About Our Watershed

Vermillion River Falls

The Vermillion River Watershed is the largest watershed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul seven-county metropolitan area. The watershed drains 335 square miles in Dakota, Goodhue, and Scott counties.

In 2002, Dakota and Scott counties signed a joint powers agreement to form the Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization (VRWJPO) and manage the watershed as required by Minnesota Statutes 103B and Minnesota Rules 8410. (What is a watershed?)

The Vermillion River Headwaters emerge in New Market Township, Scott County. The Vermillion River main stem travels 35 miles from west to east, joined by four major tributaries (North Creek, Middle Creek, South Creek, and South Branch) and many unnamed minor tributaries. The watershed includes 49 miles of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources-designated trout streams. The river flows into the Mississippi River near the cities of Hastings and Red Wing.

The watershed encompasses farmland, suburban developments, industrial zones, parks/open spaces, cities, and rural areas, including Apple Valley, Burnsville, Castle Rock Township, Coates, Douglas Township, Elko New Market, Empire Township, Eureka Township, Farmington, Hampton, Hampton Township, Hastings, Lakeville, Marshan Township, New Market Township, Nininger Township, Ravenna Township, Rosemount, Vermillion, and Vermillion Township.

At the VRWJPO, we partner with cities, townships, the counties, and other stakeholders to invest in watershed improvement projects. We conduct extensive monitoring to analyze water quality and quantity. We implement our Watershed Plan by adopting standards and help local governments apply them, and we inform, educate, and engage people in environmental stewardship.

The Vermillion River is a wonderful resource, providing many opportunities for people to get involved in its care, to learn about the environment and the ecosystems, and to enjoy the sport and relaxation that the river and watershed provide. Taking care of the resource today ensures that the river will continue to provide clean water, habitat for fish and wildlife, and a high quality of life for our people.