Skip to main content


1966 Flood Meeting, Minnesota Historical Society

For generations, Minnesotans have valued and enjoyed the water bodies of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD). For early settlers, they were important transportation corridors and sources of food and water. In the late 1800s, Minnehaha Creek became an international tourist destination as a result of Longfellow's poem "Song of Hiawatha." And in the mid 1920s, Lake Minnetonka became home to one of Minnesota's earliest amusement parks, located just along its shore in current-day Excelsior. Currently, homeowners depend on valuable natural resources to maintain their property values, provide recreation and quiet reflection, and for the conservation of wildlife and other natural resources.<--break->

Recognizing the value of all Minnesota waterways and surrounding natural areas, the Minnesota Legislature passed the 1955 Watershed District Act, which authorized the creation of local government units called watershed districts. The districts were created to help manage the entire land area from which rain and snowmelt drain to lakes, streams, or wetlands. As outlined by the Act, watershed districts use scientific principles to develop successful ways to manage and improve water quality, prevent flood damage, protect public health, and preserve our natural resources.

The communities within the Minnehaha Creek watershed brought the District to life through petition in the spring of 1967. Since its inception, the District has evolved to stay on the cutting edge of protecting and improving our water resources.

Right out of the gate, we focused on longstanding flooding issues on Minnehaha Creek and Lake Minnetonka by building and operating the Gray's Bay dam according to a detailed plan developed in partnership with our communities. The dam remains a key flood control tool to this day.

Throughout the 70's and 80's we were involved in the closure of the eight sewage treatment facilities that discharged directly into Lake Minnetonka. MCWD researchers participated in a groundbreaking study of the value of wetlands that was recognized as a landmark national study by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In the 90's MCWD was a central player in an award-winning partnership that helped make the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes some of the healthiest urban lakes in the nation. Our work to restore and expand access to Minnehaha Falls and Glen in the 2000's protected and enhanced one of the state's most visited attractions.

Today, we are more diligent than ever in addressing new clean water issues and opportunities. In particular, we focus on integrating our water work with land use planning, and leveraging the inherent value of healthy natural spaces to make our communities more vibrant and livable. Our recent focus on improving the most degraded stretch of Minnehaha Creek into a vibrant public greenspace, dubbed The Minnehaha Creek Greenway, is one such recent example. We're also beginning a sustained focus on improving the headwaters of the watershed, the Six Mile Creek/Halsted Bay chain of lakes, as that area rapidly develops and changes.

The MCWD marked its 50th anniversary in 2017 with a series of community events and the creation of blog posts and videos that chronicled the history of the District.

50th Anniversary President's Blogs:

50th Anniversary Video Series:

50th Anniversary History Brochure