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Minnesota River - Headwaters Watershed



Watershed at a glance

The Minnesota River - Headwaters covers 487,015 acres in the Prairie Parkland ecoregion of southwestern Minnesota. Portions of Traverse, Big Stone, Swift, Lac qui Parle, Stevens, and Chippewa counties drain the watershed. It contains the communities of Browns Valley, Beardsley, Barry, Clinton, Ortonville, Odessa, Louisburg, Bellingham, Correll, Milan, and Nassau. A large portion of the watershed extends into eastern South Dakota. Nearly 87 percent of the land in this watershed is privately owned.

Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 07020001 [More Info]

Intensive monitoring start year 2015 [More Info]

Major lakesMajor rivers and streams

Big Stone, Marsh, Lac qui Parle Lake, Long Tom

Yellow Bank, Whetstone, Little Minnesota, Stoney Run


Nearly 87 percent of the land in this watershed is privately owned. Land use in watershed is primarily agricultural, accounting for approximately 80% of the available acres. Two-year corn/soybean rotations comprise close to 90% of cropped lands within the watershed; small grains, hay, and grasslands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program make up the majority of the balance.

    What's being done

    The Minnesota River - Headwaters watershed is scheduled to start intensive watershed monitoring in 2015 by the MPCA.

    MPCA's watershed approach

    Since 2007, the MPCA and its partners have begun implementing a 10-year rotation for watershed restoration plans to address Minnesota's waters at the major watershed level. Find out more about MPCA's watershed approach.

    [+] See large map

    Watershed news

    Retired farmer helping Minnesota River

    Sediment in the Minnesota River

    Stay connected

    Watershed Network News is a periodic, informal e-newsletter for professional staff and others with watershed projects and districts, with a primary focus on the Minnesota River Basin and Crow River.

    Swimmable, fishable, fixable?

    New report explains what we’ve learned so far about Minnesota waters.

    Nutrient Planning Portal

    The Minnesota nutrient planning portal is designed to communicate the extensive research concerning the Nutrient Reduction Strategy and provide resources to accomplish reductions in nutrients across Minnesota.

    Watershed approach videos

    These videos offer a great overview of our watershed approach to protecting and restoring our lakes, rivers, and wetlands.


    Restoration and protection

    The restoration and protection process

    The MPCA and partner organizations evaluate water conditions, establish improvement goals and priorities, and take actions designed to restore or protect water quality on a 10-year cycle.


      Monitoring and assessment

    Projects in this watershed to test water quality conditions and determine whether our lakes, rivers, and wetlands are meeting state water quality standards. [More info]

    Project NameStatus
    Minnesota River - Headwaters Major Watershed
    Upper Minnesota River Water Quality SWAG
    Upper Minnesota River Watershed Water Quality Assm

    Lakes and stream segments with condition and monitoring information
    Lakes and streams are divided into "assessment units" for monitoring.

    Impairments in this watershed listed by lake or stream segment
    Generally, a waterbody has an impairment when it exceeds a particular pollutant standard.


      Strategy development projects

    Projects in this watershed that establish federal- or state-required plans for restoring water quality for impaired waters, or protecting high-quality waters. [More info]

    Project NameStatus
    Mercury Pollutant Reduction Plan
    Lac qui Parle - Yellow Bank River TMDL
    Minnesota River - Headwaters Major Watershed WRAP Strategy Phase 1


      Implementation activities

    Projects in this watershed to put water restoration or protection measures in place, ranging from best management practices to reduce runoff from fields or streets, to fixes to wastewater treatment facilities, to education activities for citizens and landowners. Implementation projects are supported by local, state and federal government sources, including Minnesota's new Clean Water Fund.

    Our partners in the watershed are continually involved in these kinds of activities. See Contacts tab.

    Project NameStatus
    Conservation Drainage Symposiums
    Protecting North and South Fork Yellow Bank River
    Protecting North and South Fork Yellow Bank River
    Protecting North and South Fork Yellow Bank River


    Water data tools

    Search for your lake or stream's assessment data
    See information about your local lake or stream.


    DNR Lake Finder
    Find information about 4500+ lakes, rivers, and streams


    legacy-amedment-logoThis work is supported by the Clean Water Legacy fund.



    Katherine Pekarek-Scott, Environmental Specialist 3

    Willmar Office

    Upper Minnesota River Watershed District

    Lac qui Parle - Yellow Bank Watershed District


    Watershed Map

    Many of Minnesota’s lakes and streams do not currently meet water-quality standards because of pollution such as excess sediment or nutrients, bacteria or mercury. These waters are considered “impaired.” For more information, visit the impaired waters page.

    The toggles show impaired waters and monitoring stations. Click on a site for more information.

    Impairments in this watershed, listed by lake or stream segment
    Generally, a waterbody has an impairment when it exceeds a particular pollutant standard.


    Last modified on January 02, 2014 11:46

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