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Zumbro River

South Fork Zumbro River in Soldiers Field Park in Rochester, Minnesota

The Zumbro River watershed covers more than 900,000 acres and reaches parts of six counties in southeast Minnesota (Olmsted, Dodge, Steele, Rice, Goodhue, and Wabasha). Rochester, one of Minnesota's largest cities, is located in the southeast quadrant of the watershed.

The Zumbro River Watershed is known for its diversity of landscape, ranging from deep and fertile glacial tills to sandy soils on steep bluffs. Much of it is underlain by karst, with exposed bedrock and complex groundwater systems predominant in the eastern half of the region. Landforms common to this area are steep bluffs overlooking deep river valleys, sinkholes, caverns, and cold-water spring-fed streams.

To the west, the land is characterized by lake and outwash plains, end and ground moraines, and drumlin fields, all remnant landscapes of past glacial activities and the melt water drainage associated with it. 

Land use is mostly agricultural, with row crops dominating, particularly in the western half of the watershed. The small stream tributaries in the far east (bottom of the watershed) are mostly cold, groundwater streams that support trout populations.

Initial reviews of the Zumbro River Watershed were conducted from 2012 to 2018. A second cycle is planned to begin in 2024.

More information

Rice, Goodhue, Wabasha, Dodge, and Olmsted counties and their soil and water conservation districts along with the Bear Valley Watershed District and the City of Rochester are developing the Greater Zumbro One Watershed One Plan. Learn more: 


Kristen Dieterman
Watershed project manager