Long Prairie River State Water Trail

Long Prairie River

The Long Prairie River starts at Lake Carlos in Eastern Douglas County and winds eastward for 96 miles until it flows into the Crow Wing River, two miles southeast of Motley. Some segments can become slow and shallow in the summer. There are no major rapids. About rapids classes.

Local contact and map

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Todd and Morrison Counties, west central Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Central Regional Office: (651) 259-5841.

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River character

The Long Prairie River varies in width and depth. Erosion is common along its banks that border fields. Portions of the River can become slow and shallow in the summer, so canoeing is often best during the spring and early summer.


Encompassing rice beds, grass and cattail marshes, farm fields and riparian forests, the Long Prairie River flows through two of Minnesota's distinct ecoregions. From its source in Lake Carlos, where it looks like a small stream, the river begins its path eastward flowing into Todd County through terrain originally characterized by a mosaic of aspen and oak forest, wetlands and tallgrass prairie. Agriculture is not heavy along this section of the river. From north of Browerville, the Long Prairie River flows mostly through an ecoregion that features many lakes and streams amid a patchwork of formerly grassy and forested areas. Although almost all of the original forest was cut down, second-growth forest remains, and along some stretches leafy trees on its banks keep the river in shade all summer. In other parts, the banks are lined with farm fields.

Fish and wildlife

The Long Prairie River provides a sport fishery for northern pike and walleye. Both small and large mouth bass are also found in the river.

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.

The Long Prairie River provides habitat for numerous woodland and wetland species of plants, trees, and wildlife including green ash and paper birch, painted turtle and horned lark, beaver and white-tailed deer. The Blanding's turtle is a threatened species that exists in the watershed.


Before settlement by mostly European immigrants and pioneers, the tallgrass prairies and woodlands of the Long Prairie River watershed provided bountiful hunting and fishing to native tribes such as the Dakota and Ojibwa. By the 1860s, settlers were moving into the area, attracted by the river and its grassy valley for farming, and large white pines for logging. Within a decade, Dakota and Ojibwa people had left the area, towns were springing up along the river, the prairie was being plowed into farm fields and commercial logging was clearing the forests.