Minnesota River - Mankato

Watershed at a Glance

The Minnesota River: Evaluating its health [highlight]


The Minnesota River - Mankato watershed covers 861,886 acres across Cottonwood, Brown, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Nicollet, Blue Earth, and Le Sueur counties in south-central Minnesota. Cities include Fairfax, New Ulm, Lake Crystal, St. Peter, North Mankato, and Mankato. It is located primarily in the Western Cornbelt Plains ecoregion of south central Minnesota, with the far eastern reaches stretching into the North Central Hardwood Forest ecoregion. There are about 1,564 stream miles in the Minnesota River - Mankato watershed, and few large lakes, with only six exceeding 500 acres.

The watershed is diverse in landscape, with flat cropland in the west and bluffs and lakes in the east. While the vast majority is cropland, the city of Mankato is a regional urban center with several small cities along the main stem of the Minnesota River. Like its landscape, the goals and values of water quality vary across the watershed, making consensus a challenge.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07020007
Intensive monitoring start year:2013
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Duck, Mud, Emily, Wita, Ballantyne, Little, Henry, Crystal, Swan, Scotch, Loon, Middle, Washington
Little Cottonwood, Seven Mile Creek, Spring Creek, Fort Ridgely Creek, Eight Mile Creek, Morgan Creek, Minneopa Creek, Minnesota River mainstem


The Minnesota River - Mankato watershed is composed of several small first and second order streams that drain directly into the Minnesota River. Land use in the Minnesota River - Mankato watershed is dominated by row crop agriculture, with corn and soybean production accounting for about 90% of cropped lands.

County Soil and Water Conservation Districts have identified the primary resource concerns to be sediment and erosion control, stormwater management, drinking water and source water protection, drainage management, waste management, nutrient management, surface water quality and wetland management.

What's being done

The following work is completed:
  • Intensive water monitoring is completed, with the MPCA and local partners collecting data from more than 110 sites over two years. The report on this monitoring is available at the link below.
  • Interpretive signs on water quality have been installed at Minneopa State Park near Mankato and Ft. Ridgely State Park near Fairfax.
  • The MPCA worked with Fortin Consulting to develop a directory of stakeholders in the watershed. This directory, available as a PDF and Excel spreadsheet, offers a searchable list of groups with an interest in the Minnesota River.

The following work is underway:

  • The report for Identification of conditions stressing water quality will be available in January of 2018.
  • The MPCA plans to finish the Watershed Protection and Restoration Strategies and TMDL reports in the spring of 2018.

Monitoring and assessment reports and data

HSPF model documentation


Bryan Spindler
Watershed Project Manager

What is a watershed?

Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

Learn the basics of a watershed.

Brian Spindler
Mankato Office