This IBA is a 59-mile long section of the Missouri River stretching from Gavins Point Dam on the eastern edge of Lewis and Clark Lake to Ponca, Nebraska. Covering over 33,000 acres, this section -- with its wide, meandering channel, shifting sandbars, and secondary channels -- contains some of the last forested floodplain and floodplain wetland habitats on the river. The Nebraska side of the river ranges from nearly level floodplain to steep, tree-covered bluffs. Riverbanks vary from flat, sandy beaches to vertical faces 10 to 15 feet high. This landscape has backwater marshes, open sandbars, and cottonwood forests that provide habitat for wildlife.
This section of the Missouri River is remarkable for the number of least terns and piping plovers using the sandbars and river areas. According to biologists with the Corps of Engineers, 280 least tern nests were recorded in 2004, representing about half of all tern nests on the Missouri River. In this same year, over 160 piping plover nests were observed. Biologists also report many other species of waterbirds using the river section, such as snow and Canada geese, great blue heron, belted kingfisher, and there are as many as six bald eagle nests present.
The MNRR is operated by the National Park Service.