Minnesota River segments and maps

Map 1: Ortonville to Highway 40
(includes the Pomme de Terre River)

The Minnesota River flowing out of Big Stone Lake begins its journey as a fairly narrow and meandering stream that can be tough to paddle due to snags, broken-down bridges and other obstacles.

From Ortonville to Granite Falls (segment 2) the terrain varies from marshy lowlands to steep granite bluffs. From Ortonville to Marsh Lake, trees and vines overhang the river and give it a jungle-like appearance; dark woods of soft maple, cottonwood and elm fringe the banks. Snags and broken-down bridges create obstacles. The river broadens near Marsh Lake. Thousands of birds use this stretch of the river corridor for nesting, breeding and resting during migrations.

The Pomme de Terre River flows through both wooded and prairie areas on its way to the Minnesota River at Marsh Lake Reservoir. Named for the wild turnip (which has a potato-shaped root), the Pomme de Terre is known for Class 1 rapids and fast running water over a sandy bottom. Be on the lookout for trees that have fallen into the river. or fences from nearby farms. There is a fun, man-made rapids as you enter Appleton City Park, just before the water access site.

Recommended day trip

Larson to Appleton: Pomme de Terre River

  • Put-in location: Larson carry-in access, river mile 14.8
  • Take-out location: Appleton carry-in access, river mile 8.8
  • Length: 6 river miles

This stretch has a lot of visual and paddling interest and is great for new paddlers. Meandering through farms, wooded areas, a golf course and eventually, the city of Appleton, visitors can have a wide variety of sights to see in a short stretch of river.

Explore on shore

Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, river mile 320
At 24,300 acres this is the largest contiguous block of public land in west-central Minnesota and an incredibly popular destination for hunters, bird and wildlife watchers and others.

Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, river mile 314.8
11,586 acres of tallgrass prairie, wetlands, granite outcrops, and river woodlands. Eleven miles of the Minnesota River flow through the refuge.

Local contacts

DNR regional headquarters
21371 State Highway 15, New Ulm, MN 56073

Lac qui Parle WMA
14047 20th Street Northwest, Watson, MN 56295
320-734-4451, [email protected]

Nearest medical facilities

Ortonville Area Health Services
450 Eastvold Avenue, Ortonville, MN 56208

Appleton Area Health Services
30 South Behl, Appleton, MN 56208

Kayaker paddles this river segment
Kayaker paddles this river segment.


Small rapids provide a fun entry to Appleton City Park
Small rapids provide a fun entry to Appleton City Park.


Minnesota River area map

Map 2: Highway 40 to Granite Falls
(includes the Chippewa River)

The Minnesota River makes it way through Lac qui Parle Lake, a natural lake formed as a result of the Lac qui Parle River flowing into the Minnesota River. The U.S. Corps of Engineers later built a dam near the confluence of these two rivers.

From the dam, the Minnesota River flows past Montevideo down to Granite Falls over a couple of Class I rapids on fairly mellow current. The landscape cuts between wooded areas, agriculture fields and grasslands, including a number of wildlife management areas.

One of the more popular rivers to paddle in the Upper Minnesota River Basin is the Chippewa as it twists and turns down to Montevideo. The Chippewa is a family-friendly river that cuts through both forested and open grassland areas among a few farmsteads near the riverbanks. There is one large section of snags. The closer it gets to the confluence with the Minnesota River, the steeper the banks and faster the water flows.

Recommended day trip

Chippewa River - Lentz Access to Watson Lion's Park

  • Put-in location: river mile 21.1
  • Take-out location: river mile 12.7
  • Length: 8.4 river miles

A favorite stretch to paddle, the Chippewa River begins to flow a little faster meandering around glacial boulders of all sizes. This route covers a variety of landscapes ranging from agricultural areas to forested sections with a few farmsteads and going under a historic truss bridge

Explore on shore

Lac qui Parle State Park, river mile 273
The lake is a stopover for thousands of migratory Canada geese and other waterfowl. Access, camping (fee) and toilets.

Watson's Lions Park, Chippewa River mile 12.7
Rest area and access surrounded by serene river.

Lagoon Park, Chippewa River mile 1.9
A beautiful spot that highlights the Chippewa River as it twists and turns downward to the Minnesota River. Access, camping (fee) and toilets. 10 campsites, 8 with electrical and water hookups. Available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Local contacts

DNR regional headquarters
21371 State Highway 15, New Ulm, MN 56073

Lac qui Parle State Park
14047 20th Street Northwest, Watson, MN 56295

Nearest medical facilities

Benson Hospital
1815 Wisconsin Avenue, Benson, MN 56215

CCM Health
824 North 11th Street, Montevideo, MN 56265

Avera Granite Falls
345 10th Avenue, Granite Falls, MN 56241

Wide channels make for an easy paddle
Wide channels make for an easy paddle.


Paddlers on a calm day
Paddlers on a calm day.


Minnesota River area map

Map 3: Granite Falls to Morton
(includes the Redwood River)

This stretch of the Minnesota River features a number of challenging sections, including the Class II-IV rapids at Minnesota Falls and Class I rapids both upstream and downstream of the Vicksburg County Park area.

From Granite Falls to North Redwood, the river flows through an area of gneiss outcrops. Some outcrops are the oldest rocks discovered in North America, dating back more than three billion years. The banks along this stretch of river are heavily forested with maple, elm, cottonwood and willow.

At the area around Redwood Falls, paddlers will encounter thick forest and high ridges that tower above the Minnesota River. Bordering the river is the recently created Whispering Ridge Aquatic Management Area, part of the effort of the Green Corridor Project to provide a trail system from Skalbekken County Park to Fort Ridgely State Park. You will also find a rock ledge that was once dynamited to allow steamboats upstream.

Recommended day trip

Kinney Access to Skalbekken County Park

  • Put-in location: river mile 233.8
  • Take-out location: river mile 224.6
  • Length: 9.2 river miles

Explore on shore

Skalbekken County Park, river mile 224.5
Park amenities include shelters, restrooms, water, picnic areas and rustic camping area.

Vicksburg County Park, river mile 210
This lovely park offers a concrete boat ramp that makes it easy to get in and out of the water. This is one of the more popular sections of the Minnesota River for both paddling and fishing.

Local contacts

DNR regional headquarters
21371 State Highway 15, New Ulm, MN 56073

Nearest medical facilities

Avera Granite Falls
345 10th Avenue, Granite Falls, MN 56241

Carris Health
100 Fallwood Road, Redwood Falls, MN 56283

Avera Marshall
300 South Bruce Street, Marshall, MN 56258

Paddlers stop to admire the bluff
Paddlers stop to admire the bluff.


Pockets of rapids can be found along this stretch
Pockets of rapids along this stretch.


Minnesota River area map

Map 4: Morton to Cambria
(includes the Cottonwood River)

The Minnesota River begins to widen as it continues a southeastern path through the tallgrass prairie as the channel changes direction before reversing itself once again.

On this stretch covered by floodplain trees and grassy areas, paddlers will find some gneiss outcroppings and little development except a few bridges and some farmsteads. Check out some of the smaller tributaries flowing into the Minnesota River, like Birch Coulee Creek and Fort Ridgely Creek.

The canoeable portion of the Cottonwood River begins in the city of Springfield and ends 58 river miles later when it empties into the Minnesota River near New Ulm. Carved out some 10,000 years ago, the steep slopes are now saturated with maple, basswood and hackberry trees, with oak and red cedar on the sunny side. There are no major rapids, which makes this a good river for beginning paddlers. Near the confluence with the Minnesota, the river flows through Flandrau State Park, which offers some great hiking and overnight stay opportunities.

Recommended day trip

Franklin City Park to Mack Lake Park

  • Put-in location: river mile 179.7
  • Take-out location: river mile 169.6
  • Length: 10.1 river miles 

This stretch is an easy, winding bit of river, surrounded by trees and nearly uninterrupted by roads or other man-made obstructions. Franklin City Park has free primitive campsites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Mack Lake County Park is managed by Renville County and has great facilities for an overnight stay. Reservations required.

Explore on shore

Fort Ridgely State Park, river mile 164.7
Camping (fee), a historic site, a mix of rolling hills, forests and prairies.

Flandrau State Park, Cottonwood River mile 6
Beautiful, treed campsites (fee), hiking trails and a sand-bottomed pool.

Mack Lake Park, river mile 169.7
Camping (fee), toilet, drinking water, fishing pier, shelter, hiking trails and historic site.

Local contacts

DNR regional headquarters
21371 State Highway 15, New Ulm, MN 56073

Fort Ridgely State Park
72158 County Road 30, Fairfax, MN 55332

Flandrau State Park
1300 Summit Avenue, New Ulm, MN 56073

Nearest medical facilities

New Ulm Medical Center
1324 5th Street North, New Ulm, MN 56073

Sleepy Eye Medical Center
400 4th Avenue Northwest, Sleepy Eye, MN 56085

Morning fog lifts off the river
Morning fog lifts off the river.


Railroad bridge at Morton
Railroad bridge at Morton.


Minnesota River area map

Map 5: Cambria to Henderson

The Minnesota River almost doubles in size when it takes a fairly sharp turn to the northeast as the Blue Earth River flows into it at Land of Memories Park in Mankato.

The river begins to widen significantly exposing many sandbars at medium and low water levels. The vegetation found along the floodplain, silver maple, willow, cottonwood and ash, is a pleasing contrast to the upland bluffs of red cedar and pockets of prairie grasses.

Paddlers will find mostly forested areas along the riverbank and numerous city parks in the two larger cities of Mankato and New Ulm along with the popular Minneopa State Park and Seven Mile Creek County Park. The river also flows past the Traverse de Sioux Historical Site, north of St. Peter.

There are a number of easy stretches to paddle along this section, including from Mankato to Seven Mile Creek, covering just over seven miles or from Le Sueur to Henderson, paddling past the Rush River outlet.

Recommended day trip

Judson Access to Land of Memories Park

  • Put-in location: river mile 116.2
  • Take-out location: river mile 105.1
  • Length: 11.1 river miles

This stretch passes along Minneopa State Park, which has an assortment of fun activities for the family, including a large, bison enclosure, naturalist programs and a waterfall.

Located near the confluence with the Blue Earth River, Land of Memories Park, a Mankato city park, has hiking/biking trails, sports fields, disc golf and a pavilion.

Explore on shore

Minneopa State Park, river mile 108.4
Camping (fee), toilets, drinking water and picnic areas.

Land of Memories Park, river mile 105.1
Camping (fee), toilets, drinking water and picnic areas as well as a trailer access.

Seven Mile Creek County Park, river mile 94.9
Shelters, picnic areas, nine miles of hiking trails and a trailer access.

Local contacts

DNR regional headquarters
21371 State Highway 15, New Ulm, MN 56073

Minneopa State Park
54497 Gadwall Road, Mankato, MN 56001

Nearest medical facilities

Immanuel St. Joseph
1025 Marsh Street, Mankato, MN 56001

River's Edge Hospital
1900 North Sunrise Drive, St. Peter, MN 56082

One of the many sandbars along this river segment
This segment has many sandbars.


The widened river flows gently in this section
The widened river flows gently in this section.


Lake Superior area map

Map 6: Henderson to the Mississippi River

This section of the Minnesota River becomes more urban, passing through many larger cities until it reaches the confluence with the Mississippi River.

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which covers a large portion of this river section, was established to provide habitat for a large number of migratory waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife species threatened by commercial and industrial development.

The Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area also preserves part of the Minnesota River Valley. The landscapes along the Recreation area include wetlands, floodplain forest and blufftop oak savanna. Both the refuge and recreation area are well-known for bird watching. Annual migrations funnel hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors through the valley.

Another major feature along the river is Fort Snelling State Park. The park offers extensive hiking, bike, snowshoe, and ski trails that link to an extensive regional trail system.

Recommended day trip

Thompson Ferry Access to Carver Riverfront Park

  • Put-in location: river mile 40.2
  • Take-out location: river mile 32.1
  • Length: 8.1 river miles

This stretch takes you in an area that feels remote, even though it is close to the Twin Cities Metro Area. Lots of sandbars to stop and hang out at in lower water levels.

Explore on shore

Fort Snelling State Park, river mile 7 - 0.0
Located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, the park has a wide variety of activities for an interesting visit. Hiking, historic sites, fishing, interpretive displays and more.

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area and Minnesota Valley State Trail, river mile 65 - 25
The state recreation area and state trail provide opportunities for recreation along a large stretch of the Minnesota in this area. The Lawrence and Carver Rapids Units offer historic sites and multi-use trails.

Local contacts

DNR regional headquarters
1200 Warner Road, St. Paul, MN 55106

Fort Snelling State Park
101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul, MN 55111

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area
19825 Park Boulevard, Jordan, MN 55352

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
3815 American Boulevard East, Bloomington, MN 55425

Nearest medical facilities

Two Twelve Medical Center
111 Hundertmark Road, Chaska, MN 55318

St. Francis Medical Center
1455 St. Francis Avenue, Shakopee, MN 55379

Calm river, viewed through the trees
Calm river, viewed through the trees.


Many sandy banks line the river
Many sandy banks line this segment.


Minnesota River area map

Back to top