East Fork Des Moines River

Watershed at a Glance

The East Fork Des Moines River watershed covers 839,518 acres, 130,380 of which are in Minnesota’s Martin and Jackson counties. It is located in the Western Cornbelt Plains ecoregion of southwestern Minnesota and northern Iowa. Cities in Minnesota’s portion include Alpha, Sherburn, Dunnell, Ceylon and Wilbert. The main branch of the East Fork flows southeast for about 30 miles before emptying into Okamanpeedan Lake on the Minnesota-Iowa border. Okamanpeedan, Bright and Pierce lakes in the eastern part of the watershed in Minnesota are used for recreation such as fishing and hunting. Several shallow waterfowl lakes are also located in the southern part of the watershed.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07100003
Intensive monitoring start year:2014
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Okamanpeedan, Bright, Pierce
East Fork Des Moines


Land use in the East Fork Des Moines River watershed is dominated by row crops, with corn and soybean production accounting for approximately 85%. Okamanpeedan Lake is impaired by excess nutrients that cause algal blooms and other problems to biology like fish populations. (Okamanpeedan Lake is called Tuttle Lake on the Iowa side of the water body.) The main branch of the East Fork is impaired by low dissolved oxygen and turbidity, negatively affecting fish and other aquatic life as well as recreation.

County Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) have identified the resource concerns of soil erosion, drainage management and water quality as top priorities for conservation and cost-sharing efforts.

As part of a statewide effort to gauge the health of major watersheds, the MPCA is starting an intensive look at the East Fork Des Moines River watershed. This intensive look will identify areas for restoration and protection of water quality.

    What's being done

    The following work is underway:
    • Intensive water monitoring started in 2014 and will end in 2015.
    • Martin and Jackson county SWCDs continue to work with land owners to implement Best Management Practices for water quality in the watershed.
    Future work includes:
    • Identification of conditions stressing water quality and biology will begin in 2015.
    • The intensive and monitoring report is scheduled for completion in 2017, as well as the stressor identification report.
    • The Martin and Jackson county SWCDs will begin interviewing land owners and scheduling meetings about water quality issues in 2015. The MPCA will use input from these meetings to develop Watershed Restoration and Protections Strategies (WRAPS), scheduled for completion in 2018.

    Monitoring and Assessment

    PDF icon Des Moines River Basin Monitoring and Assessment Report (wq-ws3-07100001b)

    The monitoring and assessment report is the first in a series of reports for watershed work conducted in the three Minnesota watersheds of the Des Moines River Basin. The report shares information on monitoring conducted to further information about the watersheds through Intensive Watershed Monitoring (IWM), and assessments on aquatic life, aquatic recreation, and drinking water uses.

    PDF icon Summary - Des Moines River Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report (wq-ws3-07100001c)

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Bryan Spindler, MPCA project manager


    Jackson County SWCD

    507-662-6682 x 3

    Martin County SWCD



    Minnesota State University Mankato-Water Resource Center


    Katherine Pekarek-Scott, Project Manager for the West Fork Des Moines River

    Willmar office — 320-441-6973