Pine River State Water Trail

Pine River


The Pine River State Water Trail flows gently through the jack pine forests and quiet water of west central Minnesota, including several lakes such as Norway Lake and the Whitefish chain. The lake and hill country in this area illustrate classic glacial land forms. River width ranges from 25 to 150 feet.  

Local contact and map

River location mapDownload map - Download GEO map - what is a geoPDF?
Cass and Crow Wing counties
Contact Parks and Trails Brainerd office: 218-833-8710

River character

There are only a few rapids, and they are Class I at most water levels.

Water level generally peaks in mid-to late-May and falls during the summer until September and October when the river has an increase, peaking again in mid-October. The river is generally runnable below the Cross Lake Dam throughout the summer.

There are a number of dams that require portaging; please see the map for locations. Caution should be used when there are windy conditions and/or significant boat traffic in the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. It is best to follow the shores.

From Norway Lake to the Mississippi River the Pine drops 85 feet, an average of 2.3 feet per mile. However, large drops occur at the dams at Pine River and Cross Lake. The watershed covers 562 square miles (1,456 square kilometers).


Most of the river flows through essentially undeveloped, natural forested "Jack Pine Hills," interrupted occasionally by swampy areas such as Ding Pot Swamp or open, quiet water such as Norway Lake. The City of Pine River and the Whitefish Chain are the only areas with concentrated development. Most of the river flows through classic glacial lake and hill country. The stream itself is mainly gravel-bottomed, with occasional boulders.

Fish and wildlife

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


  • Walleye
  • Northern pike
  • Large and smallmouth bass
  • Crappies
  • Sunfish
  • Whitefish
  • Lake trout


  • White-tailed deer
  • Beaver
  • Muskrat
  • Mink


  • Various songbirds
  • Various waterfowl
  • Bald eagles
  • Osprey


Dakota Indians lived in the Pine River area until the Ojibwe began moving into the region in the early 1700s. By the early 1800s the Ojibwe controlled lands west of the Mississippi and north of the Crow Wing River, just to the south of the Pine River. Fur traders arrived in the early 1700s, and the Northwest Company became the area's predominant trading company in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Red River routes between St. Paul and Winnipeg opened trade. Lumbering became important in the late 1800s and early 1900s, which gave way to the agricultural economy that exists today. This region is a major resort area in Minnesota.