Des Moines River State Water Trail

Des Moines Crow River

The Des Moines River is between 50 and 200 feet wide. It flows through a flat iron-shaped plateau, called the "Coteau de Prairies" by early French explorers. This gentle river is perfect for beginning paddlers when water levels are normal, but can flow quickly after significant rainfall. river has few rapids, none more difficult than Class I. About rapids classes.

Local contact and map

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Murray, Cottonwood, and Jackson Counties, southwestern Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Southern Regional Office: (507) 359-6067.

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River character

Stream flow usually peaks in early to mid-April. Heavy rains can cause the river to flood. Because there are few rapids to cause canoeists problems in low water, the level is usually sufficient for canoeing. From the Talcott Lake Dam to the Iowa line, the river drops 135 feet, an average of 1.98 feet per mile. The watershed covers 1220 square miles.


From Talcott Lake dam access to Windom, the Des Moines travels through flat farmland, and with few trees to interrupt the broad prairie land. This land is mostly utilized for agriculture.

From Windom to Kilen Woods State Park, the river valley is bounded by low hills and willow, green ash, slippery elm, and various grasses line the banks. The banks become higher near the park; the river flows between 100-200 foot bluffs covered with oak and basswood forest.

From Kilen Woods to Jackson there are increasingly taller hills and bluffs. Woodlands crowd the river and screen from view farm buildings and cultivated land.

The Des Moines River flows through a flat iron shaped plateau, called the "Coteau de Prairies" by early French explorers. The bedrock is similar to that of the Red River Valley of the north, with generally sedimentary rocks covered by typical glacial deposits.

Fish and wildlife

The river contains northern pike, walleye, crappie, channel catfish, yellow perch, black bullheads.

The Minnesota Department of Health has guidelines for consuming fish taken from Minnesota's lakes and rivers. Go to the Fish Consumption Advisory Page to find out more.

Wildlife includes white-tailed deer, beaver, squirrels, mink, muskrats, and turtles. A variety of bird life exists, including wood ducks, mallards, owls, hawks, bank swallows, baltimore orioles, blue herons and kingfishers.


The Des Moines river valley was the frontier of settlement in Minnesota during the 1850's and was the site of raids by a renegade band of Indians led by the Warrior Inkpaduta (Scarlet Point). Settlers fended off Indian attacks at Fort Belmont and Springfield. A replica of Fort Belmont and Inkpaduta's Camp can be found in Jackson.