Long-distance drift of eggs and larvae has been identified as a possible cause of downstream displacement and poor recruitment of the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus; silvery minnow). Seven experiments were conducted using artificial eggs to estimate silvery minnow egg drift and retention in the Albuquerque and Isleta reaches of the regulated Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico, USA over a range of flows during expected spawning times. Bead retention varied by reach, discharge, and shape of the hydrograph. Highest retention (6.9 and 9.7% per km in the Albuquerque and Isleta reaches, respectively) occurred on the ascending limb of a high flow in areas where there was substantial floodplain inundation. Retention was maximized at different flows in each reach (97 and 140 m3/s, respectively), possibly associated with reach-specific floodplain inundation thresholds. Lowest retention in each reach (2.1 and 1.7%, respectively) occurred on the descending limb of low and high flows, respectively. Of the silvery minnow eggs produced in the combined Albuquerque and Isleta reaches in 2005, 8–14% are predicted to have been retained in the Albuquerque Reach (67 km) and 49–83% in the Isleta Reach (86 km) based on the distribution of adult fish and measured bead retention rates. Although silvery minnow propagules are capable of drifting long distances, our study suggests that considerable retention occurs in the Middle Rio Grande. Habitat restoration to increase channel habitat complexity, and flow management to promote floodplain inundation should help to retain a greater proportion of propagules in upstream reaches. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.