Blue Earth River State Water Trail

Blue Earth River

Established in 2010 as a state water trail, the Blue Earth River takes its name from the blue-green clay found in the river bluffs near Mankato. This river flows through a diverse and scenic landscape. You'll pass remnants of the Big Woods that covered east-central Minnesota, as well as natural grassland where bison once roamed.

River locator map


River segments and maps

This river has only one segment. Get maps and more information. Note: the Blue Earth River shares a map with the Watonwan River.


The Dakota used the bluish-green earth along the river as a pigment. An early fur trader named Pierre Charles LeSueur found what he believed to be a vein of copper ore near the mouth of the Blue Earth River. LeSueur took a sample of the "copper" to Paris, and secured a royal commission to mine the ore. He returned in 1700 and diligently worked the mine, until it was discovered that the blue earth was, in fact, earth. Nonetheless, Le Sueur's voyage into Blue Earth established French control of the area 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 presence of Euro-Americans in the area. In March of 1853 the county of Blue Earth was created. Rising tensions in the area boiled over in 1862 with the outbreak of the U.S.-Dakota War. Learn more from the Minnesota Historical Society. The city of Mankato takes its name from Makata Osa Watapa, the Dakota name for the river. In 1868, large changes came to the area 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, people established new towns 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.

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