Importance of the Delta
The Mississippi River Delta is where the muddy waters of America’s longest river connect with the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of this nation’s most important ecosystems for fish and wildlife—and one of its most endangered. The delta’s wetlands, cypress forests and barrier islands were formed over thousands of years by the shifting course of the Mississippi River and its annual floods.
Culturally, the Mississippi River Delta is like no other place in America. The mouth of the river was—and still is—the gateway to North America. The birthplace of jazz music, gumbo, New Orleans and Mardi Gras was settled by Native Americans, Acadians (Cajuns), Europeans, Africans, Vietnamese and people from many other backgrounds who brought with them their own distinctive foods, languages, music and traditions.
The Mississippi River Delta is critical to the food web throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Its fertile waters have a wide variety of salinities that provide vital habitat for oysters, shrimp, crabs and many species of fish. For example, juvenile shrimp and blue crabs seek protection in brackish coastal marshes until they grow older and are ready to move out to the open Gulf.
Commercial and recreational fishing is big business in Louisiana, generating more than three billion dollars in economic impact every year. In some places in the state, it is possible to set out from one dock and catch everything from largemouth bass to yellowfin tuna. Even if you’ve never been fishing around the Delta, you’ve probably enjoyed the region’s seafood, given that a significant portion of America’s domestic shrimp, blue crabs and oysters all come from the Mississippi River Delta.
For North America’s ducks and geese, the wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta are second in importance only to the Prairie Pothole region of the upper Midwest. Every winter, the delta hosts around seventy percent of the ducks and geese that use the Central and Mississippi flyways—as many as 10 million waterfowl in a given year.
As the delta disappears, it is losing the habitats that support these hunting and fishing opportunities. Vanishing Paradise is about America’s sportsmen and women joining together to demand that we reconnect the river with its wetlands and rebuild the delta’s marshes, wetlands, cypress forests and barrier islands.