The desorption rate of mercury from bed sediments was determined by a 10 week experiment. The rates ranged from 0.1 ng/cm2/day to 1.0 ng/cm2/day for Ottawa River bed sediments, depending on the environmental conditions. The rates decreased with an increase of exposure period to the water, but increased with an increase in the depth of bed sediments. The amount of mercury desorbed from bed sediments to overlying water was highly dependent on the volume (depth) of bed sediments. Calculations based on the experiment showed the half-lives of total mercury associated with bed sediments from as short as 2.1 years to as long as 1.8 × 102 years, depending on the depth of the bed sediments.