Purpose and Regulatory Background

view of kettle river

National and state laws

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, enacted by the U.S. Congress to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

This federal policy was further expanded and supported by similar policies in many states. Relevant actions affecting Minnesota includes:

  • National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: Enacted by Congress in 1968 to create a National Wild Scenic River System to preserve some of the country's most precious and outstandingly remarkable rivers in a natural, free-flowing condition. The Upper St. Croix River was designated in this Act. See Minnesota Statute 103F.351.
  • Lower St. Croix River Act: Enacted by Congress in 1972 to add the Lower St. Croix River to the National Wild Scenic Rivers System. Minnesota recognized and concurred with the federal designation by passing the Lower St. Croix Wild and Scenic River Act in 1973.
  • Minnesota's Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: Enacted by the State Legislature in 1973 to create a statewide system to preserve and protect rivers in Minnesota with outstanding natural, scenic, scientific, historic, cultural, and recreational values. See Minn. Statute 103F.301 – 103F.35.

Minnesota’s Wild and Scenic River regulations

Under Minnesota’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Minnesota DNR established statewide rules for designating, classifying, and managing the state’s wild and scenic rivers. These statewide rules (Minn. Rule 6105.0010 – 6105.0250) also include standards for regulating land use development through local government zoning controls or regulations.

Under the Act, the DNR designated and classified segments of six rivers. Each of the six river segments has its own set of river-specific rules that supplement the statewide rules. The rules for each river constitute the management plan for that river. The statewide rules and river-specific rules are implemented and administered by counties and cities through local zoning. The DNR’s role is to ensure local governments have local zoning regulations consistent with state rules.

map of Minnesota's Wild & Scenic Rivers

River-specific rules


Year of designation

Local governments with WSR zoning

River-specific Minnesota rules


Kettle River


• Pine County
• City of Sandstone
• City of Rutledge
• City of Willow River

6105.0060 – 6105.0760


Mississippi River


• Stearns County
• City of St. Cloud
• Wright County
• City of Clearwater
• City of Monticello
• >City of Otsego
• Sherburne County
• City of Becker
• City of Big Lake
• City of Elk River
• Township of Baldwin

6105.0800 – 6105.0960

In 2012, the Minnesota Legislature revised the Mississippi River WSR boundaries to remove all land in the cities of Dayton and Ramsey. This action was taken to reduce the number of shoreland-related regulations in these cities. In these cities land along the Mississippi River is regulated under the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area rules as well as shoreland rules.


North Fork Crow River


• Meeker County
• City of Kingston

6105.1000 – 6105.1130


Minnesota River


• Chippewa County
• City of Montevideo
• Lac Qui Parle County
• Renville County
• Redwood County
• City of North Redwood

6105.1200 – 6105.1370




• Mille Lacs County
• City of Milaca
• City of Onamia
• City of Princeton
• Township of Princeton
• Isanti County
• City of Cambridge
• City of Isanti
• Township of Athens
• Anoka County
• City of Andover
• City of Anoka
• City of Oak Grove
• City of Ramsey
• City of St. Francis

6105.1400 – 6105.1500


Cannon River


• Rice County
• City of Dundas
• City of Faribault
• City of Northfield
• Township of Bridgewater
• Goodhue County
• City of Cannon Falls
• City of Redwings
• Township of Cannon Falls

6105.1550 – 6105.1700




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