The Lake Superior - North watershed covers 1,019,923 acres in the Northern Lakes and Forest ecoregion. Soils and subsurface geology are dominated by bedrock, glacial till complexes and unconsolidated glacial lake deposits of sand, gravels, clay and silt. Bedrock is complex in its evolution and contributes to the spectacular mountains and ridges that slope toward Lake Superior. Numerous streams flow through the bedrock cracks, forming waterfalls, cascades and rapids. Wetlands and lakes are found throughout the watershed. Developed areas include the communities of Finland, Schroeder, Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Marais, Hovland and Grand Portage. Significant development is also located along Lake Superior’s shoreline.
Land use in the Lake Superior North watershed is a mix of smaller towns and commercial, resort and rural residential. Significant development is also located along Lake Superior’s shoreline. Tourism and forest products are significant components of land use activity. Some commercial/industrial uses, such as marinas, shipping ports and taconite processing support, depend upon water resources.
Several state parks are within the watershed, including Temperance, Cascade and Judge CR Magney. A large section of the southernmost Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is also within the watershed.
The watershed is a source of exceptional water quality in many areas. Some streams do not meet water quality standards for beneficial uses such as aquatic recreation, drinking and swimming due to a turbidity impairment. In this watershed. Turbidity is associated with suspended sediment. It is likely that after further monitoring of streams and tributaries, some will not meet the current turbidity standard.
Continued development pressures will add to the pollutant problems of some streams. The lower reaches of the Poplar River and Flute Reed River are two examples of stream areas experiencing recent and continued significant growth in the watershed area near the stream shoreline.
What's being done
Monitoring and assessment
- Lake Superior North Stressor Identification report (wq-ws5-04010101a)
- Lake Superior Streams Sediment Assessment - Phase I report (wq-b2-04)
- Lake Superior Streams Sediment Assessment - Phase II report (wq-b2-05)
- Lake Superior - North Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report
- Summary: Lake Superior - North Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report (wq-ws3-04010101c)
- Groundwater Report: Lake Superior North Watershed (wq-ws1-13)
- Poplar River Turbidity Assessment (wq-iw10-02h)
- Poplar River Macroinvertebrate and Habitat Survey (wq-iw10-02i)
- Poplar River Sediment Source Assessment March 2010 (wq-iw10-02j)
- Lower Poplar River Watershed Sediment Source Assessment 2013 (wq-iw10-02k)
Strategies for restoration and protection
- A Paleolimnological Study of Deer Yard and Poplar Lakes in Cook County, Minnesota (wq-ws4-51d)
- Lake Superior–North Watershed WRAPS report summary (wq-ws4-51b)
- Lake Superior North Watershed WRAPS Report (wq-ws4-51a) (MPCA approval 8/9/2018)
- Lake Superior North Watershed WRAPS Strategy Table (wq-ws4-51c)
Flute Reed and Poplar rivers TMDLs
- Lake Superior North Watershed TMDL Flute Reed River (wq-iw10-13e) (EPA approval 9/13/2018)
- Lake Superior North and South TMDL: Appendices A-D (wq-iw10-10f)
- Lake Superior North Watershed TMDL Flute Reed River: EPA approval letter (wq-iw10-13g)
- Poplar River Turbidity TMDL: Final TMDL Report (wq-iw10-02e)(EPA approval 12/11/2013)
- Poplar River turbidity TMDL: EPA approval letter (wq-iw10-02g)
- Poplar River TMDL: TMDL Implementation Plan (wq-iw10-02o)(MPCA approval 2/6/2014)
- Poplar River Turbidity TMDL: Public comments (wq-iw10-02d)
- Poplar River Turbidity TMDL Response to Comments (wq-iw10-02d)
Water quality model supporting documents
- Flute Reed River HSPF Model December 22, 2017 memo (wq-iw10-13n)
- Lake Superior North and Lake Superior South Basins watershed model development report (wq-iw10-10n)
- Lake Superior North One Watershed One Plan
- Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District
- Lake Superior Streams
- Watershed project manager Karen Evens, 218-302-6644
For more than a decade, local and state partners have been tackling stormwater and erosion problems on the Poplar River and won: The river is now meeting water quality standards for sediment.