Mississippi River - Reno

Watershed at a Glance

This watershed is located in the southeastern tip of Minnesota, known for its scenic bluffs. More than 900,000 acres drain to the Mississippi River at Reno, Minnesota, but only 117,000 of those acres are in Minnesota. About a third of the land in the watershed is forest and another third is used for cultivated crops or growing hay. The rest of the watershed is open water, developed areas, and wetlands.

The landscape varies from gently rolling farmland to steep and rocky woodlands. Land around the upper stream sections is primarily pasture with cropland dominating the rest of the stream areas. Near the stream’s source, the hillsides include rock quarries. The lower sections of the stream include some swamps. Beaver Creek Valley State Park is known for its clear streams fed by an underground spring. Its streams are home to brown and native brook trout. In spring, wildflowers that blanket the woodland hills and valleys attract migratory songbirds like the rare Acadian flycatcher, Cerulean warbler, and Louisiana waterthrush. These birds also nest in the state park.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07060001
Intensive monitoring start year:2015
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Minnesota Slough, U.S. Lock and Dam #9 Pool
Crooked Creek South Fork


Two of the major streams in the Minnesota portion of the Mississippi River - Reno watershed are Crooked Creek and Winnebago Creek.

  • Crooked Creek, a coldwater trout stream, begins near Caledonia in Houston County and flows almost 14 miles to the Mississippi. This creek drains 48,000 acres. In a 1990-1991 survey, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources located 39 tributaries to Crooked Creek. Two major tributaries, South Fork Crooked Creek and Shamrock Creek, were impounded for flood control in the 1960s. Heavy logging has occurred on the steep hillsides of the valley, allowing rapid runoff and erosion of dry runs. Streambank erosion is moderate to severe on the entire stream with the exception of areas where habitat improvements have been installed.
  • Winnebago Creek also begins near Caledonia in Houston County. The stream flows through a moderately narrow valley before entering the Mississippi River near New Albin, Iowa. The upper part of the stream has been more suitable for trout with colder water temperatures and sufficient aquatic plants. The remainder of the stream has suffered from severe bank erosion, little cover, lack of shade, and few pools and riffles.  Winnebago Creek also had a history of severe flooding.

    What's being done

    The MPCA has no active projects in this watershed at this time but looks forward to working with local partners to gauge the health of waters in this area and take action to protect or restore them.

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Shaina Keseley, MPCA project manager