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Minnesota Watersheds

All water flowing into the streams or lakes has the potential of bringing with it a variety of unwanted and dangerous contaminants. These include but are not limited to AIS, sewage from man and animals, spilled or improperly disposed petroleum products, agriculture fertilizers and pesticides, and other hazardous substances to the lake and people using the lake. In addition, your activities influence the quality of water downstream from your location. It is therefore important that all Minnesotans become familiar with their local water drainage basin (called a watershed).

A watershed includes not only surface water—lakes, streams, reservoirs, and wetlands—but also all of the underlying ground water. Larger watersheds contain many smaller watersheds. All of the land that drains water to the outflow point is the watershed for that outflow location. Watersheds can range in size from tiny to many thousands of square miles.

The Minnesota DNR established a standardized set of watersheds in 1979. This Watershed Mapping Project delineated 8 major water basins covering the state and comprised of 81 Major Watersheds. Approximately 5600 Minor Watersheds comprise these Major Watersheds. The map below identifies all 81 Major Watersheds as numbered and named by the DNR. (There are none numbered 6, 45, or 64 in Minnesota.)

Map redrawn and modified from MN DNR

  • 1. Lake Superior - North
  • 2. Lake Superior - South
  • 3. St. Louis River
  • 4. Cloquet River
  • 5. Nemadji River
  • 6. None
  • 7. Mississippi River - Headwaters
  • 8. Leech Lake River
  • 9. Mississippi River - Grand Rapids
  • 10. Mississippi River - Brainerd
  • 11. Pine River
  • 12. Crow Wing River
  • 13. Redeye River
  • 14. Long Prairie River
  • 15. Mississippi River - Sartell
  • 16. Sauk River
  • 17. Mississippi River - St. Cloud
  • 18. North Fork Crow River
  • 19. South Fork Crow River
  • 20. Mississippi River
  • 21. Rum River
  • 22. Minnesota River - Headwaters
  • 23. Pomme de Terre River
  • 24. Lac qui Parle River
  • 25. Minnesota River - Granite Falls
  • 26. Chippewa River
  • 27. Redwood River
  • 28. Minnesota River - Mankato
  • 29. Cottonwood River
  • 30. Blue Earth River
  • 31. Watonwan River
  • 32. Le Sueur River
  • 33. Minnesota River - Shakopee
  • 34. St. Croix River - Upper
  • 35. Kettle River
  • 36. Snake River
  • 37. St. Croix River - Stillwater
  • 38. Mississippi River & Lake Pepin
  • 39. Cannon River
  • 40. Mississippi River - Winona
  • 41. Zumbro River
  • 42. Mississippi River - La Crescent
  • 43. Root River
  • 44. Mississippi River - Reno
  • 45. None
  • 46. Upper Iowa River
  • 47. Wapsipinican River
  • 48. Cedar River
  • 49. Shell Rock River
  • 50. Winnebago River
  • 51. West Fork Des Moines - Head
  • 52. West Fork Des Moines - Lower
  • 53. East Fork Des Moines
  • 54. Bois de Sioux River
  • 55. Mustinka River
  • 56. Otter Tail River
  • 57. Red River of the North
  • 58. Buffalo River
  • 59. Marsh River
  • 60. Wild Rice River
  • 61. Sandhill River
  • 62. Upper/Lower Red Lake
  • 63. Red Lake River
  • 64. None
  • 65. Thief River
  • 66. Clearwater River
  • 67. Grand Marais Creek
  • 68. Snake River
  • 69. Tamarac / Joe Rivers
  • 70. Two River
  • 71. Roseau River
  • 72. Rainy River - Headwaters
  • 73. Vermilion River
  • 74. Rainy River - Rainy Lake
  • 75. Rainy River - Manitou
  • 76. Little Fork River
  • 77. Big Fork River
  • 78. Rapid River
  • 79. Rainy River - Baudette
  • 80. Lake of the Woods
  • 81. Big Sioux - Medary Creek
  • 82. Big Sioux - Pipestone
  • 83. Rock River
  • 84. Little Sioux River
lake and shore

MN COLA serves to coordinate the efforts of all lake, river, and watershed associations in Minnesota, related to shoreline preservation and restoration, water quality, prevention of aquatic invasive species (AIS), and sustainable uses and development for bodies of water in all counties, which include: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Big Stone, Blue Earth, Brown, Carlton, Carver, Cass, Chippewa, Chisago, Clay, Clearwater, Cook, Cottonwood, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Jackson, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Kittson, Koochiching, Lac Qui Parle, Lake, Lake Of The Wood, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, Mahnomen, Marshall, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Norman, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Pipestone, Polk, Pope, Ramsey, Red Lake, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Roseau, St. Louis, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Steele, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Wilkin, Winona, Wright, and Yellow Medicine.

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Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations

minnesotacola@gmail.com

Web design, Curtiss Hunt; masthead photo, Kathyrn Jonsrud; footer photo, Amanda Weberg.