Zumbro River State Water Trail

Zumbro River

Limestone and sandstone bluffs overlook the Zumbro River as it winds through southeastern Minnesota to the Mississippi River. The Zumbro flows through a narrow valley hemmed in by cliffs for much of its path. 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.

River locator map


River segments and maps

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  1. Forks and branches of the Zumbro River
  2. Main stem of the Zumbro River

River character

Paddlers expecting to drift down the river may be taken by surprise, as it has a lively current even at moderate levels. 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.

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

Fish and wildlife

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


  • Bullheads
  • Catfish
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Suckers


  • Fox
  • White-tailed deer


  • Bald eagles
  • Grouse
  • Herons
  • Moorhens
  • Sandhill cranes


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 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.

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