The Mississippi River - Reno watershed covers 184 square miles in the southeast corner of Minnesota. It consists of several streams that drain directly to the Mississippi River near the small town of Reno. The watershed offers several cold-water trout streams, along with beautiful bluff scenery and habitat for wildlife like bald eagles. The region’s environmental and economic health depend a great deal on water quality.
Two of the major streams in the Minnesota portion this watershed are Crooked Creek and Winnebago Creek.
- Crooked Creek, a coldwater trout stream, begins near Caledonia in Houston County and flows almost 14 miles to the Mississippi. This creek drains 48,000 acres. In a 1990-1991 survey, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources located 39 tributaries to Crooked Creek. Two major tributaries, South Fork Crooked Creek and Shamrock Creek, were impounded for flood control in the 1960s. Heavy logging has occurred on the steep hillsides of the valley, allowing rapid runoff and erosion of dry runs. Streambank erosion is moderate to severe on the entire stream with the exception of areas where habitat improvements have been installed.
- Winnebago Creek also begins near Caledonia in Houston County. The stream flows through a moderately narrow valley before entering the Mississippi River near New Albin, Iowa. The upper part of the stream has been more suitable for trout with colder water temperatures and sufficient aquatic plants. The remainder of the stream has suffered from severe bank erosion, little cover, lack of shade, and few pools and riffles. Winnebago Creek also had a history of severe flooding.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local partners recently completed a study of the water quality of streams and the stressors to aquatic life (fish and bugs) in these watersheds. With this recent information, the agency would now like to work with local residents and partners, such as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, to develop strategies for restoring water quality where there are problems and protecting water quality where it’s good.