Crow River State Water Trail - South Fork

South Fork, Crow River

The Crow River's South Fork runs eastward from Little Kandiyohi Lake to Rockford, where it converges with the North Fork. This gentle river is perfect for beginning paddlers when water levels are normal, but it can flow quickly after significant rainfall.

River locator map


River segments and maps

This river has only one segment. Get maps and more information.


Much of this area used to be covered by the "Big Woods," remnants of which still provide protection against soil erosion and wind. Small pockets of prairie dot the otherwise wooded landscape. In Hutchinson, the Gopher Campfire Wildlife Preserve protects a resident population of 500 waterfowl, as well as other wildlife. In that same area, canoeists, boaters and anglers can enjoy the Luce Line State Trail, well-maintained landings, camping facilities and bathrooms. There is primitive riverside camping at Rockford's Riverside Park, near the convergence of the South and North Forks, and group camping at Lake Rebecca Regional Park.

Fish and wildlife

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

Anglers will find 21 species of fish in the river. Wildlife is also very diverse, thanks to the varied habitats surrounding the river.


  • Northern pike
  • Walleye
  • Channel catfish
  • Bowfin
  • Carp
  • Bullhead


  • White-tailed deer
  • Fox
  • Coyote
  • Cottontail rabbit
  • Squirrels
  • Muskrats
  • Beaver
  • Mink


  • Songbirds
  • Geese
  • Ducks
  • Herons
  • Bald eagles
  • Crows


Between 1200 B.C. and 1700 A.D., the South Fork was the home of one of the earliest native peoples known as the Woodland Culture. The Woodland Culture was a hunting and gathering people that depended upon the seasons and available resources to live. Later, the Dakota Indians used this area for hunting and temporary lodging. The river was originally named "Hassan" by Native Americans, which means "maple leaf," but was renamed "Crow" by Ojibwe Indians for the black bird they called "marauder of newly planted corn." It was only after 1851 with the Treaty of Traverse de Sioux that the area was opened to Euro-American families.

One year after the city was established in 1857, the first dam was constructed in Hutchinson. In 1858, a steamboat was built on the river and made its maiden voyage all the way down the South Fork and onto the Mississippi River. Though the water of the South Fork was high enough to accommodate a steamboat for the first five years after it was built, the steamboat never returned to its origins. The owners were offered a chance to sell their boat to run the Mississippi between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, a much busier route.

Hutchinson became a bustling town in any case, with a flouring mill built in 1866. This mill was destroyed by fire in 1884 but reconstructed two years later. In 1910, the Gopher Campfire Club was formed for preserving game and fish in the area, making it the first conservation club in Minnesota. During the 1930s, the Works Project Administration constructed a bathing beach and fieldstone bathhouse on the south shore in Hutchinson.

Though agricultural development was difficult due to the wooded landscape, farming was the chief occupation for over a hundred years. Agricultural lands still form the vast majority of the South Fork watershed, but some residents are beginning to shift away from agricultural jobs, even commuting to the Twin Cities for work. 

The river was established as a state water trail in 2007.

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