Located in southwest Minnesota, the Minnesota River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, stretching for nearly 330 miles. The river valley the Minnesota flows through is over 5 miles wide and 250 feet deep, the remnant of the massive glacial River Warren that once drained Glacial Lake Agassiz. This rich valley and surrounding areas have in recent history been heavily used for agriculture and industry, and runoff has contributed to the poor water quality the river faces today.
Some areas of prairie and remnant floodplain forests remain in the river valley and along its tributaries, along with shallow ‘perched’ lakes in the area that are important for ducks and migratory waterfowl. Recent pollution mitigation efforts have led to a comeback by river otter and paddlefish populations, and the area is home to grassland birds like the bobolink, western meadowlark, and the dickcissel. As river quality improves, other species like lake sturgeon will continue to make a comeback as well.