Zumbro River State Water Trail

Zumbro River

Zumbro River location mapLimestone and sandstone bluffs overlook the Zumbro River as it winds through southeastern Minnesota to the Mississippi River. The Zumbro flows through a valley hemmed in by cliffs for much of its path. Paddlers expecting to drift down the Zumbro may be taken by surprise. The river has a lively current even at moderate levels, so be sure to avoid snags. 

Visitor alert

Reads Park in Milleville is closed indefinitely as a public water access due to significant damage by multiple flood events. The park now operates as a private campground.
(Updated September 22, 2020)

Water trail segments and maps

Map 1 - Forks and branches of the Zumbro River

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About this segment

Be aware of water levels below the Rochester power dam. The river level may rise dramatically and dangerously after rainstorms, when flash floods are likely to occur.

Recommended day trip

Green Bridge to Zumbro Falls

  • Put-in location: river mile 55.8
  • Take-out location: river mile 46.1
  • Length: 9.7 river miles

Paddle through a deep valley with high hills and rocky bluffs at the edge of the flood plain. The current is lively and races through frequent but easy rapids. Follow the river as it winds past wooded bluffs. Bring your fishing pole, as the fishing can be excellent along this stretch.

Explore on shore

Goodhue Pioneer State Trail
River mile 72

Hike or bike over five miles of paved trail that winds north of the city of Zumbrota.

Douglas State Trail
River mile 79

Hike or bike over 12 miles of flat, paved trail through rural scenery and rich agricultural land. The trail begins in northwestern Rochester, travels through the small town of Douglas and ends in Pine Island.

Nearest medical facility

Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester
507-284-2511

Olmsted Medical Clinic, 210 Ninth Street SE, Rochester
507-288-3443

Olmsted Medical Clinic, 111 County Road 11 NW, Pine Island
507-356-4929

Map 2 - Main stem of the Zumbro River

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About this segment

From Theilman to the river’s mouth, the valley widens with farmland beyond the banks.

Be aware that there are no campsites or rest areas in the ecologically sensitive Whitewater Wildlife Management Area of the Whitewater River.

Recommended day trip

Zumbro Falls to Hammond

  • Put-in location: river mile 46
  • Take-out location: river mile 39
  • Length: 7 river miles

Expect a lively current with easy riffles. The highway follows the river here. As you travel downriver, the valley grows deeper with limestone cliffs and tall hilltops. Bring your fishing gear for some excellent fishing.

Explore on shore

Kruger Forest Management Area
River mile 12

Hike on multi-use trails, camp (fee required) or enjoy picnic tables not far from the water in this unit of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest.

Zumbro Bottoms Management Unit (North)
River mile 15

You’ll find multi-use trails and several canoe-in campsites (fee required) in this unit of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest.

Nearest medical facility

Olmsted Medical Clinic, 20 2nd Ave NE, Plainview
Tel. 507-534-3885

River character

French fur traders dubbed this Rivere des Embarras, or River of Difficulties, for the many snags that hindered their canoes. Widespread erosion continues to cause snags today, and has also obliterated a small waterfall which was once located just above the town of Zumbro Falls. At the site of the falls the river now flows rapidly over a sandstone rubble bed.

A stretch of mild rapids at Jarrett presents a rocky obstacle course during low water. 

The river's level may also rise dramatically and dangerously after rainstorms, producing flash floods. When flash floods are likely to occur, there is generally a four-hour lag between storm and flood.

Landscape

Limestone and sandstone bluffs overlook the Zumbro River as it winds through southeastern Minnesota to the Mississippi. The Zumbro flows through a deep narrow valley hemmed in by rocky cliffs for much of its length below the Rochester power dam (river mile 60). Below Theilman to the river's mouth, the valley widens considerably and farmland stretches away from the banks. Woods and marshes along the river offer a gentle contrast to the striking bluffs. Trees in the river valley are predominantly elm, box elder, willow and cottonwood, with some walnut.

Fish and wildlife

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

Fish

  • Bullheads
  • Catfish
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Suckers

Wildlife

  • Fox
  • White-tailed deer

Birds

  • Bald eagles
  • Grouse
  • Herons
  • Moorhens
  • Sandhill cranees

History

This area served as a gateway for cultures moving north. The "Mississippian Tradition," a striking example of cultural development, moved northward about A.D. 900 to 1000. The people farmed the fertile bottom land and built villages on terraces above the rivers. The French claimed the area in the 1640's, and in 1803 the United States bought it from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The native Dakota Indians continued to inhabit the land until the 1852 Treaty of Traverse de Sioux forced their removal, after which European immigrants cleared hardwood stands and cultivated fields. Poor land management led to catastrophic erosion, which gradually led the people of southeastern Minnesota to initiate wiser use of the land. The state established the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest to assist in restoring the area and promote sustainable land use.

Local contacts 

DNR Region 3 Headquarters, 3555 9th Street NW, Ste 350, Rochester, MN 
507-206-2847

Kruger Forest and Zumbro Bottoms Management Units, c/o Frontenac State Park, Frontenac, MN
651-345-3401

Goodhue, Dodge, Wabasha and Olmsted counties