Snake River State Water Trail

Snake River

The difficulty of the Snake River varies greatly. Water levels can fluctuate greatly in the spring, depending on rainfall. There are some nice campsites along this river. From Silver Star Road to County Road 3, the upper Snake is dotted with rapids and falls ranging from Class I-IV, depending on water levels. From Mora to Pine City, the river is more gentle with very few rapids. Below Cross Lake, the pace picks up again and the river shoots through a series of Class I-III rapids and pools, dropping 136 feet in its last 12 miles. About rapids classes.

Local contact and map

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Aitkin, Kanabec, and Pine Counties, east central Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Moose Lake Area Office: (218) 460-7021.

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River character

Water level generally peaks in April with a less severe peak in June. During low water, canoeing the stretch below Cross Lake may not be possible. The Snake's watershed drains quickly, therefore rapid fluctuations may occur. From north of McGrath to the St. Croix River, the river falls 440 feet, an average of 5.2 feet per mile. However, much of that drop occurs at the upper and lower reaches, leaving the middle stretch as a relatively gentle stream. The river varies in width from 20 to 250 feet.


The upper Snake's banks are heavily forested with birch, aspen, oak, maple, ash, elm and some black spruce, tamarack and white pine. This stretch is dotted with granite outcrops, near the falls. From Mora to Pine City, the river travels through wooded banks that give way to a wide farming valley below Grasston. Below Cross Lake, forested banks as well as sandstone bluffs make this stretch very scenic. Gently rolling hills as well as sharp granite outcrops are all evidences of glacial activity that predominates over the area. Sandstone bluffs are exposed.

Fish and wildlife

Walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and catfish are found in this river. Some of the lakes along the route support panfish populations as well. Lake (Rock) sturgeon are also present-the Snake River is only one of few rivers in Minnesota with lake sturgeon.

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.

White-tailed deer, black bears, gray and red fox, beavers and muskrats as well as an occasional otter can be seen. Bobcats, coyotes, minks, and raccoons are also found in this region. Ruffed grouse, numerous waterfowl and songbirds may be sighted as well.


The river gets its name from the Ojibwe word Kanabec, or snake, naming it after their enemies, the Dakota, who lived upriver, and who they later displaced. As whites settled in the area, the fur trade was important along the Snake. Historical information can be found at the Northwest Company Fur Post site in Pine City. Later, logging became an important industry, with evidence such as the Old Bean logging dam and campsite.

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