USGS - science for a changing world

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Fish Passage through Dams in Large Temperate Floodplain Rivers: An Annotated Bibliography

June 2001
email Brian Ickes Brian S. Ickes, Joseph H. Wlosinski, Brent C. Knights, and Steven J. Zigler
U.S. Geological Survey
Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
2630 Fanta Reed Road
La Crosse, WI 54603

  • Search Form

    This document may be searched using the search form or downloaded in its entirety in the following formats:
    • .enl (EndNote bibliographic software format
    • .doc (Microsoft Word)
    • .wpd (WordPerfect)
Download entire document right arrow
EndNote bibliographic software database (.enl)
Microft Word (.doc)
Word Perfect (.wpd)


The Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) was authorized under the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-662) as an element of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Environmental Management Program. The LTRMP is implemented by the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, a U.S. Geological Survey science center, in cooperation with the five Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The mode of operation and respective roles of the agencies are outlined in a 1988 Memorandum of Agreement.

The UMRS encompasses the commercially navigable reaches of the Upper Mississippi, Illinois, Kaskaskia, Black, St. Croix, and Minnesota Rivers. Congress has declared the UMRS to be both a nationally significant ecosystem and a nationally significant commercial navigation system. The mission of the LTRMP is to provide decision makers with information for maintaining the UMRS as a sustainable large river ecosystem given its multiple-use character. The long-term goals of the Program are to improve understanding of how the system functions, determine resource trends, develop management alternatives, and manage information.

This report was developed with funding provided by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during fiscal year 2000.

Suggested citation:

Ickes, B. S., J. H. Wlosinski, B. C. Knights, and S. J. Zigler. 2001. Fish passage through dams in large temperate floodplain rivers: an annotated bibliography. U.S. Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin. LTRMP web-based report available online at (Accessed June 2001.)


This report describes an electronic database containing 474 annotated citations that are relevant to fish passage through dams in large temperate floodplain rivers. Our goal was to survey the literature to help define the potential ecological consequences of restricted fish passage through dams in the Upper Mississippi River System and to identify alternative engineering solutions for increasing fish passage in large temperate floodplain rivers. Consequently, topic coverage is broad, including theoretical concepts in large river ecology, engineering design of fish passage structures, ecological responses to river impoundment, fish swimming performance, and relations between freshwater mussels and fish.


Twenty seven dams on the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) allow for the management of water levels during low flows. Most of these dams were authorized by Congress in 1930 to maintain a 9-foot navigation channel (Rivers and Harbor Act, July 3, 1930, H.R. 11781). Fish passage through these dams has been a long-standing concern on the UMRS (Coker 1929; Fremling et al. 1989). A report from the Chief of Engineers (War Department 1932) that served as the basis for authorization of the Upper Mississippi River 9-foot channel navigation project states the following:

“The strong currents through the gates, locks, and other openings will attract fish to these openings through which, the Board feels, they will be able to pass more readily than through any fishway. Fishways through the dams will, however, be installed if shown to be necessary.”

Several studies have documented that some fish species can pass through UMRS dams (e.g., Bahr 1977; Holzer and Von Ruden 1982; Hurley 1983; Holland et al. 1984). However, it has recently become evident that passage opportunities vary in space and time because of hydrologic conditions at the dams, differences in dam design and operation, and differences in the swimming performance of fish species. Substantial questions remain about whether UMRS dams, as they are operated presently, impart a significant influence on fish movement, and if restricted fish passage has significant ecological consequences. This report compiles literature sources for assessing ecological consequences associated with restricted fish passage in the UMRS and for evaluating fish passage alternatives.

This report is not a complete bibliography on fish passage. We excluded most of the prodigious literature pertaining to Pacific salmon (Onchorhynchus spp.), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), and shad (Alosa spp.). We reasoned that problems and solutions for those species were distinctly different from those of interest in large floodplain rivers in general and the UMRS in particular (e.g., different life history characteristics—anadromy versus potadromy—and different dam characteristics—high-head hydroelectric versus low-head navigation dams). Rather, we took a broad view of fish passage concerns in the UMRS and included citations on theoretical concepts for large rivers; species-specific behavior and swimming performance; engineering, design, and performance of various fish passage devices; and case history studies from around the world. Additionally, we included citations related to freshwater mussels because mussel distribution and dispersal are directly related to movement of fish that act as hosts for the juvenile parasitic stage of most freshwater mussels.

We searched Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (1978—present), Conference Papers Index (1982—present), Water Resources Abstracts (1967—present), and Fish and Fisheries Worldwide (1971—present) as well as various other sources housed at the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin. Dr. Mufeed Odeh (USGS, Leetown Science Center, S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, Turner Falls, Massachusetts) graciously provided access to a bibliographic database on anadromous fish passage developed at the S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center.

Most abstracts included in this report are the original author's abstracts. If an abstract was not provided, we wrote one. An underlined citation number indicates the abstracts we wrote.

No attempt was made to standardize units of measure across citations. In all abstracts, units of measure are from the original paper. Titles in brackets indicate that the reference was previously translated by other sources.


We thank Daniel B. Wilcox (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District) and Mark A. Cornish (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District) for their assistance in planning this work. We also thank Mike A. Caucutt and Dave A. Bergstedt (USGS, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin) for their assistance in serving this database on the World Wide Web. This report was developed with funding provided by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers during Fiscal Year 2000.

Literature Cited

Bahr, D. M. 1977. Homing, swimming behavior, range, activity patterns, and reaction to increasing water levels of walleyes (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) as determined by radio-telemetry in Navigation Pools 7 and 8 of the Upper Mississippi River during spring 1976. M.S. Thesis. University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.

Coker, R. 1929. Studies of the common fishes of the Mississippi River at Keokuk. U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Fisheries. Fisheries Document No. 1072.

Fremling, C. R., J. L. Rasmussen, R. E. Sparks, S. P. Cobb, C. P. Bryan, and T. O. Claflin. 1989. Mississippi River fisheries: A case history. Pages 309-351 in D. P. Dodge, editor, Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium (LARS). Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 106.

Holland, L., D. Huff, S. Littlejohn and R. Jacobson (1984). Analysis of existing information on adult fish movements through dams on the Upper Mississippi River. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fisheries Research Laboratory, U.S. Government Report 84(14):37.

Holzer, J. A., and K. Von Ruden. 1982. Walleye spawning movements in Pool 8 of the Mississippi River. Pages 1-40 in Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Mississippi River Work Unit Annual Report 1981-1982. Madison, Wisconsin.

Hurley, S.T. 1983. Habitat associations and movements of shovelnose sturgeon in Pool 13 of the Upper Mississippi River. M.S. Thesis. Univ. Iowa, Ames, Iowa. 82 pp.

War Department. 1932. Letter from the Secretary of War transmitting report from the Chief of Engineers on survey of the Mississippi River between Missouri River and Minneapolis, with a view to securing a channel depth of 9 feet at low water, with suitable widths. Part 1: Report. House Document 137. 72nd Congress, 1st Session. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 120 pp.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contacting the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Page Last Modified: November 3, 2015