An Introduction to the Deer Creek Watershed

Deer Creek is a small perennial stream with a drainage area of approximately 8 square miles.  The stream lies entirely in Carlton County Minnesota.  The headwaters originate near Hay Lake located in the eastern portion of Blackhoof Township.  The stream flows in a southeasterly direction until it joins the Nemadji River, approximately 7 river miles from the headwaters.  Clay soils dominate the watershed, leaving it prone to slumping banks and erosion.  Land cover has been dramatically altered in the past 150 years, changing the hydrology of the area, and increasing the risk of erosion and slumping in the watershed.  Currently, land cover in the Deer Creek watershed is about a 60/40 mix of forest and open land. A majority of the land is privately owned land with the remainder in state owned wildlife management area.

Deer Creek Map


Past data collected on Deer Creek showed that the stream exceeds the state turbidity standard of 10NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units).  Deer Creek was then listed on the Federal List of Impaired Waters.   Turbidity is the cloudiness of the water, in this case it is caused by sediment.  A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study is now required in response to the listing.  The TMDL study will define the sources of sediment and come up with ways to reduce them.

Although much is known about Deer Creek and the highly erosive clay soils that are largely responsible for the cloudy water, the TMDL will provide a scientific study of the watershed in order to quantify the sediment and sources.  The intensive study will involve hydrologic, chemical, geomorphologic, and biological monitoring.

The Deer Creek Watershed Guide

There is a powerful link between land use and water quality.  The lessons learned from historical land use practices on the predominantly sensitive clay soils of Deer Creek watershed has heightened awareness of soil erosion and its effects on water quality.

Past data collected in the waters of Deer Creek revealed that the stream exceeded the state’s water quality standard for turbidity. As a result, Deer Creek has been listed as an “impaired water” for turbidity, or cloudiness of the water, in this case due to sediment. A Total Maximum Daily Load Study (TMDL) is being conducted in order to define the sources of sediment and determine ways to reduce them. Public awareness and involvement is critical to carrying out an effective study that will lead to improvements.

This website offers information about Deer Creek, including how land use, soil type, geology, and biology all tie to watershed health.  You can learn about current projects going on , including assessment monitoring, impaired waters studies, and implementation projects.  This website also offers access to resources such as water quality monitoring data and watershed maps.

About the Watershed:

Land Use and Soils

Fisheries and Biological Health

Geology and Groundwater

Conservation Programs

Sediment Load Monitoring