North Fork Crow River

Watershed at a Glance

The North Fork Crow River watershed covers 949,107 acres. The headwaters for the North Fork Crow River are located in Pope County at the outlet of Grove Lake. The river flows about 120 miles southeast from Grove Lake to the confluence with the South Fork Crow River in Rockford and on to the confluence with the Mississippi River near Dayton. The Middle Fork Crow River which joins the North Fork near Manannah is a major tributary to the North Fork Crow River. Parts of Pope, Kandiyohi, Stearns, Meeker and Wright counties are in this watershed. Major cities are Litchfield, St. Michael, Buffalo, Otsego, Dayton and Rockford.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07010204
Intensive monitoring start year:2007
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Diamond, Green, Rice, Koronis
Crow, Jewitts Creek Grove Creek, Mill Creek

Land use in the North Fork Crow River watershed is mostly agricultural with the exception of the eastern portion that is metro fringe urban and commercial.

Many of lakes and reaches of the North Fork Crow River do not meet water quality standards for beneficial uses such as aquatic recreation, drinking, and swimming. The main lake pollutant is phosphorus, causing algae blooms in summer months, and reaches of the North Fork Crow River are listed for biological, bacteria, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity impairments.

    What's being done

    The first 10-year cycle for the North Fork Crow watershed project concluded in 2014.

    Monitoring and assessment

    Biological monitoring began in 2007 as a pilot/demonstration project of the new watershed approach. Since then, additional field data have been collected to aid with assessment, stressor identification, TMDL and WRAPS report development as well as strategies for restoration and protection of the water resources. Local sponsors for this project include CROW, NFCRWD, and the MFCRWD.

    Strategy development for restoration and protection

    The TMDLs were developed by Wenck Associates, Inc. and the HSPF modeling was conducted by RESPEC.

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Crow River Organization of Water (CROW)

    Diane Sander
    763-682-1933, ext. 3

    Crow River Lakes and Streams Facebook page

    Pope Soil & Water Conservation District


    North Fork Crow River Watershed District


    Stearns Soil & Water Conservation District

    320-251-7800, ext. 3

    Kandiyohi Soil & Water Conservation District


    Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District


    Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Spicer Office)

    Area Hydrologist, Ethan Jenzen
    320-796-2161 ext. 232

    Meeker Soil & Water Conservation District


    Wright Soil & Water Conservation District

    763-682-1970 or 763-682-1933, ext. 3

    Hennepin Environmental Services

    Ellen Sones

    Twin Cities Metropolitan Area watersheds

    There are 33 watershed districts (WD) and watershed management organizations (WMO) in the Twin Cities Metro Area. These metro watersheds are in 8 major (8-digit) watersheds: the Rum River, Lower St. Croix, Mississippi River (Twin Cities), Mississippi River (Lake Pepin), Minnesota River (Shakopee), South Fork Crow River, North Fork Crow River, and Cannon River watersheds. These WDs/WMOs are formed and regulated by MN Rules Chapter 8410.

    A number of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Studies and Implementation Plans have already been completed or are underway for impaired waters in metro watersheds. Moving forward TMDL studies will be done in conjunction with watershed restoration and protection strategies (WRAPS) reports, which will contain the needed implementation strategy elements. Metro WRAPS will follow the timing and guidance of the watershed approach, but note that these will be completed at the metro WD/WMO scale.

    MPCA staff also review metro watershed management plans that are developed by watershed districts and watershed management organizations.


    A list of MPCA staff contacts by metro watershed is available on the Twin Cities Metro watersheds page.