Clearwater River

Watershed at a Glance

The Clearwater River watershed drains an area of 886,600 acres in the Red River of the North basin. The Clearwater River begins its course in western Clearwater County near the town of Ebro. The river flows to the northwest and southwest, eventually emptying into Red Lake River near Red Lake Falls. The watershed occurs in the Glacial Lake Agassiz Plain, North Central Hardwoods, Northern Lakes and Forests, and Northern Minnesota Wetlands Level III Ecoregions.

Hydrologic Unit Code:09020305
Intensive monitoring start year:2014
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Clearwater, Pine, Maple, Kiwosay Pool
Lost, Clearwater, Hill, Badger Creek


The Clearwater River watershed characteristically has a poorly defined floodplain and low gradient that combine with extensive drainage, widespread conversion of tallgrass prairie to farmland, and urban/suburban development to leave the basin subject to frequent floods that affect urban and rural infrastructure and agricultural production. Precipitation in the watershed ranges from 21 to 25 inches annually. Above-normal amounts of precipitation in the late fall of the year or from May to October lead to high levels of soil moisture, periodically producing the snow-melt and summer floods that are known to affect the further reaches of the overall Red River Basin. The main resource concerns in the watershed are wind and water erosion, nutrient management, wetland management, surface water quality, flood damage reduction, and wildlife habitat. Many of the resource concerns relate directly to flooding and increased sediment and pollutant loadings to surface waters. Predominate land uses / land covers are row crops (33%), forest (24%), grass/pasture/hay (21%), wetlands (14%), and residential/commercial Development (4%). Agricultural land use in the basin accounts for approximately 54% of the overall watershed acres. Development pressure is moderate in most areas, with occasional farms, timberland, and lakeshore being parceled out for recreation, lake or country homes.

    What's being done

    Intensive watershed monitoring took place in 2014 and a Monitoring and Assessment Report should was completed in June 2017. Stressor identification field work was done in 2016 and the final report is available below. WRAPS and TMDL reports are being drafted in 2017.

    Monitoring and assessment reports and data


    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Denise Oakes, MPCA project manager