Red River of the North - Sand Hill River

Watershed at a Glance

The Red River of the North - Sand Hill River watershed covers an area of 708,469 acres. The watershed is part of the Red River Basin in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern North Dakota. The watershed occurs in the Glacial Lake Agassiz Plain and North Central Hardwoods Level III ecoregions. Formed by the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers, the Red River flows north across the plains of glacial Lake Agassiz forming much of the border of Minnesota and North Dakota, continuing on to Manitoba and flowing into Lake Winnipeg.

Hydrologic Unit Code:09020301
Intensive monitoring start year:2011
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Sand Hill, Union
Red River, Wilson River, Sand Hill River


The Red River 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. 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 are known to 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.

Approximately 98% of the land in the watershed is held by private landowners. Land use within the watershed is largely agricultural, accounting for nearly 85% of the overall watershed acres. Development pressure is low to moderate in the basin, with occasional farms being parceled out for development, recreation, or country homes.

    What's being done

    Intensive watershed monitoring and stressor identification have been completed and the reports are available below. The TMDL study and WRAPS report have been drafted (draft versions available below) and the final TMDL study and WRAPS report will be available in 2017.

    Clean Water Accountability Act Reports

    Monitoring and assessment reports

    Strategy reports

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Cary Hernandez, MPCA project manager