Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
For each species reported in the Red River drainage in the United States (Minnesota, North and South Dakota) we provide documentation of dates and locations where it was collected, a brief accounting of its relative abundance and habitat requirements, and its current distribution in drainages adjacent to the Red River basin in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota (Missouri River drainage), and in the Red River drainage in Manitoba. Common and scientific names are from Robins et al. (1991). Hybrid fishes, mostly of centrarchids reported in the literature review are not included. The goldfish (Carassius auratus), reported from the Sheyenne River near Lisbon, and the golden orf (Leuciscus idus), reported from the Red and Buffalo rivers, were not included in the list of species in the Red River basin as these were likely introductions from aquaria that have not been able to establish populations in the basin.
Where enough information was available, the percent of the total sites sampled in the basin in which each species occurred was used to indicate whether it was rare or common, and the percent occurrence in sites sampled in various ecoregions was used to indicate regions within the basin where it is most successful. These percentages were determined from surveys conducted since 1962 to help include sampling that took place in the entire Red River basin. Ecoregions were defined by Omernik and Gallant (1988), and are shown in Fig. 4. Ecoregions are generally considered to be regions of relative homogeneity in ecological systems or in relationships between organisms and their environments. Ecoregions are delineated by their homogeneous soils, land use, land surface form and potential natural vegetation (Omernik and Gallant 1988).
Figure 4. Ecoregions of the Red River of the North Basin.
The Red River basin in the United States encompasses 36,400 mi2 in North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota (Fig. 5). Much of the basin lies within the lake bed of glacial Lake Agassiz, which covered northwestern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota 12,000 bp, creating the broad, flat, plain of the Red River Valley. The river drops 200 ft. in elevation with an average gradient to only 0.5 ft/mi from its source at Wahpeton, North Dakota, to the Canadian border. The mean annual flow of the Red River is 554 cfs at Wahpeton and 4390 cfs at the border near Emerson, Manitoba (Stoner et al. 1993). Because of regional precipitation and evapotranspiration patterns, runoff is lowest at the southwest and highest at the northeast portions of the basin. Mean annual runoff (depth to which drainage area would be covered if all of the runoff for the year were uniformly distributed on it) ranges from 0.49 in. for the Wild Rice River at Abercrombie, North Dakota, to 4.07 in. for the Red Lake River at High Landing, Minnesota. The majority of flow received by the Red River is from eastern (Minnesota) tributaries, with about 33% of discharge at the Canadian border contributed by the Red Lake River. The region is prone to both flooding and drought, and many of the small tributaries in North Dakota have low or no flow during late summer.
Figure 5. Major Streams in the Red River of the North Basin.