Crow Wing River

Watershed at a Glance

The Crow Wing River Watershed is located in north-central Minnesota and covers approximately 1,946 square miles within Becker, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Morrison, Otter Tail, Todd, and Wadena Counties. The watershed is located in the Upper Mississippi River Basin and is comprised of two ecoregions: the Northern Lakes and Forests, and North Central Hardwood Forests.

Land use within the watershed is primarily forested/shrub lands, followed by agricultural lands, wetlands, open water, and developed lands. Municipalities located within the Crow Wing River Watershed include Akeley, Menahga, Nevis, Nisswa, Osage, Park Rapids, Pequot Lakes, Ponsford, and Staples. There are a large number of pristine, high-value recreational lakes in the Crow Wing River Watershed and several cold water streams that support trout are located in the watershed.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07010106
Intensive monitoring start year:2010
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
North Long, Gull, Big Sand, Badoura Bog, Edward, Potato, Shell
Crow Wing, Stoney Brook, Kettle River, Shell River, Swan Creek, Tower Creek


The Crow Wing River watershed includes over 627 lakes 10 acres in size or greater as well as 1,653 stream and river miles. The Crow Wing River flows into the Mississippi River at Crow Wing State Park. Land use in the Crow Wing River watershed is mostly forested and agriculture.

A handful of lakes and a few tributaries do not meet water quality standards for beneficial uses such as aquatic recreation, drinking, and swimming. The main lake pollutant is phosphorus, causing algae blooms in summer months.

    What's being done

    Monitoring of many lakes and streams began in 2010 as part of the MPCA’s intensive watershed monitoring effort. The results of the lake and stream monitoring are found in the Crow Wing Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report provided below. Lakes and streams that were found to be impaired are currently being studied to determine how to restore the water quality.  Protection strategies are also being developed to keep the remaining waterbodies from degrading.

    Following monitoring, a watershed restoration and protection study, and an implementation plan will be developed for the Crow Wing River watershed in the next few years. SWCDs and other local partners within the 8 counties are working together with the MPCA, as well as leading their own water quality projects in the watershed.

    Citizens interested in getting involved with the project can contact the MPCA project manager.

    Monitoring and assessment reports and data

    Strategy Reports

    Clean Water Accountability Act Reports

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Wadena Soil & Water Conservation District

    4 Alfred Street NE
    Wadena, MN 56482

    Becker Soil & Water Conservation District

    Cass Environmental Services District

    Clearwater SWCD

    Crow Wing SWCD

    Crow Wing County Planning & Zoning

    Hubbard SWCD

    Morrison SWCD

    Otter Tail SWCD

    Todd SWCD