Mississippi River State Water Trail: Fort Snelling to Hastings

Mississippi River Trail

This segment of the river winds past developed areas and showcases spectacular bluffs and wide-trunked trees. The river varies in width from one-tenth mile below Fort Snelling to two miles above Lock and Dam 2 at Spring Lake. Although the river is generally wide, the current can be deceptively swift. Approach the shore with caution. Wakes from large boat traffic should not be taken broadside. Watch for dams, and know on which side to portage or lock. Stay close to shore as you prepare to get out or enter a lock, and do not cross the river above dams. There are no major rapids. About rapids classes.

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Mississippi River Water Trail sections and maps:

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Local contact

River location map
Order map

Dakota, Ramsey, and Washington Counties, east central Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Central Regional Office: (651) 259-5748.

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River character

The water has been rendered undrinkable by sewage and industrial pollution. According to the most recent Minnesota Department of Health Advisory (1989), children under six and women of childbearing age should not eat fish from this stretch of the river. Others may eat no more than one meal a month. Spring runoff normally brings the river to its highest flow of the year. Though some stretches are fast, others are restrained by dams and have little current. During the summer the river is usually more gentle, though winds can be strong.


This stretch of the river begins at the heart of the Twin Cities. The river valley widens where the Minnesota River flows into the Mississippi. Spectacular bluffs line both sides of the river and sometimes rise more than 150 feet above the river. The floodplain is dotted with typical bottom land trees, such as cottonwood, elm, ash, and soft maple. Willows are often thick. Flowers and flowering shrubs are prolific - from the wild plum of spring to the wild sunflowers of fall. The river is a ribbon of nature winding through a frenzy of commerce and development.

Fish and wildlife

Popular game fishing in this stretch are smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleyes, saugers, northern pike, muskie, and panfish. Common rough fish are carp, sheepshead, bullheads, catfish, and dogfish.

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 wildlife found here are those able to coexist with man. Some of the species include woodchucks, beavers, muskrats, raccoons, and deer. Bald eagles, ospreys, red-tailed hawks, and several species of falcons are some of the large birds of prey present. During fall and spring migrations, the Mississippi River is used as a flight corridor by ducks, geese, and many other species of birds. Amid all the commercial barge traffic and industrial development, Pig's Eye Lake supports rookeries of egrets, great blue herons, and black-crowned night herons. These birds often can be seen in the shallow water or perched in trees.


This stretch of the "Great River," which is a loose translation of the Ojibwe name, has been and remains an important water course for humans. Prehistoric "mound builders" used the river. Later the Dakota and the Ojibwe lived along this fought over majestic and powerful waterway. Evidence of mound-builders is found at Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul. The Dakota, too, inhabited the bluffs at Indian Mounds Park and used a large cave there for burials. The cave, in which there was a lake, was observed by Jonathon Carver in 1766. A century later, however, Craver's Cave was blasted and buried to make way for a new transportation system - the train. Just downtown from Indian Mounds Park is Battle Creek Regional Park, which in 1844 was the site of one of the last battles between the Dakota and Ojibwe.