Mississippi River - Lake Pepin Watershed

The Mississippi River - Lake Pepin watershed includes 205,747 acres that drain several small, cold water streams in bedrock-dominated bluff country.

Vermillion River

The Vermillion is a slow-flowing prairie river, making its way through agricultural, suburban, and small urban areas. Approximately 49 miles of the Main Stem and tributaries on the western half of the river are Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Designated Trout Streams.

The watershed is within the Western Corn Belt Plains ecoregion. The northwestern portion of the Watershed is located in the Eastern St. Croix Moraine, and the southwestern portion of the watershed is located in the Prior Lake Moraine. Moraines are masses of rocks, gravel, sand, clay, etc. carried and deposited directly by glaciers). The Eastern St. Croix Moraine and the Prior Lake Moraine mark the limit of the former Superior Lobe and Des Moines Lobe, respectively (lobes are finger-shaped glaciers that develop at the edge of continental ice sheets). Moraine areas consist of rolling to steep hills and closed depressions where lakes and wetlands are common. The sediments of moraine areas are a complex assortment of till (a mixture of sand, silt, clay, pebbles, cobbles, and boulders), silt and sand lenses, and sand and gravel deposits. The till of the Superior Lobe is red and has a coarse texture (sandy loam). The till of the Des Moines Lobe is gray to yellowish brown and has a fine texture (loam).

The bedrock units underlying the watershed are sedimentary rocks (formed by the deposit of sediment) of marine origin. The watershed is on the southeastern edge of the Twin Cities Basin and the rock in the watershed dips toward the north and west. The dominant structural features in the watershed associated with the Twin Cities Basin are the Vermillion Anticline (a fold, convex upward) and the Empire Fault. Both the anticline and the fault are oriented geographically from the northeast to the southwest almost parallel to the course of the modern Vermillion River. These structural features are not expressed on the land surface, but can be seen in bedrock outcrops along the Mississippi River bluffs above the city of Hastings.

The predominant land use pattern in the watershed is agriculture, interspersed with suburban areas and smaller urban growth centers. Growth in the area has resulted in increased urbanization of the northwest portion of the Watershed. Parts of Burnsville, Apple Valley, Rosemount, Lakeville, and Farmington have dense residential, commercial, and industrial land use. All of Burnsville and Apple Valley and portions of the other four cities are included in the Metropolitan Urban Service Area (MUSA). As such, metropolitan services and facilities are or will be provided. Areas of urban growth beyond the MUSA boundary are evident in Lakeville, Farmington, and Hastings. Local controls in these cities provide planned growth in an effort to ensure the compatibility of land use types and the efficient use of public services and facilities.

What's being done

The MPCA is planning to work with local partners to:

  • Further understand the biology of Wells Creek. Intensive watershed monitoring (IWM) was completed in 2008. Follow-up monitoring and stressor identification are subsequent steps in a comprehensive approach to understand Wells Creek and its watershed.
  • Understand the complexity of the karst geology, which underlies much of the Wells Creek watershed. In karst, surface water and groundwater interchange regularly. Water flowing on the surface may suddenly drop into a sinkhole and then re-emerge a few miles downstream as a spring out of the limestone to rejoin the surface water. Because groundwater is used as a primary drinking source in the area, it is especially important to exercise caution when applying anything to the surface.
  • Empower the relatively small population to implement best management practices to reduce pollutants.
  • Protect the diverse landscape of the watershed, which varies from rich farmland to karst features to bluffs with dramatic valleys. Ensuring that aquatic life and aquatic recreation are protected is important to the economy of the watershed.

Monitoring and assessment

Strategy development projects

Implementation activities

Information is coming soon.

Meetings and events

The Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies report is open for public review and comment through Sept. 10. The agency and partners invite the public to an open house about the study on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Frontenac Sportsman Club, 30301 Territorial Road, in Lake City.

See the TMDL meetings and events for notices of general interest and event-related information on impaired waters/TMDLs.


Information contact

Justin Watkins, Project Manager
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
18 Wood Lake Drive SE, Rochester, MN 55904