Zumbro River

Zumbro River

Watershed at a Glance

The Zumbro River watershed covers more than 900,000 acres and reaches parts of six counties in southeast Minnesota (Olmsted, Dodge, Steele, Rice, Goodhue, and Wabasha). Rochester, one of Minnesota’s largest cities, is located in the southeast quadrant of the watershed.

Hydrologic Unit Code:07040004
Intensive monitoring start year:2012
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Lake Zumbro, Lake Shady
South Fork of the Zumbro River, Middle Fork, North Fork, Mazeppa Creek, Cascade Creek, Salem Creek, Bear Creek


The Zumbro River watershed is known for its diversity of landscape, ranging from deep fertile glacial-tills, to sandy soils of the steep bluffs. Much of it is underlain by karst, with exposed bedrock and complex groundwater systems predominant in the eastern half of the region. Landforms common to this area are steep bluffs overlooking deep river valleys, sinkholes, caverns, and cold-water spring-fed streams.

To the west the land is characterized by lake plains, outwash plains, end and ground moraines, and drumlin fields, all remnant landscapes of past glacial activities and the melt water drainage associated with it. 

Land use is mostly agricultural, with row crops dominating, particularly in the western half of the watershed. The small stream tributaries in the far east (bottom of the watershed) are mostly cold, groundwater streams that support trout populations.

    What's being done

    The MPCA is planning to work with local partners to:

    • Complete Total Maximum Daily Load computations (the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can accept and still meet standards) for various pollutants impacting the impaired lakes and streams in the watershed.
    • Complete a report on intensive water monitoring of the watershed from 2012-2014
    • Complete a report on identification of conditions stressing fish and bugs in the watershed, as well as good conditions that foster their health
    • The Zumbro Watershed Partnership is working to engage citizens in developing Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies; see details on the group’s webpage: www.zumbrowatershed.org

    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.

    Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Inc.

    1485 Industrial Drive NW, Room 102
    Rochester, MN 55901