The lack of any serious development makes this the only river in Iowa eligible for designation as a National Wild and Scenic River, though it has yet to attain this status. The Upper Iowa River is excellent for canoeing, taking paddlers through the scenic bluff country. A number of wildlife refuges and preserves dot the river's basin. Bird sightings on the river usually include bald eagles, great blue herons, turkey vultures, and barn swallows.
In 1964, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources completed a major habitat improvement project on Bee Creek, a tributary to the Upper Iowa River, to support a trout fishery. While the uplands of Bee Creek’s drainage area are used for row crops, the narrow stream valley remains about half woodlands and half pasture.
The Upper Iowa was sometimes historically called the "Iowa River," creating confusion with the larger Iowa River to the south. The Upper Iowa was also called the "Oneota River," and the large number of Late Prehistoric sites along its bluffs caused the early archaeologist Charles R. Keyes to name the Oneota Culture for the river.
What's being done
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local partners recently completed a study of the water quality of streams and the stressors to aquatic life (fish and bugs) in these watersheds. With this recent information, the agency would now like to work with local residents and partners, such as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, to develop strategies for restoring water quality where there are problems and protecting water quality where it’s good.
For more information, see the reports below or contact the MPCA watershed project manager: Emily Bartusek, 507-206-2613 or firstname.lastname@example.org