For thousands of years, the Mississippi River corridor has served as an important migration route for millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, wading birds, waterbirds, songbirds, hawks, and eagles. The network of wetlands, forests, and grasslands once stretched from bluff to bluff and provided habitat for not only those migratory birds, but also a variety of fish and resident wildlife species. However, much of the floodplain has been converted to crop production within levee and drainage districts, while the remaining river has been transformed into a series of deeper water pools for navigation. The quantity and quality of wildlife habitat on the river has declined significantly with especially heavy seasonal wetland loss.
The Odessa Wildlife Complex, frequently referred to as Lake Odessa locally, is jointly managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The area contributes to larger public policy goals regarding floodplain management on the river corridor. The river corridor must provide a variety of habitats to sustain healthy populations of native wildlife.
Managed lands, such as those within the Complex, have become critical for the ecological sustainability of the Upper Mississippi River System. A balanced program of habitat protection, enhancement, and restoration considers the overall habitat needs on the pool, reach, and entire river system. The Complex provides high-quality habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife species, which includes several state threatened and endangered species.
While wildlife management will remain the primary purpose of the Complex, compatible public use and enjoyment of those resources is also important. The Complex provides an array of wildlife-oriented recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation/photography, and wildlife/habitat education programs. Ramps provide access to the Mississippi River for various boating activities and to the Complex for appropriate wildlife-related activities. The unique natural resources with public access facilities attract both local and more distant visitors to enjoy the Odessa Wildlife Complex.
Map of the Complex
Navigation and Nature
Historic Odessa Photos
Odessa Frequently Asked Questions
Naturally Louisa County - Odessa Water Trail