The Straight River flows through the farmland of southeastern Minnesota, meandering approximately 30 miles north from Owatonna to Faribault, where it joins the Cannon River. Paddling on the river is best during the spring and early summer, while water levels are higher. There are occasional shallow riffles, and there is one set of class III rapids at Clinton Falls and one set of class II rapids near Faribault. About rapids classes.
Water levels in the Straight River seem to have finally stabilized after a spring and summer of above average rainfall. Boaters planning to float/paddle the Straight should be aware that a lot of woody debris remains in the channel due to the tornadoes that struck the area last fall and the heavy spring/summer rains and windstorms. The channel itself has changed course in the River Bend Nature Center stretch near Faribault, creating an oxbow with fast moving water in the cutoff channel. Crews have been out removing navigation hazards but boaters should be aware that conditions can change quickly, especially as water levels rise. Be sure to check the river level reports or contact one of the DNR offices to get up-to-date information.
(Updated August 22, 2019)
Local contact and map
Steele and Rice Counties, southeastern Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Southern Regional Office: (507) 359-6067.
The Straight varies from 30 to 80 feet wide and from 1 to 4 feet deep. Erosion is common along the low grassy banks. Heavy deposits of sediment that build up on the riverbed are swept away during high spring flow. Canoeing on the Straight is best during the spring and early summer; by July the river may be too low for enjoyable river travel.
Away from these cities and the small rural communities situated on its banks, the Straight is a narrow, intimate stream. Fields, pastures and farm buildings are screened from the river by a narrow strip of trees on either bank. The trees, predominantly elm, willow, poplar and maple, reach out over the stream to form a leafy canopy.
Fish and wildlife
Fish caught in the river include northern pike, crappies, smallmouth bass and carp.
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 along the Straight, typical of southeastern Minnesota, includes deer, rabbits, squirrels and other small mammals. Songbirds and waterfowl are especially plentiful during spring and fall migrations.
Straight may seem an inappropriate name for this twisting, turning stream. The river's name is actually a loose translation of "Owatonna," a Dakota Indian word meaning morally strong traders. Faribault was named for its founder, fur trader Alexander Faribault, who established a trading post here in 1828. In the 1820s Minnesota was dotted with fur trading posts, most controlled by the American Fur Company. Their business was considerable. In a single year Faribault's trade included 1,100 minks, 2,050 pounds of deerskins and 39,080 muskrats. During the 19th century the Straight River area was an important milling center. The Clinton Mills in Clinton Falls ground flour and feed for eight counties. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1896. The Walcott Mills (river mile 9.9), which burned down in 1895, is now marked only by the flume where the wheel turned.