Once a vital highway for Indians, explorers, traders, and settlers, the Minnesota River is now a placid route. Enjoy the variety of wildlife that this river has to offer. This segment of the river is quite gentle and easy to canoe on. It curves gently up to Fort Snelling and does not have any rapids or dams to portage.
Minnesota River Water Trail sections and maps:
- Ortonville to Granite Falls (Map, GeoPDF Map)
- Granite Falls to State Hwy 4 (Map, GeoPDF Map)
- State Hwy 4 to LeSueur (Map, GeoPDF Map)
- LeSueur to Fort Snelling (Map, GeoPDF Map)
- What is a geoPDF?
Le Sueur, Sibley, Scott, Carver, Hennepin, and Dakota Counties, southeastern Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Central Regional Office: (651) 259-5841.
The water on this part of the Minnesota is quite gentle and easy to canoe on. There are no dams or rapids to portage or maneuver through which makes it relaxing for the beginner canoeist.
The Minnesota meanders to its conjunction with the Mississippi through a wide valley carved out by the glacial River Warren. Willow, cottonwood, elm, ash, maple and basswood line the banks; oak and cedar are found on the higher hills in the valley. Below LeSueur the riverbanks are sandy and eroded. Vines and roots try to cling to the banks with little success. The current sweeps a constant supply of snag trees and sandbars into the river. Gravel bars formed by tributary streams pinch the river at low water.
Fish and wildlife
A wide variety of wildlife lives along this stretch of the river. Song birds, waterfowl, herons, wood ducks, owls and small mammals may be observed. The Minnesota also supports a large fish population. Although carp and other rough fish predominate, anglers can take walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass.
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.
Known as the "river of cloud-tinted water" (Watapa Minnesota) by the Dakota Indians who lived there, the Minnesota was christened Riviere St. Pierre by French fur traders who discovered it in the later 1600s. The glowing reports of the fertile valley brought back by explorers and traders and the enthusiastic public relations work performed by James Goodhue, St. Paul's first newspaper editor, paved the way for settlement along the Minnesota. Under the terms of the 1851 Traverse Des Sioux treaty, the Dakota signed away almost 24 million acres of land and the immigration rush was on. The river became the highway to settlement, bringing passengers and goods to the growing towns and cities. The Minnesota was also used to float logs and power sawmills during the late 1800s. The Minnesota and Mississippi rivers meet at the northeast tip of Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park. The island and surrounding land were purchased from the Indians in 1805 by explorer Zebulon Pike for a U.S. military post. In 1819 Fort Snelling was established on a high bluff overlooking the junction of the two rivers. Today Pike Island is a wildlife refuge. The restored fort, complete with "soldiers," is a popular historical attraction.