A mail survey of 126 federally funded watershed planning initiatives yielded valid responses from 64 watershed contacts. Quantitative analysis revealed wide variation among watershed initiatives in terms of population size and land area encompassed. Likewise, watershed organization and participation characteristics ( agencies involved, frequency of meetings, and number of active participants) vary greatly. Qualitative analysis delineated the key issues of concern to watershed contacts: agricultural land use, stakeholder awareness, and interaction between local and federal entities. While specific situations vary by watershed, results indicate that door-to-door contact, public meetings, and information programs are the most useful methods for soliciting participation. Participation was perceived to be most helpful in the planning stages of outreach, identifying issues, and prioritizing issues. The perceived effects of participatory watershed planning include increasing awareness of watershed conditions, heightening interagency coordination, reaching consensus on resource management plans, and lending legitimacy to final plans.