The Minnesota River State Water Trail flows 318 miles from Big Stone Lake in Ortonville to its confluence with the Mississippi River State Water Trail near Fort Snelling in St. Paul. It is a gentle, placid river, with some portions designated as a Wild and Scenic River.
The valley through which the river flows was carved into the landscape by the glacial river warren between 11,700 and 9,400 years ago. Paddlers will see a diversity of terrain, ranging from steep granite bluffs to marshy lowlands. This river was important during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
Water trail segments and maps
Get maps and more information for the six paddling segments of the Minnesota River:
- Ortonville to Highway 40 (includes the Pomme de Terre River)
- Highway 40 to Granite Falls (includes the Chippewa River)
- Granite Falls to Morton (includes the Redwood River)
- Morton to Cambria (includes the Cottonwood River)
- Cambria to Henderson
- Henderson to the Mississippi River
Fish and wildlife
Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory.
The Minnesota River is a haven for bird life. Several species of waterfowl and wetland birds use the river corridor for nesting, breeding and resting during migration. Pheasants and Hungarian partridge find thick cover in the river valley for nesting and for protection from harsh winter storms.
- Black crappie
- Channel catfish > 10 pounds
- Flathead catfish** > 40 pounds
- Northern pike
- Shovelnose sturgeon
- Smallmouth bass
- Various rough fish
- White bass
- Canada goose
- Hungarian partridge
- Song birds
- Various waterfowl
- Wood ducks
- White-tailed deer
**If you catch a tagged flathead catfish, please report it to the Hutchinson area fisheries.
First known as the "river of cloud-tinted water" (Watapa Minnesota) by the Dakota, the Minnesota was christened Riviere St. Pierre by French fur traders who came upon it in the late 1600s. The Dakota used the bluish-green earth along the river as a pigment. At river mile 116, a trader named Pierre Charles LeSueur found what he believed to be a vein of copper ore near the mouth of the Blue Earth River, but after mining the "copper" it was eventually discovered that the blue earth was in fact only...blue earth.
The Minnesota and Mississippi rivers meet at the northeast tip of Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park. In 1819 Fort Snelling was established on a high bluff overlooking the junction of the two rivers.
Under the terms of the 1851 Traverse Des Sioux treaty, the Dakota signed away almost 24 million acres of land. The river quickly became a highway, bringing immigrants and goods to growing towns and cities, and floating logs and powering sawmills through the late 1800s.
The river was established as a state water trail in 1963.