Wild Rice River

Watershed at a Glance

The Wild Rice River begins its course at Mud Lake in Minnesota’s Clearwater County, and flows largely to the west through Norman and Mahnomen counties. The river is joined by its two largest tributaries, the South Fork of the Wild Rice and the White Earth River before converging with the Red River of the North.

The watershed is part of the Red River Basin in northwestern Minnesota. The watershed occurs in the Glacial Lake Agassiz Plain, North Central Hardwoods, and Northern Lakes and Forests Level III ecoregions. Formed by the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Ottertail 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. Eastern Wild Rice is, in terms of area, the third largest watershed of the Red River basin in Minnesota, and arguably one of the most ecologically diverse. The watershed includes portions of 9 of the 12 separate agroecoregions identified in the Red River region.

Hydrologic Unit Code:09020108
Intensive monitoring start year:2017
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
White Earth, Upper Rice, Lower Rice, Strawberry
Wild Rice River, White Earth River, Twin Lake Creek, Roy Lake Creek


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. Predominate land uses are row crops (53%), forest (23%), wetlands (9%), grass/pasture/hay (8%), and residential/commercial development (4%).

Agricultural land use in the basin is significant, accounting for over 60% of the overall watershed acres. Development pressure is moderate to considerable in some areas, with occasional farms, timberland, and lakeshore being parceled out for recreation, lake, or country homes.

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.

    What's being done

    A monitoring and assessment report and a stressor identification report have been completed and are available below.  A turbidity TMDL has been approved for the lower reaches of the Wild Rice River.

    Monitoring and assessment reports and data

    PDF icon Wild Rice River Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report (wq-ws3-09020108b)

    PDF icon Summary - Wild Rice River Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report (wq-ws3-09020108c)

    PDF icon Wild Rice River Watershed Stressor Identification Report (wq-ws5-09020108a)

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.