Skip to main content

Mississippi River - La Crescent

Stream in La Crescent area

The Mississippi River - La Crescent watershed drains 95 square miles in Houston and southeast Winona counties, an area defined by wooded bluffs and spring-fed cold-water streams that flow directly to the Mississippi River. Pine Creek is the largest cold-water tributary in the watershed, draining more than half of the entire watershed (58 square miles). Streams in this watershed support good water quality, except the lower part of Pine Creek, which has high sediment contributing to poor water quality, habitat and temperature conditions.

This area is known for trout fishing and karst geography. The erosive effects of water have sculpted thick layers of limestone over thousands of years. The landscape is characterized by abundant sinkholes, springs, caverns, and underground waterways. Karst is like the Swiss cheese of rock. As water flows through karst, it mixes above and below ground. This mixing means pollutants on land can easily reach groundwater used for drinking. Protecting the streams are important for ensuring safe drinking water and for the economic impact of tourists visiting this area to fish, hike and camp.

The MPCA has completed the first intensive water monitoring cycle in the watershed, along with identifying stressors to fish and bugs. The data collected is summarized in reports below. The MPCA has also completed the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) report and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study for the Mississippi River – La Crescent. Work will continue in the watershed to better identify water conditions, capture water quality priorities of local residents, and identify priority areas to implement best management practices for water quality improvements. The next round of intensive water monitoring is scheduled to begin in 2021, synchronizing the La Crescent watershed with the neighboring Mississippi River – Winona watershed in Minnesota’s approach to gauging the health of major watersheds.


Emily Zanon
Watershed project manager