Nemadji River

Watershed at a Glance

The Nemadji River watershed spans the Minnesota-Wisconsin border and covers 1,180,073 acres. The Minnesota portion of the watershed is about 178,000 acres and is located in the Northern Lakes and Forest Ecoregion. That area is dominated by glacial till in ground moraines and drumlins and highly erodible lake-laid clay soils. The Nemadji River and its many tributaries are the main river system within the Minnesota watershed area. It flows 65 miles from its headwaters in Pine County, through Carlton County, and then crosses into Wisconsin, finally exiting into Lake Superior within the city of Superior. Other communities in the watershed’s Minnesota portion include Carlton and Wrenshall.

Hydrologic Unit Code:04010301
Intensive monitoring start year:2011
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Chub, Hay, Net, Sand, Venoah
Nemadji, Blackhoof, Net


The Nemadji watershed includes numerous streams, which are tributaries to the mainstem of the Nemadji River, and a few lakes located in the watershed’s headwaters area. Land use in the watershed’s Minnesota portion is mostly related to rural forestry, pasture production for hay cutting, and some beef cattle. Lakeshores are developed, although not as intensively as is typical in northern counties.

Currently the mainstem of the Nemadji River, from its headwaters to the Wisconsin border, and two tributaries 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 more monitoring, additional tributaries will not meet the current turbidity standard.

    What's being done

    • Four lakes were monitored in 2009/10 as part of the MPCA’s intensive watershed monitoring effort.
    • The mainstem of the Nemadji and multiple tributaries is currently being monitored for water chemistry.
    • Complete biological and physical stream assessments were completed; see reports below.
    • Following monitoring, a watershed restoration and protection study and an implementation plan will be developed for the watershed; this is in progress.
    • Carlton Soil and Water District, Carlton County Water Management staff, and several lake associations and citizen stream volunteers are also currently leading water quality projects in the watershed.

    Monitoring and assessment reports and data

    Strategy reports

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Carlton County SWCD