Crow River State Water Trail: North Fork

North Fork Crow River

The river flows southeast from Lake Koronis for about 125 miles to the Mississippi River at Dayton. The roughly 40 mile stretch from upstream of Rockford to the Mississippi is generally the best for canoeing. Once flanked by a thick forest of maple, basswood, elm, and other hardwoods, the river is now bordered by agriculture, prairie and hardwood vegetation. This river is generally smooth, with a few class I rapids in the Forest City area.

Local contact and map

North Fork Crow River location mapDownload map 
Kandiyohi, Stearns, Hennepin, Meeker and Wright counties
Contact Parks and Trails central regional office: 651-259-5841

River character

The North Fork is small, shallow and fairly clean from the Lake Koronis Spillway to Kingston. A two-mile stretch of the river below Lake Koronis has been channelized. River obstructions in this reach make canoeing difficult, particularly in high water. Although rapids are not difficult, hidden trees can tip canoes and overhanging branches may strike canoeists. While unlawful, river neighbors sometimes string fences across the river. Canoeists need to be watchful for these obstructions and should notify the DNR. The upper reaches of the North Fork may be impassable in low water. 

The river deepens and widens downstream from Kingston, meandering in a floodplain that is sometimes more than a mile wide. Rapids are few and easy, although snags may cause problems. The river is even broader and deeper as the North and South forks join near Rockford. The lower river is used extensively for day trips. The mills still stand at river mile 18 and 10.5 where dams were located in the past.


The Crow River, North Fork flows southeast from Lake Koronis for about 125 miles until it joins the Mississippi River at Dayton. The roughly 40 mile stretch from upstream of Rockford to the Mississippi is considered to be the the best for canoeing. Upstream from Buffalo you will encounter more challenging paddling due to sandy, erodible banks and fast-growing silver maples that frequently fall and block the river. In this stretch you may see more wildlife, but you have to work harder to get around numerous obstacles.

Fish and wildlife

Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory.

The Crow River was named by the Ojibwe for the bird they called the "marauder of newly planted corn." Considered a sacred hunting ground by the Indians, the forest later attracted white trappers. Today there is still abundant fish and wildlife in the river corridor.


The Crow River, North Fork passes several archaeological sites, although none have been thoroughly studied. Two sites near Lake Koronis have a total of 43 mounds. The North Fork first experienced white settlement in 1851, with people building their homes near the site of Dayton. Several lumber mills operated along the river as the forest was cleared for agriculture. Steamboats were the only means of hauling passengers and freight during the early 1850's. Paddle-wheel boats brought provisions from St. Anthony Falls to Dayton where the goods were transferred to rowboats and carried up the river. Rowboats regularly ran supplies from Dayton to Rockford for about two years. In May 1851, when the river was high, the steamboat, "Governor Ramsey" paddled to Rockford, farther upstream than any other steamboats had traveled.