Become a Vermillion Steward

The Vermillion — A Treasure at Risk

As the only trophy trout stream in a major metropolitan area, not to mention a major tributary of the Mississippi, the Vermillion River is a unique treasure.

Photo: William Wesen

As the nation’s last remaining world-class trophy trout stream in a metropolitan area, the Vermillion River is a unique resource flowing through Scott, Dakota and Goodhue Counties. This important tributary of the Mississippi River provides habitat for wildlife, great scenic beauty and recreational opportunities such as kayaking, and directly feeds drinking water wells in Hastings.

However, the Vermillion is also a troubled natural resource, and is feeling the effects of human development. Pollution from failing septic systems, stormwater runoff and agricultural pesticides and fertilizers are contributing to its impairment. With the population of Dakota County set to double in the next 30 years, the Vermillion River Watershed needs help to remain a valuable source of clean water, wildlife habitat and community recreation.

This is where the Vermillion Stewards project comes in.

About the Vermillion Stewards

The Vermillion Stewards project aims to bring neighbors, groups and committed citizens from throughout the Vermillion watershed together to learn about and help the marvelous but troubled Vermillion River.

Read on to find out more about:

  • What Vermillion Stewards do
  • Who can be a Vermillion Steward
  • How Vermillion Stewards stay connected
  • Where Vermillion Stewards activities take place
  • Who funds and partners with FMR on the Vermillion Stewards program

What Do Vermillion Stewards Do?

The primary way people become Vermillion Stewards is by participating in one or more of the free hands-on and/or educational weekday evening or weekend events.

Vermillion Stewards activities include:

  • Litter clean-ups
  • Bird hikes
  • Invasive species identification and removals
  • Wildflower walks
  • Native plantings
  • Natural history programs
  • Prairie seed collections
  • Watershed-friendly gardening programs
  • An annual trout survey

Many events, such as the clean-ups (above), are great for groups of all sizes and ages.

Most events are two to three hours in length and are featured on our events calendar. Events are sorted by date and location, but each description or write-up also includes its program affiliation, such as the Vermillion Stewards or Gorge Stewards (in Minneapolis/St. Paul). Registration is kept simple and quick, there are no applications to complete, and sign-up instructions are included on each listing.

Who can be a Vermillion Steward?

If you care about the Vermillion River, you too can be a Vermillion Steward! Anyone who participates in a Vermillion Stewards project or event is considered a Vermillion Steward.

The majority of Vermillion Stewards are individuals and families who want to make a difference and contribute to the health and well-being of the local lands and waters. We also work with and encourage smaller groups, of 15 or fewer, to participate. If you are wondering which events are a good fit for you or your group, contact FMR Volunteer Coordinator sue rich, in the office Tuesdays-Thursdays at 651-222-2193 extension 14, to find out more.

Occasionally, we are able to work with large groups — companies, organizations, churches, etc. — who would like to do a Vermillion Stewards project. If you are part of a larger group, the two to three annual clean-ups are a perfect fit, and/or we may be able to plug you into an upcoming event. Call FMR Volunteer Coordinator sue rich, in the office Tuesdays-Thursdays at 651-222-2193 extension 14, to find out more.

We greatly encourage and appreciate neighbors’ involvement and dedication and also welcome groups and individuals from beyond the immediate area interested in preserving this ecological treasure.

Students who must volunteer for school requirements, or service-learners, are also welcome to join Vermillion Stewards events. Advance arrangements are not necessary; students can follow the registration process listed in the event description. (If you are a service learner and find that you cannot meet your time requirements by participating in posted events, please consider organizing a group via Facebook, Meetup or existing group connections to participate in an existing Vermillion Stewards event. The time you spend recruiting is very much service time, and is always an educational experience!)

How do Vermillion Stewards stay connected?

Being a Vermillion Steward means actively caring for the well being of the Vermillion River and its watershed. For some, that means coming to a litter pick-up once a year and once a year only, but for others it means being part of a larger community that shares a deep appreciation of the river and commitment to its care.

To keep Vermillion Stewards connected, Friends of the Mississippi River does two things:

  • Everyone who attends a Vermillion Stewards event and provides an e-mail address is added to the Vermillion Stewards e-mail list. Friends of the Mississippi River Volunteer Coordinator sue rich contacts potential and previous volunteers whenever an event is close to the city they live in, takes place in an area they have volunteered in previously or is of the type that they expressed an interest in. We keep emails to a minimum, roughly six to eight a year. To be added to our volunteer contact list, please email sue at with your name, address, phone and email and indicate your interest in Vermillion Stewards activities.
  • For those seeking to stay connected on a more regular basis, we suggest signing up for the Mississippi Messages, our twice monthly e-newsletter. The first monthly issue features a calendar of upcoming Vermillion Stewards and other Friends of the Mississippi River events. Sign up now by entering your email address in the blue box to the upper right!

Where Vermillion Stewards activities take place

Generally speaking, Vermillion Stewards activities include many different types of activities throughout the watershed, including many hikes, talks and other events.

However, habitat restoration efforts are concentrated on select locations, each with a larger restoration plan in effect. Volunteer events are part of these larger plans. For example, volunteers may remove invasive species at a summer outing, other volunteers may plant native species at that location in the fall, and then the following spring or summer there will be another event where volunteers tend to the plantings and help maintain the area. This way, volunteers enjoy a short-term commitment but can rest assured their work is never wasted, and can also return to the same area to see the fruits of their labor.

Some annual Vermillion Stewards sites and events include:

  • Annual spring clean-ups are Rambling River Park in Farmington and spring and fall clean-ups are held at CP Adams Park in Hastings. Both of these large parks are within their respective cities, but feature high-quality natural areas including the Vermillion River and lakes and wetlands that feed it.
  • The Hastings River Flats, near downtown Hastings. First used for cropland and agriculture, then as a petroleum storage tank site, Hastings River Flats is now the largest park in the city renown for both its bird habitat and bird-watching as part of the globally significant Mississippi River bird migration corridor.
  • The Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area, Marshan Township (just south of Hastings). Home to 13 rare plant and animal species, FMR helped this gem of the Vermillion watershed earn SNA or Scientific and Natural Area status from the Department of Natural Resources — affording it the highest level of protection in the state. The site is home to pussytoes, prairie smoke, and blue-eyed grass to name just a few native plant species that are so important for the health of the watershed and local wildlife. For more on this unique site, visit our pages on the coulee's designation as an SNA, the 2008 restoration season, or download a handout on this special place (not recommended for dial-up).

Please note: Detailed directions and just-for-volunteers map links to event meeting spots are emailed to event registrants in confirmation and reminder emails.

Partnership is Key

The Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization funds the Vermillion Stewards, with additional support from the Rosemount SKB Fund and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Friends of the Mississippi River works in partnership with the following groups to make the Vermillion Stewards project a success:

  • The cities of Hastings, Farmington and Rosemount
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • The National Park Service, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
  • Bluethumb
  • Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Local high schools in Hastings (thanks to teacher Joe Beattie) and in Rosemount (thanks to teacher Vida Kranitz)