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Fisheries Dynamics in the Yazoo River Basin

Jackson D.C.

Mississippi State University, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Box 9690
Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762 USA E-mail [email protected]

Key words: floodplain river, fisheries, Mississippi, conservation


The Yazoo River Basin (Mississippi, United States) is a floodplain river ecosystem integrating six tributary rivers that course through the interior alluvial plain of the Mississippi River. Historically the basin was covered by temperate bottomland hardwood forest, swamps and perennial backwaters subject to seasonal flood pulses. European settlement during the 1800s and early 1900s resulted in extensive deforestation of the floodplain for agricultural purposes. To protect agriculture, federally-sponsored flood control programs during the middle decades of the twentieth century incorporated construction of dams in upstream reaches of tributary rivers, clearing of forests along riparian corridors, dredging and straightening of river channels and removal of large woody debris from channels.

The principal riverine fisheries resources throughout the basin (buffaloes: Catostomidae; catfishes: Ictaluridae) are enhanced by the presence of mature riparian forests, large woody debris in river channels and flood pulses. The fisheries are negatively impacted by activities that alter stream hydrology, convert riparian zones to early successional vegetative stages and disconnect the rivers from their respective floodplains. Recovery of the rivers and their fisheries following these impacts takes approximately 20-30 years.

The rivers serve as cultural icons for a distinct sub-culture of river people extant within communities throughout the Yazoo River Basin. Cultural connections to the rivers are strongest with respect to fishing in rivers (or sections of rivers) that are in advanced stages of recovery from historical flood control activities. Most fishing is recreational, but artisanal fisheries still exist. Partitioning of the fisheries within the rural sub-culture of river people renders main river channels as the domain of fishers in higher economic strata while floodplain backwaters are generally the domain of fishers in lower economic strata. Degradation of rivers erodes the cultural identity of both groups and can result in loss of social status within their respective communities. Proposed periodic maintenance of the region’s flood control projects is increasingly controversial as a result of greater public insight into functional dynamics of floodplain river ecosystems, coupled with changes in human value systems associated with these rivers and the living natural resources they support.


The Upper Yazoo River Basin (UYRB; Figure 1), in Mississippi, has experienced profound evolutionary processes in terms of human values systems as well as expectations from land and water resources during the last 300 years, with cultural shifts from a stone-age civilization to a post-modern technological/informational civilization. The first known inhabitants in the region were Native American mound builders who arrived in the UYRB around 1500 B.C. (Smith 1954). Their name stems from the practice of constructing large earthen mounds for religions purposes. During periods of flooding, the mounds also served as refuges for their communities. These people maintained a semi-settled culture, integrating agriculture with exploitation of wildlife and fisheries resources associated with the regions rivers and vast expanses of bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands. They maintained their civilization in the region until a Spanish exploration led by Hernando DeSoto in 1541 brought diseases to the region that decimated the mound builders by the late seventeenth century. Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes then moved into the area and used the rivers for fishing and transportation. With the onset of European settlement, the Native Americans were systematically removed from the UYRB [Choctaws: Treaty at Doaks’ Stand (1820), Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830); Chickasaws: Treaty of Pontotoc (1832)] (Cloutman 1997).

Figure 1. The Yazoo River integrated floodplain river ecosystem, Mississippi. Map modified after Jackson and Ye (2000).

During the first 50 years of European settlement in the region (early 1800s), high water covered nearly half of the surface area of the UYRB for four or five months of each year (Smith 1954). This interfered with agriculture (primarily cotton production) and as a result, early planters built private levees that generally exacerbated flooding problems for downstream landowners. To help coordinate flood control, local flood control districts were formed in the early years of the twentieth century, but poor engineering typically resulted in problems similar to those associated with the earlier private levees.

Devastating flooding occurred throughout the region in 1927 and stimulated the United States Congress to intervene with authorization for construction of massive flood control projects, primarily to protect agriculture. These federally-sponsored flood control projects in the UYRB resulted in the construction of four flood control reservoirs on principal tributary streams of the Yazoo River: Sardis (1937-40, Little Tallahatchie River), Arkabutla (1940-43, Coldwater River), Enid (1947-52, Yocona River) and Grenada (1947-54, Yalobusha and Skuna rivers) (Jackson, Brown-Peterson and Rhine 1993). No dam was constructed on the Sunflower River. Additionally, stream reaches downstream from the dams and portions of the Sunflower River were channelized and levees were built. Collectively, the design discharge for the system at the confluence of the principal tributary streams near Greenwood, Mississippi is 566 m3 s-1, but this discharge must be reduced during the crop season to 312 m3 s-1 in order to prevent flooding of farmland (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1991).

Flood control coupled with the development of cotton defoliant and mechanical cotton pickers encouraged clearing of additional land in the UYRB for agriculture during the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s, high prices for soybeans resulted in the clearing of yet more land, typically characterized by heavy soils considered unsuitable for cotton but that could sustain soybean crops. By the late 1980s as much as 60-80 percent of the watersheds/floodplains of the Yazoo River’s principal tributary streams had been cleared (Insaurralde 1992). Currently some agricultural lands in the region are being converted back to forests, with economic enterprise in some areas shifting from row crop production to timber as well as concessions, leases and commercial operations focused on recreational hunting and fishing (Jones al. 2000).


The UYRB covers 34 700 km2 of which 18 400 km2 is in the interior alluvial plain of the Mississippi River (a.k.a. The Delta) (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1991). It is located within North America’s humid subtropical climate region with temperate, wet winters and long hot summers (Jackson and Ye 2000). Drought is a common feature of the climate (Pote and Wax 1986).

Within the UYRB the principal tributary streams coalesce near the city of Greenwood, Mississippi to form the main stem of the Yazoo River. The Sunflower River joins the Yazoo River downstream, approximately 20 miles northeast of the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Collectively these streams are an integrated floodplain river ecosystem with most flooding occurring during winter (December-March) and spring (March-June). Ultimately the Yazoo River discharges into the Mississippi River just north of Vicksburg.

Jackson et al. (1993) and Brown et al. (in press) described physical characteristics of the principal streams in the UYRB. Waters are typically turbid with Secchi disk readings generally < 10 cm. Substrates are highly erodeable aggregates of clay, silt, sand and small gravel. During bankfull stages, channel widths typically exceed 50 m and depths > 10 m can occur. However, during minimum flow periods (seasonally, August-October), sand and mud bars are revealed on the inside of channel meanders and it is sometimes possible to wade across the stream channels. Large woody debris originating from the riparian zones is common in channels as isolated snags or as stationary aggregates (log jams).

Terrestrial, aquatic and ephemeral transitional elements throughout the UYRB are integrated into a dynamic, spatial-temporal mosaic functioning through interactive processes along the river courses, upstream to downstream and laterally along channels (Jackson in press). In accordance with the river continuum concept (Vannote et al. 1980) and the flood pulse concept (Junk, Bayley and Sparks 1989) these processes dictate conditions, events and life forms at a given location within the ecosystem and in concert with temperature, depth, current velocity, substrate type and scour and fill (Brown and Matthews 1995), set the stage for biological events.

Heterotrophic processes associated with inputs of allochthonous organic materials drive biological production in these rivers energetically. These inputs can be direct via litterfall into the stream channels or indirect via overbank flooding and inundation of the materials. There is typically marked seasonality to these inputs in the UYRB, with maximum direct input associated with autumnal litterfall from deciduous vegetation and indirect input associated with winter and spring flooding.

Winter and early spring floodwaters quickly drop their non-colloidal sediment loads as they lose hydraulic energy moving across the floodplain. This enhances water clarity on the floodplain and, in conjunction with shallow depths, promotes early seasonal warming via solar radiation. The shallow, relatively clear, warm (relative to water in main channels), nutrient- rich waters on the floodplain encourage more efficient foraging for fishes as poikilotherms and early spawning that subsequently provides young-of-the-year fishes with competitive advantage and enhanced survival potentials through growth as well as storage of lipids in body tissues (sensu Goodgame and Miranda 1993; Miranda and Hubbard 1994).


Fishes throughout the UYRB can be classified functionally as euryceous, fluvial generalists (Cloutman 1997). Such species are wide-ranging, adapted to widely fluctuating flow regimes, high turbidity and extreme summer temperatures (Cross, Mayden and Stewart 1986).

Fish production from floodplain river ecosystems like the UYRB typically is associated with the extent and duration of flooding (Welcomme 1976, 1985, 1986) because inundated floodplains provide fish not only with food, but also refuge and spawning grounds (Risotto and Turner 1985; Bayley 1989; Ward and Stanford 1989; Rutherford et al. 1995). Recruitment potentials into the fishery are established by flood characteristics but manifestation of the potentials is determined by carrying capacity of the river during minimal flow periods.

With respect to the above orientations, Jackson and Ye (2000) and Jackson (in press) addressed relationships between riverine stocks of buffalofishes (Catostomidae) and catfishes (Ictaluridae) and regional hydrological characteristics in the UYRB. These fishes are the principal exploitable fishery resources in the UYRB. At a species-specific level of resolution, it was difficult to discern relationships describing individual catostomid and ictalurid species relative abundances, but collectively (all species combined) mean annual catch rates tracked overall annual discharge/flood regimes of the integrated Yazoo River system (Figure 2).

Flooding also introduces large woody debris into main river channels of the UYRB. Large woody debris in lowland rivers of the southeastern United States provides important attachment sites for aquatic macroinvertebrates that in turn are utilized as forage items by riverine fishes (Gorman and Karr 1978; Hesse et al. 1982; Benke et al. 1985; Insaurralde 1992). This instream structure is particularly important when other large substrate (e.g. boulders, rock outcrops, cobble) is lacking in the river channel (Brown and Matthews 1995).

Figure 2. Catch rates (kg/net) of catfishes (Ictaluridae) and buffalofishes (Catostomidae) and respective Yazoo River discharge (Mississippi). Catch rates (1990-1994) are depicted on the top line. River discharges (1988-1994) with respective standard errors are depicted on the bottom line. From Jackson and Ye (2000) and Jackson (in press).

Large woody debris is also important as cover and refuge for fishes. Insaurralde (1992) found this to be the case for flathead catfish Pylodictus olivaris (Rafinesque), a large predator species and an important sport and commercial fishery resource in the UYRB (Jackson 1999). Insaurralde (1992) found that the presence of large woody debris in the river channel was directly related to the size structure of the stream’s flathead catfish stock (i.e. proportionally more large fish when there is more large woody debris).

Jackson (2000) conducted studies of channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque) in the UYRB. Channel catfish are more omnivorous in their diet than are the other two principal catfish species: flathead catfish and blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus (Lesueur) (Hubert 1999). Jackson (2000) reported that stream channels subject to clearing of riparian vegetation, removal of large woody debris and dredging had relative abundances of channel catfish approximately 50 percent the relative abundances in stream reaches not so impacted.

Hand and Jackson (in press) studied blue sucker [Catostomidae: Cycleptus elongatus (Lesueur)] in the UYRB. Once an important commercial fishery resource throughout the Mississippi River system (including the UYRB) (Coker 1930), blue sucker abundance has declined throughout its range to the extent that it is a candidate species for listing as threatened or endangered. Hand and Jackson (in press) found that in the UYRB, blue sucker abundance was significantly less in stream channels that had been dredged relative to those of channels that had not been recently dredged. The exotic common carp (Cyprinidae: Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus) replaced blue sucker in dredged channels.


The UYRB fisheries consist of two principal types: river channel (lotic) fisheries and backwater (lentic) fisheries. River channel fisheries focus on buffalos (Catostomidae): smallmouth buffalo Ictiobus bubalus (Rafinesque), bigmouth buffalo Ictiobus cyprenellus (Valenciennes) and black buffalo Ictiobus niger (Rafinesque); and catfishes (Ictaluridae): blue catfish, channel catfish and flathead catfish. Backwaters (oxbow lakes, sloughs, perennial wetlands) support more diverse fish assemblages and fisheries but emphasis and preference typically is focused on fishes in the family Centrarchidae (crappies Pomoxis spp., sunfishes Lepomis spp.) as well as the above-mentioned catfishes.

Cloutman (1997) addressed both types of fisheries in the UYRB and determined that the river channel fishery was primarily the domain of European- Americans, whereas backwater fisheries were primarily the domains of African-Americans. Brown, Toth and Jackson (1996) investigated this partitioning and concluded that it was the result primarily of economics and tradition. Fishers exploiting the river channels typically utilized boats and multi-hook longlines in recreational fisheries (primarily for catfishes) and nets in commercial/artisanal fisheries (primarily for buffalofishes; secondarily for catfishes). Fishers exploiting backwaters typically fished from shorelines using long poles and single hooks. The two fisheries and their respective fishers rarely overlapped.

River channel fishers were predominately young to middle-age males fishing alone or with a companion. Backwater fishers were more heterogeneous in age and gender composition and more gregarious. River channel fishers sought solitude, quiet and an element of adventure. Backwater fishers viewed fishing as a social event and considered backwaters safer environments than rivers.

In addition to the above-mentioned fisheries, there is recreational hand fishing (referred to by participants as grabbling or noodling) throughout the UYRB. In this fishery, fishers enter the water and probe with their hands along streambanks and in structures (e.g. hollow logs, debris), until encountering a cavity containing a fish (usually catfish), (Jackson, Francis and Ye 1997). The fish are then grabbed, wrestled to the surface and placed into a boat or on the stream bank. The fishery is regulated by open and closed seasons and by size restrictions for fish harvested. Large adult catfishes are the focus of this fishery. In this regard, flathead catfish > 40 kg are occasionally captured and 10-20 kg fish are common (Jackson 1999). Subsequently, concerns have been voiced that removing these fish from the rivers impacts fish recruitment as well as system integrity from loss of large piscivores. However, Francis (1993) studied hand fishing in the Tallahatchie River, a principal tributary of the Yazoo River and concluded that it had minimal potential impact to the stock. Catch efficiencies were low and stocks were resilient, with rapid recruitment replacing fish harvested.

Commercial fisheries in the UYRB are small-scale, typically integrated into a suite of economic activities (e.g. agriculture, timber, small business, local industrial enterprise) rather than providing sole support for participants and thus are most appropriately categorized as artisanal fisheries. Development of aquaculture throughout the region, primarily for channel catfish, relegates wild-caught fish from the rivers as speciality items, sometimes centered on ethnic markets in regional cities but more often peddled on established (local) routes (Brown et al. 1996). Although some still persist, most stationary fish markets in the UYRB have closed as viable businesses.

Persons who persist in UYRB artisanal fisheries are generally known in their respective communities as highly skilled specialists and thus have status/social currency (Brown et al. 1996). This is oftentimes more valuable than monetary currency. By providing fish to their respective communities when needed, these fishers build a network of contacts throughout local government offices, schools, churches and civic groups.

Figure 3. Hoop net deployed for exploitation of catfishes (Ictaluridae) and buffalofishes (Catostomidae) in the Yazoo River integrated floodplain river ecosystem, Mississippi. Photo by J. Olive, Mississippi State University.

Most small-scale commercial/artisanal fishers exploiting UYRB fish stocks utilize hoopnets (Figure 3). Stopha (1994) and Stopha and Jackson (1999) determined catch characteristics from deployment of commercial hoopnets in three UYRB rivers, with emphasis on catches of buffalofishes and catfishes. The nets had circular fiberglass hoops (frames), two throats and were fished on the bottom with codends positioned upstream. The minimum legal bar mesh for these nets in the commercial fishery is 7.6 cm. Fishers primarily use this size mesh with 1.5 m hoops and secondarily with 1.1 m diameter hoops. The minimum legal total length for commercially caught buffalofish is 410 mm. The minimum legal total length for commercially caught catfishes is 305 m. When deployed systematically in stream channels (100 m intervals, alternating banks) and fished overnight (N = 180 nets per configuration, distributed evenly throughout the period January-August 1993), catch rates for legal size buffalofish were approximately 2.0 kg net-1 for the larger net and 0.6 kg net-1 for the smaller net. In contrast, catch rates for legal size catfishes were approximately 0.4 kg net-1 for the larger net and 0.6 kg net-set-1 for the smaller net. This suggests that fishers could be more precise in selection of net set locations with the smaller net, a factor particularly important during seasonal low flow conditions (e.g. summer) when catfish movement and subsequently vulnerability to capture is greatest. Buffalofish, on the other hand, typically exhibit more movement along river channels, particularly during winter and spring high water periods, are not oriented specifically to sites/habitats and thus are more vulnerable to the larger diameter nets.

Stopha (1994) noted that the legal size mesh tended to be selective for buffalofish and catfish at or exceeding the minimum legal size, with the notable exception of channel catfish. Channel catfish were for the most part not vulnerable to capture by either net configuration, regardless of fish size. Persons purchasing or receiving fish from UYRB artisanal fishers rarely accept fish that are dressed, frozen or partitioned into steaks or fillets, preferring to obtain these processed products from larger grocery markets. Rather, fish purchased from UYRB fisheries are typically whole and fresh, either alive or on ice. Unless social events demand larger quantities of fish, customers usually buy only enough fish for immediate consumption in the home.

This customer preference encourages UYRB artisanal fishers to exploit smaller fish (ca. 1-2 kg) and in fact larger fish often are returned to the water where captured. When asked about this activity fishers often state that doing so is a conservation practice to sustain the fishery resource, but when pressed on the issue, the reality of economics emerge.

Current (2002) prices paid to fishers in local Mississippi markets range from US$0.80 kg-1 to US$1.10 kg-1 for buffalofish and US$1.00 kg-1 to US$1.80 kg-1 for catfishes. Hoop nets (primary commercial/artisanal gear) cost between US$100 and US$200 each, depending on size. A fishing rig consisting of a boat, outboard motor and trailer (not to mention a vehicle to transport the rig) will cost between US$2 000 and US$4 000. Rigs have a life expectancy of approximately 10 years.

Using catch rates reported by Stopha (1994), applying the median value for the above-mentioned prices (US$0.95 kg-1 for buffalofish; US$1.40 kg-1 for catfishes) and assuming that on average a fisher can maintain a set of 10 nets, gross income from deployment of large hoop nets is US$24.60 day-1 and for small hoop nets US$14.10 day-1. If the fisher works five days per week (260 days year-1) annual gross income is $6 396. Poverty in the region is defined at ca. US$8 000/year. However and assuming average expenses of US$25.09 day-1 as recorded by Cloutman (1997), commercial/artisanal fishers exploiting riverine fish stocks in the UYRB actually lose money in their activity (US$0.49 day-1). Rather than a viable economic enterprise, the commercial/artisanal fisheries of the UYRB are actually recreational activities that address social/cultural connections to the rivers and their resources.

During the late 1990s, fish traps constructed of wood slats (locally called slat baskets) were legalized (Figure 4). In Mississippi, slat baskets may not be longer than 1.8 m nor exceed 38 cm in width, height or diameter and may have no more than two throats. There must be at least four slot openings of a minimum of 3.5 cm by 61 cm, evenly spaced around the sides of the trap area (slots beginning at the rear of the trap). Studies conducted elsewhere stated that slat baskets were very effective in capturing channel catfish (Carter 1955; Posey and Schaefer 1967; Perry 1979; Perry and Williams 1987). Recreational fishers targeting channel catfish expressed concern that this new commercial gear would harm channel catfish stocks in Mississippi streams. Subsequently, Shephard and Jackson (2002) conducted a study to determine slat basket catch characteristics under controlled as well as field conditions. They found that the legal gear was selective for channel catfish beyond the length at first maturity. They also found that multi-hook baited longlines (trotlines), typically deployed by recreational fishers, were more effective than slat baskets in capturing channel catfish and also that trotlines were indiscriminate regarding size of fish captured. Cloutman (1997) conducted test fishing with trotlines in the UYRB. Catfishes dominated his catches (Table 1).

Figure 4. Fish trap (also known as a slat basket), used for capturing catfishes (Ictaluridae) in Mississippi, Photo by J. Olive, Mississippi State University.

Table 1: Longline catches (April-August 1995; 1996) from undredged channels of the Yalobusha River, a principal tributary of the Yazoo River (adapted from Cloutman 1997).


Composition of Catch (%)



Longnose gar

Lepisosteus osseus (Linnaeus)



Shortnose gar

Lepisosteus platostomus (Rafinesque)



Smallmouth buffalo

Ictiobus bubalus (Rafinesque)



Blue catfish

Ictalurus furcatus (Lesueur)



Channel catfish

Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque)



Flathead catfish

Pylodictis olivaris (Rafinesque)



1 Common names in accordance with the American Fisheries Society (Robins, Bailey, Bond, Brooker, Lachner, Lea and Scott 1991).


The UYRB is an area with a wealth of natural resources, either privately owned or publicly managed, that local residents access extensively and intensively in some cases. Throughout the region, communities are strongly linked to natural cycles of the resource base. It is, however, a region of paradox in that it is rich in fertile land and natural resources but economic and social inequalities remain entrenched (Gray 1991; Marcum, Holley and Williams 1988). There is a prevailing resistance to social and economic change and persistence of a strong regional identity (Brown et al. 1996). Cowdrey (1983) noted that this regional identity was strongly linked to natural resources. Consequently, outdoor recreation (e.g. fishing) provides an outlet for maintenance of local social networks and development (Cowdrey 1983) and it offers participants a sense of control over their lives and circumstances (sensu Marks 1991).

Participation in these activities instils a sense of dignity in a socio-economic-political environment that often denies this dignity to the participants and promotes characteristics of political and economic independence (Brown et al. 1996). By providing content and meaning to their lives, interactions with the region’s natural resources unites participants in a subculture of hunting and fishing through which they have a shared history, ideology, symbolic universe and system of meaning. The subculture that has developed around river fisheries in the UYRB is identifiable through values, ways of life, beliefs, etc. and is passed from member to member and generation to generation (Brown et al. 1996). It also contains explicit knowledge and practices that are not common to people outside of the group (sensu Waxman 1983; Hollingshead 1939).

Because the natural resources of the UYRB (e.g. the rivers) are not mobile and are in part unique to the area itself, the economies and subcultures that have developed around the utilization of the rivers’ resources also are not mobile; they will be just as much tied to the place as are the physical conditions of the area with which they interact (Brown et al. 1996). Subsequently, if the rivers and their associated fishery resources are negatively impacted through anthropogenic activities (e.g. channelization, siltation, disconnection of floodplains; non-point source pollution), the non-mobile subculture of river fisheries also is negatively impacted. If the identity that defines the people of the subculture is threatened or destroyed, they are left with few if any alternatives. Such social degradation strikes at the very heart of a region that is rapidly losing population, relevancy and voice in the postmodern world. It is, in this sense, one of the more natural resources - dependent regions of the United States and much of this connection rests within the realm of proper, natural, functioning of the region’s floodplain river ecosystems.


A mixture of agriculture, poverty and politics has challenged river conservation in Mississippi. There is also a fierce clinging to a culture of independence and autonomy. People want to be left alone to pursue their individual dreams and goals. A willingness to accept, much less work for, the public domain typically comes to life slowly and painfully here. But come it does and come it has in the realms of conservation and management of natural resources, particularly wildlife and fisheries resources and certainly with respect to rivers.

River conservation in Mississippi has had a sad history but its slow evolution has not been the result of malicious intent. People, agencies and institutions did and continue to do what they believe protects and enhances the human experience. In the past this meant massive public works to control rivers, to make them less prone to flooding, to make them better highways for commerce. In the process, through time, rivers as cultural icons, precious treasures in a conceptual sense, were safeguarded (Jackson 1991). But the physical and environmental reality differed from the images of the mind and much that was treasured was damaged.

It was not until the late 1980s that a collective voice arose to challenge the continued destruction of streams throughout the region and especially with regard to the rivers in the UYRB (Jackson and Jackson 1989). At state, regional, national and even international levels, professional organizations and conservation groups confronted projects in the UYRB that proposed river dredging, channelization, clearing of riparian forests and removal of large woody debris from channels. Advocates of river conservation met stiff resistance in the political arena and in the courts but with persistence prevailed.

Federal agency laboratories began studies and programs of stream restoration (e.g. Shields, Knight and Cooper 1998). State agencies, conservation groups, academic institutions, private industry and legislative bodies proposed and ultimately were successful in establishing a state-wide program for conservation and management of natural and scenic streams (Mareska and Jackson 2002). Through public media coverage and special events featuring rivers throughout the state, citizens were reminded of their rich heritage and cultural connections to the rivers.

Challenges continue, however and constant vigilance is required lest advances begin to erode. Dredging and other flood control projects are still proposed for streams across the state and especially in the Yazoo River floodplain river ecosystem. But the tide has turned. People have rediscovered rivers and have returned to their waters. Lands bordering the rivers are being purchased, leased and managed for forests and wildlife. Entrepreneurs have begun to establish businesses featuring river trips and river fishing.

People throughout the region, through education and through time, have begun to understand the interconnectedness of rivers with the landscape (Bayley 1995). The message is relayed through the public school systems, through religious institutions, through civic groups, through the halls of legislative bodies and in social gatherings. People are also beginning to understand the interconnectedness of rivers with themselves and through this process are learning how to live with the UYRB rivers and to treasure the natural resources they afford.


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