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Root River

Stagecoach Spring by Watson Creek in Fillmore County

The Root River starts as a drainage ditch in Mower County, then winds 81 miles from intensely farmed areas through more wooded, rolling terrain, and finally empties into the Mississippi River south of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Near Forestville State Park, the river literally disappears underground and resurfaces at the Mystery Cave near Preston.

Pollution from indirect sources such as runoff is the main water quality problem in the Root River watershed. Soil and nutrients enter the watershed’s many rivers and streams from urban and rural areas. Reducing these pollutants across a diverse landscape is the top challenge for water quality. The karst topography of the Root River watershed raises concerns about surface and groundwater mixing.

Strategy development for restoration and protection

Local partners like the Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District continue to implement strategies to reduce sediment, nitrate and bacteria in the Root River and its tributaries. The strategies in the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) were developed by local partners and citizens. Friends of the Root River (FORR), a citizen group working to protect and restore the river, also plays an important role.


Emily Zanon
Watershed project manager