Mississippi River State Water Trail: St. Cloud to Anoka

Mississippi River Trail

Rolling, forested bluffs and numerous accesses and rest areas make this segment of the Mississippi River popular for day-long canoe trips. The river flows through riffles and across many sandbars, where you can relax and enjoy flat-water paddling. This section of the Mississippi is designated as a wild and scenic river. There are no major rapids. About rapids classes.

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Local contact

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Stearns, Benton, Wright, Sherburne, Hennepin, and Anoka Counties, central Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Central Regional Office: (651) 259-5748.

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River character

The stretch from St. Cloud to Monticello is relatively undeveloped. The Beaver Islands, a group of more than 30 islands packed into a two-mile stretch just downstream from the St. Cloud dam, break the river into a maze of channels. Downstream from the islands, the Mississippi is wide and shallow, flowing swiftly past agricultural land and high sand hills covered with hardwoods and occasional pine stands.


Three power plants mark the stretch between Clearwater and Elk River. More and more homes are seen as the river glides toward Anoka.

Riverside campsites are few, although frequent accesses and nearby highways make day trips convenient. Municipal, county and state parks, as well as the many islands on the river, provide canoeists with rest areas and interesting side trips.

Fish and wildlife

Mississippi smallmouth bass fishing is reputed to be nearly the best in the state. Electrofishing surveys have turned up record-sized fish near Monticello. Anglers occasionally catch five- and six-pound bass.

The St. Cloud-Anoka stretch also harbors walleyes, northern pike and crappies. Muskie larger than 30 pounds have been caught near Clearwater.

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.


This segment of the river has a rich historical background. The Mississippi fascinated many early explorers, including Father Louis Hennepin, Jonathan Carver, Zebulon Pike, J.C. Beltrami and Henry Schoolcraft.

Abundant wildlife attracted trappers, although the fur industry yielded to lumbering as sawmills dotted river banks during the mid-1800s. Steamboats regularly ran between St. Cloud and St. Anthony Falls, carrying passengers and freight upstream and wheat downstream.

Commerce and industry brought more settlers to the river's shores. River development trends have hardly subsided, validating Schoolcraft's observation: "It is difficult in passing it (the river's landscape), to resist the idea that it will, as some future day, sustain a dense population."

So far, much of the Mississippi remains natural. But there are no assurances that the river's wildness will be protected unless citizens work to preserve the "Father of Waters."