Blue Earth River State Water Trail

Paddling Alert

Paddling is not recommended on some rivers at this time. Many are overflowing their banks, and the water is both cold and very fast. Check river gauges and levels here, and please use great caution when you are out paddling!

Blue Earth River

The Blue Earth River runs north through Faribault and Blue Earth counties before the confluence with the Minnesota River near Mankato. The focal point for snag removal and maintenance on this river is from river mile 90 to the confluence with the Minnesota River. 

Local contact and map

Blue Earth River location mapDownload map - Download GEO map - (What is a geoPDF?)
Blue Earth and Faribault counties
Contact Parks and Trails southern regional office: 507-233-1200

River character

  • Riffles to Class I rapids present
  • Strong water flow after spring thaw
  • High, wooded bluffs and rocky outcrops
  • Most river miles of any county in the state

In 1910, the Rapidan Dam was completed along the Blue Earth River. The dam's overall length is 414 feet, and it is 87 feet high. The dam was renovated in 1983, and while showing its age, it still produces hydroelectric power today. Paddlers and anglers need to stay clear of the recirculating current below the dam, which can be extremely dangerous.


The Blue Earth River flows through varied landscape, from remnants of the Big Woods that used to cover much of east-central Minnesota to flat plains with natural grassland where buffalo used to roam. In the lower twelve miles, deep channels have been carved into the earth, lined with rocky bluffs and wooded hills. In the spring, wildflowers along the riverbanks add color to the shore. The Blue Earth is a paragon of scenic beauty in southern Minnesota.

Fish and wildlife

Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory.

The Blue Earth River is home to abundant wildlife and excellent fishing sites. The gorge area of lower Blue Earth includes the principal river fishery for small mouth bass. Many lakes along the river are valuable as waterfowl-production areas.


  • Carp
  • Walleye
  • Northern pike
  • Channel catfish


One of the earliest European adventurers to the area was Pierre Charles le Sueur, a French fur trader and explorer. Le Sueur discovered a curious bluish-green clay upon the banks of the river, a clay that the Sioux used for pigment. Taking it back to France, it was determined that this clay contained copper, and Le Sueur came back to what would become southern Minnesota to establish a copper mine. After digging 30,000 pounds of the blue-green clay and bringing 4,000 pounds back to France, it was discovered that there was no copper to be had. Nevertheless, Le Sueur's voyage into Blue Earth established French control of the area.

The area remained under French control until 1803, when the Louisiana Purchase transferred the area to the United States. The Blue Earth county area, however, was still officially Indian Territory until ratification of the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota. This was the beginning of a permanent Euro-American settlement. In March of 1853 the county of Blue Earth was created, but tensions between Indians and settlers remained, resulting in the Dakota War of 1862. By the end, 303 Indian prisoners were condemned to death. President Lincoln commuted sentences for all but 38.

In 1868, one of the largest changes to the area came with the arrival of the railroad. Before this, the rivers of the Blue Earth area provided the easiest means of transportation across long distances; now, settlements regrouped themselves along the rail lines. An intersection of several rail lines in Mankato helped establish it as an important center of commerce and industry. Today, much of the land is still dedicated to agricultural use.