Love Square Lake, Big Marine, St. Croix River?

Help Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District prioritize the next 10-years of watershed work

Choose your favorite day:

  1. Hanging out at the beach and swimming in Square Lake
  2. Paddling a canoe or kayak down the St. Croix River
  3. Boating with friends on Big Marine Lake
  4. Horseback riding at Pine Point Regional Park
  5. Cross-country skiing at William O’Brien State Park
Does your perfect day include a trip to the beach at Big Marine Regional Park?

The Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District (CMSCWD) is updating its 10-year plan and is seeking input from people who live, work, and recreate in the area. Where should the district focus limited time and money in the coming decade?

Watershed districts are special-purpose local units of government that exist only in Minnesota. Like school districts, they levy property taxes to fund programming. The core functions of a watershed district are to minimize flooding and protect and restore lakes, rivers and streams. Some of CMSCWD’s current programs include flood prevention and channel maintenance; lake and stream water quality monitoring; public outreach and education; cost-share projects with local landowners; administering rules to protect water during development and redevelopment projects; and collaborating with local partners to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Marine neighbors plant a stream corridor in July
Last summer, neighbors in Marine on St. Croix planting native plants along a stream with cost-share funding from CMSCWD. The watershed district cost-share program helps landowners to reduce erosion and runoff pollution on their land.

CMSCWD includes 17 miles of the St. Croix Riverway stretching from Stillwater Township to Scandia, as well as 31 lakes, three designated trout streams, and hundreds of acres of wetlands. The four largest lakes in the district – Big Marine, Big Carnelian, Little Carnelian, and Square Lake – are in the Top 10 list of cleanest metro area lakes. There are also thousands of acres of high quality, undeveloped habitat in the region.

Wilder Forest, the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, and Warner Nature Center create a 2,400 acre St. Croix Greenway Corridor between the St. Croix River and upland lakes and woods. This corridor is home to 70 species of concern, including Blanding’s turtles, American woodcocks, rose-breasted grosbeaks, eastern fox snakes, trumpeter swans, red-shouldered hawks, and bald eagles. The undeveloped landscape helps to ensure that a steady supply of clean, clear groundwater flows to nearby Square Lake, and is listed as one of the highest priority locations for permanent land protection in Washington County.

Mays Lake, one of three shallow lakes with exceptional water quality in CMSCWD
Mays Lake is one of three shallow lakes with exceptional water quality in CMSCWD.

Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District also contains three of the most pristine shallow lakes in this part of the state – Terrapin, Clear and Mays Lakes. In addition, Warner Nature Center contains a bog that is home to carnivorous sundews and pitcher plants, which are usually only found in far northern Minnesota. Other beloved locations within the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District include William O’Brien State Park, Falls Creek and Crystal Spring Scientific and Natural Areas, Boom Site, Pine Point Regional Park, and Fairy Falls.

Unfortunately, despite an abundance of natural beauty, there are also challenges within the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District. Eleven shallow lakes are impaired for too much phosphorus, which causes algae blooms and murky water. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) have been introduced to Big Marine and the St. Croix River. Also, the future of the land within Wilder Forest and Warner Nature Center is uncertain, especially in the wake of the nature center’s closure last fall.

So far, Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District has heard from more than 100 people who own lakeshore property within the area. However, they have not received much input from people who visit CMSCWD to swim, boat, fish, hike, picnic, and play.

Here are a few easy ways to share your ideas:

  1. Take a quick 5-min survey at
  2. Join an online public listening session July 22nd, 6:30-8pm; or Aug. 4th, 6:30-8pm. RSVP at
Terrapin Lake in Washington County, MN