South Fork Crow River

Watershed at a Glance

The South Fork Crow River watershed covers 818,428 acres. It is located in south-central Minnesota and encompasses parts of Kandiyohi, Renville, Meeker, McLeod, Sibley, Wright, Carver, and Hennepin counties. The South Fork Crow River joins with the North Fork Crow at Rockford, and then joins the Mississippi River near Dayton. The majority of the watershed is within the Western Cornbelt Plains ecoregion, with a small portion extending into the North Central Hardwood Forest ecoregion. Major cities include Willmar, Hutchinson, Delano and Glencoe.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07010205
Intensive monitoring start year:2012
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Cedar, Big Kandiyohi, Wakanda
Crow River South Fork, Buffalo Creek, Crane Creek


The South Fork Crow River watershed includes many lakes, streams, and wetlands. Buffalo Creek, a major tributary, flows into the South Fork Crow River downstream of Lester Prairie. Land use in the South Fork Crow River watershed is largely agricultural, with row crops and pasture/grass lands accounting for approximately 83% of the overall watershed acres.

Several lakes and parts of the South 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 portions of the South Fork Crow and its tributaries are listed for pollutants such as bacteria, turbidity and low dissolved oxygen.

    What's being done

    A bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study has been completed and approved by EPA, for two reaches on Buffalo Creek.

    The South Fork Crow Watershed project began in 2012 with the collection of biological, chemical and hydrological data throughout the watershed. Data collection continued through the 2013 monitoring season. Assessments and Stressor ID work is in progress. A Civic Engagement (CE) work plan has been developed and is in use by the local CE team to publicize the watershed work and to get more people involved in water quality efforts. The watershed project is scheduled to conclude mid-2016.

    The Crow River Organization of Water (CROW) collects flow and chemistry data at several monitoring stations in the South Fork Crow River watershed. Citizens interested in getting involved with monitoring can contact them.

    Monitoring & assessment reports and data

    Strategy reports

    Implementation plans

    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

    Kandiyohi Soil & Water Conservation District


    Buffalo Creek Watershed District


    Renville Soil & Water Conservation District


    Meeker Soil & Water Conservation District


    McLeod Soil & Water Conservation District


    Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Hutchinson Office)

    Area Hydrologist, Garry Bennett

    City of Hutchinson

    Environmental Specialist, John Paulson

    Sibley Soil & Water Conservation District


    Carver Soil & Water Conservation District


    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.