Missouri River


Observers say snowpack levels in the Northern Rockies are like those in 2011. That snowmelt in part brought historic flooding along the Missouri River basin through South Dakota.

However, those with the National Weather Service aren’t raising the alarm just yet.

Some snowpack levels in western Montana are anywhere from 120 to 130 percent above normal.

Those numbers are similar to levels in 2011, when the Missouri River flooded and displaced many people for weeks.

In The Moment ... Images Of The Past / Big Bend Dam

Nov 6, 2017
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In The Moment ... November 6, 2017 Show 214 Hour 2

This week's Images of the Past feature focuses on a film that shows the different stages of construction of the Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River near Ft. Thompson. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction in 1959.  The dam project was completed in 1966.

SDPB's Brian Gevik speaks with Rick Clark, superintendent of the Missouri National Recreational River in Yankton about the challenging aspects of trying to manage a major river system.

Lori Walsh

In The Moment ... October 17, 2017 Show 200 Hour 1

He followed the Missouri River for more than 2,000 miles. He wrote about his journey. He found himself a new "River Family." And he wrote a book about his journey. Larry Campbell is the author of "Rolling Down the River." He's speaking at the Vermillion Rotary Club today. But first he stops by In the Moment.


In The Moment ... September 5, 2017 Show 170 Hour 1

Lori Walsh

In The Moment ... July 31 2017, Show 145 Hour 1

Larry Campbell's fascination with the Missouri River inspired a journey from the river's source to the place where it merges with the Mississippi. Along the way, he found a lot more than a river. His book is called "Rollin Down the River." He speaks at Rotary in Yankton tomorrow at noon. But first he joins us on In the Moment. To receive a 10 percent discount on an autographed copy of the book, order it online from the author: https://larryncampbell.com/


In the Moment ... May 1, 2017 Show 083 Hour 1

May is National Bike Month. Rapid City has been selected as one of 13 cities across the country as a flagship community for Life is a Cycle. Alex DeSmidt and Jay Scott Corbin Baschemin join us to discuss biking as transportation and the potential for Rapid City as a bike-friendly town.

Public Meetings For Missouri River

Dec 21, 2016
Army Corps of Engineers

The Army Corps of Engineers is drafting a plan to preserve the ecosystem around the Missouri River. Officials are travelling to cities across the Midwest to receive public opinion.

The Corps is creating a draft of the Missouri River Recovery Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. The plan assesses current regulations involving the river and the endangered species wellbeing.

Sam Stukel / South Dakota Game Fish and Parks

Some environmental groups are blaming the EPA for not doing enough to control invasive species like zebra mussels.  

This week a coalition of groups won a ruling in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that calls on the EPA to do more.    The lawsuit deals with regulations for ballast water in large ships that can transport invasive species.

Some invasives can decimate local fish populations, and do millions of dollars in damage to recreational and commercial fishing.  

Caribou Productions for SDPB

Over the past several years, the Izaak Walton League has helped organize Missouri River clean-ups in the cities of Pierre, Ft. Pierre and Yankton. Since the first river clean-up in 2009, volunteers have picked up an average of 2.5 tons of garbage each year. They've found everything from bowling balls to pop bottles.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation, the conservation group is starting a pilot program to help prevent trash from getting into the river in the first place.

Conservation Group Recieves Grant

Aug 10, 2015
Michael Zimny

A South Dakota organization has received a $10,000 grant to clean up the Missouri River. The group will focus on public awareness to help stop pollution.

The Izaak Walton League is a national conservation group. The South Chapter has organized Missouri River clean ups for many years, but wanted to take on a more proactive role. The League received the grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation to start the Missouri River Initiative. Paul Lepisto says the program hopes to educate the public on keeping litter out of the river.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers is shifting its focus from drought conservation to flood risk control. Officials are slowing the amount of water that flows through a Yankton dam and keeping higher levels of storage in the state to try to prevent flooding downstream.

Recent thunderstorms have brought rain to states along the Missouri River, and it’s enough runoff for the US Army Corps of Engineers to increase attention to its purpose of managing flood risk. Jody Farhat is chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division.

Patrick Dobson was a novice canoer when he launched his boat in Montana and began a journey down the Missouri River to Kansas City. A woman in Helena told him he was doomed. “That river’s gonna’ eat you,” she said. But Dobson had just finished a ten week walk to Montana from Kansas City and the Missouri was his way back home.

At the time of his journey in the summer of 1995, Dobson was tired of a dead-end job and feeling empty inside. His journey was a search for redemption and a way to help him reconnect with his life.

Photo by Ken Bouc; Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Weighing up to 80 pounds and growing up to a length of six feet, the pallid sturgeon is one of the largest fresh water fish species in North America. It can also live 50 years or more. But even though pallid sturgeon come from a genetic line going back tens of millions of years, it’s been decades since there has been documentation of the large fish successfully producing young that survive into adulthood on the upper Missouri River basin. The pallid sturgeon was placed on the endangered species list 25 years ago.

Pallid Spawning Confirmed in Mighty Mo

Jan 20, 2015
Army Corps of Engineers.

Biologists have found evidence that pallid sturgeon are breeding in the lower Missouri River. 

The fish, informally called a living fossil, can live up to 40 years and grow up to six-feet in length—as a species sturgeon once lived alongside dinosaurs.    

Today, pallid sturgeon are endangered.  So far there’s been little evidence that sturgeon were spawning in the wild.    

But, recently two pallid sturgeon in the larval stage were found near Saint Louis.     

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray reports that the finding opens a host of new scientific questions.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

The people of Mongolia are considering damming some of their rivers.  The United States saw a huge push to build dams in the 1950’s, including series of dams on the Missouri River. While dams in the U.S. brought huge benefits, they also brought problems, including changing the natural balance and displacing residents.

Yankton and the Missouri River

Jul 22, 2014
NPS photo by Linda Gordon Rokosz

Throughout its 157 year history, life in Yankton has centered around the Missouri River. Steamboat traffic on the river helped the town grow after its founding in 1857. But both Yankton and the river have changed over the years, most dramatically with the construction of dams on the Missouri, including the Gavin’s Point Dam west of town. The dams brought an end to navigation, but controlled flooding, generated electricity and created new recreational opportunities, with visitors camping, boating, swimming and fishing at Lewis and Clark Lake.

Missouri River Cleanup Efforts Gather 2.6 Tons of Trash

Jul 11, 2014

Volunteers from Pierre area businesses, churches and state organizations participated in a Missouri River clean up Wednesday. The 80 participants collected over 2.6 tons of trash.

The Pierre and Fort Pierre area has held a river cleanup annually for the past six years with the exception of the summer of 2011 when the Oahe Dam had record flows due to flooding on the Missouri River.

During this year’s cleanup, volunteers collected more than 1.12 tons of garbage; 1,900 pounds of lumber; 640 pounds of scrap metal and 540 pounds of tires.

Dozens Sign Up For 50-Mile Paddle Race

Jul 11, 2014

Almost 100 people have registered for the first annual Fort to Field 50. It's a paddle race 50 miles long from just below the Fort Randall Dam to the marina in Springfield. Registrants range from South Dakota residents to visitors from the Netherlands.

Jarett Bies is the founder of the Fort to Field 50. He says he set a goal of 75 registers based off the South Dakota Kayak challenge and registration already surpasses that.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting is celebrating the state’s 125th anniversary with a look at the things that make South Dakota unique.  The Landscapes series visits people, places and experiences South Dakotans understand and treasure.  In this land of infinite variety, the Missouri River brings us together in one sense, creates a rivalry in another, and divides us in yet another.  

National Water Trails Designation

Apr 15, 2014
South Dakota Kayak Challenge

The Missouri National Recreation River Water Trail was added to the National Water Trails System last November.  The designation applies to 147 miles of the river between the spillways at Ft.

Mighty Mo Eats Lower Brule

Apr 14, 2014

Some of the land base of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe is disappearing.  But it’s not over any political or legal dispute--the Missouri River is swallowing up property near the town of Lower Brule.

Scientists have been studying the very high erosion rates on the Mighty Mo at this location for the past few years.    Researchers are trying to find the best way to stop the Missouri from eating away at the fragile river banks near Big Bend Dam on Lake Sharpe.


Is 2014 A Sequel To The 2011 Floods?

Mar 7, 2014

Governor Dennis Daugaard is asking state residents along the Missouri River to be ready in case 2014 brings a repeat of the 2011 floods that devastated towns up and down the Mighty Mo.

Officials stress that flooding is not guaranteed this year, but that the potential remains.

Brad Lawrence is the Public Works Director Fort Pierre.  He watches the river and mountain snow pack closely.  Lawrence was among the first to raise red flags about flood possibility in the early spring of 2011.

Group Of 200+ Suing Corps Of Engineers

Mar 6, 2014

A group of more than 200 farmers and business owners along the Missouri River have filed a lawsuit against the U.S.

Some South Dakota landowners are part of a lawsuit claiming the federal government mismanages the Missouri River. Wednesday attorneys filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 200 people who say they’re still paying for the Corps’ decisions.

A lawsuit filed in the U-S Court of Federal Claims says the government is taking private land without compensating owners. Attorney Seth Wright says it’s happening along the Missouri River, because the US Army Corps of Engineers has allowed flooding to destroy hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland.

Federal Bill Seeks More River Data

Jan 24, 2014

A new bill pending in Congress requires the Army Corps of Engineers to keep data on soil moisture and snow pack in the upper Missouri River Basin–and to make this information available to the public.

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office is pushing the federal legislation in the wake of the 2011 floods as a way to better manage future disasters. 

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray covered the flooding in 2011 and reports on the measure.

"Rivers, Wings and Sky"

Jan 23, 2014
University of South Dakota

"Rivers, Wings and Sky," an exhibition by poet Norma Wilson and artist Nancy Losacker, is on display through the spring semester at the I.D.

Rangers from Missouri National Recreational River will open the Dakota Territorial Capitol replica in Yankton Riverside Park from 10 am to 4 pm through Wednesday, July 3. This week's exhibit is "National Parks: America's Best Idea," a compilation of photos taken by park rangers and volunteers across the country, featuring over 40 of America's most famous and lesser-known special places. Discover the immense variety of the 400-plus sites that our Congress and presidents have set aside to preserve our natural wonders and cultural heritage.

Upstream Pollution Leaves Huge Gulf Dead Zone

Jun 19, 2013

Scientists in Louisiana are reporting that this year may see the largest dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico ever recorded.    

The dead zone in the Gulf is caused primarily by fertilizers and livestock waste entering the watershed and traveling downstream.   The high level of pollution leads to a zone of no oxygen in the water that kills aquatic life.   

"Murder On The Missouri"

May 31, 2013

"Murder on the Missouri" is a coming of age novel written by John English who resides in Belle Fourche and Spearfish.  Known nationally for how-to writing, especially in the woodworking field, English's first novel takes place in the fictional town of Clinton, South Dakota, on the banks of the Missouri River.  English introduces readers to John Henry Higgins who discovers secrets of Clinton's past as he begins to relate to older members of the community of an adult level.

Fort Peck Dam

Apr 23, 2013

The idea for the Fort Peck Dam was born in the midst of the Great Depression.  The reason for the dam was the wild unpredictability of the Missouri River as it wound through America's heartland.  In "Fort Peck Dam," Montana PBS producer Scott Sterling tells the story of the dam's construction in human terms.  More than 50,000 workers signed onto the project - 60 were killed during construction.  Sterling, along with Michele Frohmdahl, Park Ranger for the U.S.