Red River of the North - Marsh River

Watershed at a Glance

The Red River of the North - Marsh River watershed is part of the Red River Basin in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern North Dakota. The Red River begins its course just below Wahpeton, North Dakota, and descends a mere 110 feet between its origin and the northern boundary north of Halstad, Minnesota. The watershed encompasses the Glacial Lake Agassiz Basin, Drift Plains, Sand Deltas and Beach Ridges, and Lake Agassiz Plains portions of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Plain ecoregion. The watershed has a poorly defined floodplain and low gradient that combine with extensive drainage, widespread conversion of tallgrass prairie to farmland, and urban/suburban development to leave the basin subject to frequent floods that affect urban and rural infrastructure and agricultural production.

Hydrologic Unit Code:09020107
Intensive monitoring start year:2017
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Marsh River, Elm River, Red River, Wild Rice


Above-normal amounts of precipitation in the late fall of the year or from May to October lead to high levels of soil moisture, periodically producing the snow-melt and summer floods that affect the region. The main resource concerns in the watershed are wind and water erosion, nutrient management, wetland management, surface water quality, flood damage reduction, and wildlife habitat. Many of the resource concerns relate directly to flooding and increased sediment and pollutant loadings to surface waters.

Land use within the watershed is largely agricultural, accounting for nearly 91% of the overall watershed acres. Development pressure is low to moderate, with occasional farms being parceled out for development, recreation, or country homes.

    What's being done

    A Monitoring and Assessment Report has been completed and is available below. A stressor identification report is in the final phases of production and will be available summer 2017. Phase I work has begun on a watershed restoration and protection strategy report.

    Monitoring and assessment reports and data

    Implementation plans

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Jack Frederick, MPCA project manager