Wabash River Initiative

The Wabash River has served as a vital conduit for trade, travel, and settlement in the Midwest for more than two centuries. It is inextricably linked to Indiana’s economy and well-being. Apart from its historic significance, the Wabash is also a treasure-chest of rare and endangered species, and serves as the habitat for a wide diversity of plant and animal life.

Facts about the Wabash River 
  • The Wabash River is nearly 500 miles long and spans the entire state of Indiana.
  • The Wabash and its connected rivers and streams provide drinking water to 72% of Indiana counties.
  • The river is home to 120 endangered, threatened, or rare plants and animals.
  • In addition to these species, the river is home to 150 species of fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, sauger, rock bass, catfish, and paddlefish – the oldest surviving animal species in North America.
  • Forests and wetlands along the Wabash River harbor many native species, including osprey, bald eagles, bobcats, river otters, and the Indiana bat.
Issues in the Wabash River 
  • 7 fish species and 18 mussel species that were once native to the river are no longer found there.
  • Decades of draining and developing land in the Wabash River watershed has degraded the quality of its waters.
  • Loss of wetlands and natural riparian areas has increased flooding, and deforestation has increased riverbank erosion.
  • Sediments and pollutants from agricultural fields and urban areas have contributed to the Gulf of Mexico’s “hypoxic zone,” and has severely affected the Gulf’s fisheries and wildlife. The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone was first documented in 1972 and is one of the largest of the 400 hypoxic zones around the globe.

Through partnerships and community-outreach, we are constantly working to conserve and protect the Wabash River and its surrounding lands. The Nature Conservancy continues to collaborate with private landowners, state and federal agencies, and farmers to ensure that Indiana’s state river remains a healthy habitat for the life it supports and the communities that depend on it.


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