Little Fork River Watershed

The Little Fork River watershed is 1,179,520 acres, the main stem flowing 160 miles through north central St. Louis County and heading northwest into Koochiching County. It flows more northerly until it reaches its confluence with the Rainy River about 11 miles west of International Falls. There are no large cities in this remote watershed. Cook’s population is 667 and Little Fork, 874.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Reports

MN Department of Natural Resources Watershed Health Assessment Framework

DNR State Water Trail Guide to the Little Fork River

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Reports


Summary of Monitoring and Assessment in the Little Fork River Watershed

Intensive watershed monitoring began in the Big Fork watershed in 2008. Local citizens, collaborating with Soil and Water Conservation Districts of North St. Louis, Itasca and Koochiching Counties,  Little Fork/Rat Root River Board and the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency are working to improve and protect its waters. Limited land uses for industry, housing, and roads have led to high water quality in the Big Fork system, however challenges remain in maintaining this high quality water.

Of the 43 stream reaches that were assessed, 37 were found to be fully supporting of aquatic life while six

were non-supporting of aquatic life. Twelve (12) stream reaches were assessed for aquatic recreation and all

were fully supporting. All 15 assessed lakes were also fully supporting of aquatic recreation. Aquatic

consumption impairments span the entire length of the Little Fork and Sturgeon Rivers due to excess levels of mercury. The single aquatic life biological impairment was found on the Rice River, while the remaining

aquatic life impairments were turbidity driven and located along the Little Fork River.

Overall, the results from the intensive watershed monitoring and holistic assessment process reveals that the Little Fork River Watershed remains as one of Minnesota’s most treasured resources. The vast tracts of forestsand wetlands throughout the watershed, along with limited development pressure, have helped to sustain a

high quality aquatic resource. However, non-point source pollution that contributes to the excess levels of

turbidity found throughout the Little Fork River continues to impact the quality of its surface waters and to

downstream waters as well.

This work will be re-visited in 2018.

Little Fork River has a draft TMDL process for sediment, to be open for public comment soon.

Island Lake also has a TMDL currently in progress and is expected to be completed in 2017.

Watershed Pollutant Load Network

The sites shown will be sampled between 2016-2017.

The Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network (WPLMN) measures and compares data on pollutant loads from Minnesota’s rivers and streams and tracks water quality trends. WPLMN data will be used to assist with assessing impaired waters, watershed modeling, determining pollutant source contributions, developing watershed and water quality reports, and measuring the effectiveness of water quality restoration efforts.

This long-term program utilizes state and federal agencies, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, state universities, and local partners to collect data on water quality and flow to calculate pollutant loads.

Koochiching SWCD began monitoring for this program in 2012 with 4 sites between the Little Fork River and Big Fork River and has now expanded to 6 sites which now includes the Rat Root River.

Public Civic Engagement events began in 2013 in the Little Fork River Watershed.  Various types of events were offered to allow the public as many opportunities as possible to obtain information on the WRAPS process and to provide valuable local feedback which was used in the final plans for upcoming restoration and protection projects.

Civic engagement is not packaged into specific years, but is an ongoing process.  To provide comment at ANY time, please see the contacts section of this page to connect with local staff who can offer assistance.

Check back soon for previous civic engagement event information!

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Jolen Simon

Program Coordinator



Kim Yankowiak

Water Resources Technician/Specialist



Phil Norvitch

Resource Conservationist



Mike Kennedy

Project Manager


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