Pine River State Water Trail

Pine River

The Pine River flows gently through jack pine forests and quiet water. The lake and hill country in this area illustrate classic glacial landforms. The river flows through several lakes, including Norway Lake and the Whitefish chain. River width ranges from 25 to 150 feet. There are only a few rapids, and they are Class I at most water levels. About rapids classes.

Visitor alert

Public Water Access Closure

Half Moon Landing on the Mississippi River is closed until further notice. This Public Water Access is about 8 miles downstream from the confluence of the Pine River and Mississippi, on the right hand side.

(Updated Aug. 7, 2018)

Local contact and map

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Cass and Crow Wing Counties, north central Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Brainerd Area Office: (218) 833-8710.

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River character

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 where concentrated development occurs. Lake and hill country, through which most of the river flows, illustrates classic glacial landforms. The stream itself is mainly gravel bottomed with occasional boulders.

Fish and wildlife

A great diversity of fish species are found along the route, they include walleye, northern pike, bass, crappies, sunfish and whitefish in the Whitefish Chain. There are northern pike, walleye, large and smallmouth bass in the lower Pine River below Cross Lake. Lake trout may also be caught in Big Trout Lake on the northeast end of the Whitefish Chain.

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.

Wildlife includes white-tailed deer, beaver, muskrat and mink. Along the river there are various songbirds and waterfowl and an occasional bald eagle or 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. Fur traders began entering the region in the early 1700s, exploiting the fur bearing species of the area. The Northwest Company was the predominant trading company in the area during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Red River routes that went through the area, between St. Paul and Winnipeg, started to open trade in the area. Lumbering became important in the late 1800s and early 1900s, which gave way to an agricultural economy that exists today. Today this region is a major resort area in Minnesota.