Upper Red River of the North

Watershed at a Glance

The Upper Red River watershed drains an area of 371,689 acres in the Glacial Lake Agassiz Plain, while the extreme southeastern portion of the basin lies in the North Central Hardwoods ecoregion. The Red River begins its course just below Breckenridge, Minn., at an elevation of 943 feet above sea level, and descends a mere 82 feet as it reaches the boundary of the Upper Red River watershed north of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area.

Hydrologic Unit Code:09020104
Intensive monitoring start year:2008
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Lake Traverse
Red River, Whiskey Creek, Comstock Coulee


The region has a poorly defined flood plain and low gradient. This combines 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.

    What's being done

    Intensive watershed monitoring and stressor identification field work is complete and the finished reports are available below. A watershed restoration and protection strategy report (WRAPS) and TMDL study have been completed and will be on public notice in July 2017.

    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.

    Tim James, MPCA project manager