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Little Fork River

Aerial view of a large lake.

The Little Fork River watershed is 1,179,520 acres, the main stem flowing 160 miles through north-central St. Louis County and heading northwest into Koochiching County. It flows more northerly until it reaches its confluence with the Rainy River about 11 miles west of International Falls. There are no large cities in this remote watershed. Cook’s population is 667 and Littlefork, 874.

The main resource concerns in the watershed are mainly related to sediment issues in the river reaches, and eutrophication issues of the headwaters lakes. These riverine resource concerns are related to soils in the watershed as well as the geology of the area. While the watershed is very remote, human impacts are present and do contribute to the sediment issues in the river system. Forest fragmentation as well as drainage has contributed to some of the sediment issues in the watershed. Eutrophication and dissolved oxygen issues in the watershed could be related to human development in the watersheds of the impaired lakes, and in some cases may be natural background conditions.

MPCA has worked for many years in the Little Fork River Watershed and has cooperated in several studies with other agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, MN DNR, International Joint Commission, and others in an effort to understand this complex system. Although sediment remains an issue for the main stem of the Little Fork River, from Hannine Falls to the community of Littlefork, work continues to understand the sources of sediment and identify potential projects for improvements.


Mike Kennedy
Watershed project manager