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The Meramec River Project

The Conservancy is working with partners and landowners to protect the Meramec River.

Cattle Fencing

Fencing keeps cattle from the riparian buffer, which prevents sedimentation from flowing into the river.  It also makes cattle handling more efficient for ranchers.

Drilling a Well

Drilling wells provides cattle with an alternative water source, which is more reliable year-round.  Wells also keep cattle away from the river, preventing damage to the riparian buffer.

Planting trees helps to keep soil in place, restoring the riparian buffer and preventing sediment from flooding the nearby river.

The Meramec River is beloved by Missourians as a favorite destination for floating, boating, fishing, and swimming, but it’s more than just a fun place to visit.  The top-ranked watershed in the Midwest, the Meramec is an irreplaceable freshwater resource and a key tributary to the Mississippi River.  It supports 31 species of global significance, including several species found nowhere else on Earth.  The river provides economic and recreational resources for local communities, and supplies drinking water to approximately 70,000 households. 

Threatened by Overuse

The Meramec has been threatened by overuse from activities such as inappropriate livestock usage, mining, stream bank erosion, and urban and suburban development. These activities cause erosion and sediment build up, habitat disturbance, nutrient loading, and contamination. As a result, the water quality of the Meramec has diminished, and habitats have been degraded and destroyed.

The negative impacts of overuse are not confined to the river’s plants and animals. Local communities and economies are affected as well. Habitat loss has reduced sport fish numbers and harms the fishing industry. Flooding increases due to altered natural water cycles, water purification costs increase, and recreational opportunities diminish.

Our Strategy

With start-up funding from Crystal Light, the Conservancy is collaborating with agencies, partners, and private landowners to implement a science-based conservation strategy that will combine efforts and maximize results.

Developing a Conservation Action Plan
The Conservancy is partnering with over 29 agencies and organizations to improve cooperation and coordination in Meramec watershed conservation. The Meramec River Conservation Action Plan, spearheaded by the Conservancy with input from 29 partners, is acting as a blueprint for groups working in the Meramec River watershed. The plan aims to unify, clarify, and intensify efforts to improve the overall health of the river. 

The Conservancy and its partners are reaching out to community members. We are assisting ranchers with the implementation of sustainable ranching practices.  Several strategies are used to keep cattle out of the river, such as constructing cattle crossings, digging wells to provide alternate water sources, and erecting fencing to keep cattle away from the riparian buffer. Partner organizations are offering information about watershed conservation, sharing best practices, and demonstrating riparian buffer restoration.

Working Together
The Meramec River Project is maximizing the impact of restoration work throughout the Meramec watershed through sound scientific planning and collaboration.  This innovative undertaking will lay the groundwork for future conservation endeavors in the years to come, and will allow future generations to enjoy the beauty of one of Missouri’s most popular rivers.

New, on-the-ground conservation projects will help restore habitats, streambanks, and floodplains, and will help manage the river’s nutrient and sediment levels. The results of this work will have far-reaching impact as the Meramec empties into the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. ensuring the sustainability of resources in the Meramec River, including goals, strategies, measures of success, and opportunities for collaboration throughout the basin.

How You Can Help

If you are interested in getting involved with conservation activities on the Meramec River, please contact the Missouri office at (314) 968-1105 or at 

The Nature Conservancy relies on the generosity of contributors like you to continue its work on the Meramec River.  By becoming a member of The Nature Conservancy or by making a donation to the Missouri Program, you will be part of keeping the river alive for generations to come.


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