Missouri River itself.

The Missouri River, extending 2,100 miles from Three Forks, Montana, to its south near St. Louis, has been meandering across its flood plain since the river basin was formed. The river erodes, floods, and deposits new soil while it continues its course to the Mississippi. Although a natural process, it created many problems for farmers and waterfront towns. Due to the losses incurred and the need for a reliable water source, legislation was passed in 1944 that would solve both problems. The legislation, known as the Pick-Sloan Act, directed the Army Corps of Engineers to build flood control dams and the Bureau of Reclamation (now the Water and Power Resources Service) to provide water for irrigation.