Restoring Knowlton Creek

Increases Stream Resiliency

Stabilizing and restoring Knowlton Creek has reduced erosion and sediment pollution, improved brook trout habitat, and enhanced outdoor recreation.


Knowlton Creek is a small tributary to the St. Louis River that has historically supported a variety of native wildlife, including brook trout. Unfortunately, a combination of factors have significantly increased runoff into Knowlton Creek, which has eroded stream banks and caused heavy sediment pollution that degrades trout habitat and contributes to pollution in the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. The deep erosion in the stream also prevented overflow into the floodplain of the creek, which further exacerbated erosion and sediment pollution. Over the past several years, local organizations and governments have worked to reduce excessive runoff into Knowlton Creek. Thanks to grants from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and others, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources built on this earlier work to restore the creek and its floodplain. Rocks and boulders were placed in and around the creek to slow the flow of water as a way to reduce erosion. In some stretches, workers installed rocks and logs along the shore and in the river to create an entirely new channel away from highly eroded bluffs, which also provided brook trout habitat. Redirecting the stream also created valuable wetland habitat in the old stream channel. Primary construction for the project concluded in 2016, and early survey results indicate that reintroduced brook trout populations have been thriving in Knowlton Creek.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Sediment pollution
  • Erosion
  • Inaccessible floodplain
  • Degraded fish and wildlife habitat


Stream with stabilized riverbanks

Stabilizing the sides of waterways, as pictured here, reduce erosion and sediment build up in the water. Credit: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.

Results and Accomplishments

This project restored 6,500 feet of coldwater stream habitat and 18 acres of riparian floodplain. The Knowlton Creek Watershed Project will also improve regional water quality in the St. Louis River Area of Concern—one of 43 areas of concern around the Great Lakes with high levels of habitat pollution or degradation. Brook trout reintroductions in 2014 and 2015 have proven to be successful following the completion of this work, and Knowlton Creek is now supporting the natural reproduction of brook trout. Brook trout is an important game species, meaning this project will also enhance outdoor recreation and benefit the local economy.