The Red River of the North - Marsh River watershed is part of the Red River Basin in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern North Dakota. The Red River begins its course just below Wahpeton, North Dakota, and descends a mere 110 feet between its origin and the northern boundary north of Halstad, Minnesota. The watershed encompasses the Glacial Lake Agassiz Basin, Drift Plains, Sand Deltas and Beach Ridges, and Lake Agassiz Plains portions of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Plain ecoregion. The watershed has a poorly defined floodplain and low gradient that combine with extensive drainage, widespread conversion of tallgrass prairie to farmland, and urban/suburban development to leave the basin subject to frequent floods that affect urban and rural infrastructure and agricultural production.
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 affect the region. 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.
Land use within the watershed is largely agricultural, accounting for nearly 91% of the overall watershed acres. Development pressure is low to moderate, with occasional farms being parceled out for development, recreation, or country homes.