Floodplains contain valuable stratigraphic records of past floods, but these records do not always represent flood magnitudes in a straightforward manner. The depositional record generally reflects the magnitude, frequency, and duration of floods, but is also subject to storm-scale hysteresis effects, flood sequencing effects, and decade-scale trends in sediment load. Many of these effects are evident in the recent stratigraphic record of overbank floods along the Upper Mississippi River (UMR), where the floodplain has been aggrading for several thousand years. On low-lying floodplain surfaces in Iowa and Wisconsin, 137Cs profiles suggest average vertical accretion rates of about 10 mm/year since 1954. These rates are slightly less than rates that prevailed earlier in the 20th Century, when agricultural land disturbance was at a maximum, but they are still an order of magnitude greater than long-term average rates for the Holocene. As a result of soil conservation practices, accretion rates have decreased in recent decades despite an increase in the frequency of large floods. The stratigraphic record of the Upper Mississippi River floodplain is dominated by spring snowmelt events, because they are twice as frequent as rainfall floods, last almost twice as long, and are sometimes associated with very high sediment concentrations. The availability of sediment during floods is also influenced by a strong hysteresis effect. Peak sediment concentrations generally precede the peak discharges by 1-4 weeks, and concentrations are usually low (<50 mg/l) during the peak stages of most floods. The lag between peak concentration and peak discharge is especially large during spring floods, when much of the runoff is contributed by snowmelt in the far northern reaches of the valley. The great flood of 1993 on the Mississippi River focused attention on the geomorphic effectiveness and stratigraphic signature of large floods. At McGregor, where the peak discharge had a recurrence interval of ∼14 years, the flood was most notable for its long duration (168 days above 1600 m 3s -1), high sediment concentrations (three episodes >180 mg/l), and large suspended load (1.71 Mt). The flood of 2001, despite its greater magnitude (recurrence interval ∼70 years), was associated with relatively low sediment concentrations (<60 mg/l). The 1993 and 2001 floods each left 30-80 mm of silty fine sand on most low-lying floodplain surfaces, but the 2001 flood produced sandy levees near the channel while the 1993 flood did not. The stratigraphic signature of these recent floods is more closely related to the duration and total suspended load of the event than to the magnitude of the peak discharge.