Mississippi River - Brainerd

Watershed at a Glance

The Upper Mississippi River - Brainerd watershed covers 1,079,950 acres (1,687 square miles) in the north central part of the Upper Mississippi River Basin in central Minnesota. The watershed boundary begins in Aitkin County where the river flows through the cities of Aitkin, Brainerd/Baxter, and Little Falls. The watershed encompasses all or parts of Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, and Todd counties.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07010104
Intensive monitoring start year:2015
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Cedar, Farm Island, Bay, South Long, Rice
Mississippi, Spring Branch, Rice, Rabbit, Nokasippi


Almost half of the watershed is forested (42%), while grasslands and shrub wetlands make up 38%, row crops 10%, water 6%, and 4% is urban. The majority of the watershed is within the North Central Hardwood Forest with small sections in the Northern Lakes and Forests ecoregion.

The watershed has approximately 2,149 total river miles and contains 212 lakes greater than 10 acres in size. There are several impaired lakes and streams in this watershed.

    What's being done

    Biological, chemistry and flow monitoring will begin in 2017 on several key stream reaches throughout the watershed. Volunteers and local government units as well as MPCA staff will also be conducting lake monitoring on several key lakes throughout the watershed.  Citizens interested in getting involved with the project can contact the MPCA project manager listed below. MPCA’s Watershed Approach: Since 2007, the MPCA and its partners have begun implementing a 10-year rotation for addressing Minnesota’s waters at the major watershed level.

    Strategy reports

    PDF icon Our Upper Mississippi River Large River and Basin Restoration and Protection Strategies (wq-ws4-38b)

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Aitkin Soil and Water Conservation District

    130 Southgate Drive, Aitkin, MN 56431        

    Cass Environmental Services District

    Courthouse, 1st Floor, 303 Minnesota Avenue W.
    P.O. Box 3000
    Walker, MN 56484-3000

    Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District


    Crow Wing County Planning & Zoning

    Morrison Soil and Water Conservation District

    Todd Soil and Water Conservation District