Minnesota Water Trails

Kayak or canoe more than 4000 miles of Minnesota water trails. Minnesota rivers and streams provide scenic paths through our natural beauty. Early voyageurs and explorers used Minnesota waterways as highway to discovery. The water trails throughout Minnesota have now become part of the state's vast playground.

Minnesota water trail

"Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go." ~Blaise Pascal, 17th-century French Philosopher

Thirty-five designated water trails throughout Minnesota are maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Our water trail system is the oldest in the U.S. and covers more than 4,500 miles.

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The information and links on this page will connect you with the many possible places to go canoeing or kayaking along Minnesota water trails.

The Lake Superior Water Trail hugs 155 miles shoreline along the world's largest freshwater lake. With 10% of all the fresh water on earth, Lake Superior offers a spectacular environment for canoers and sea kayakers. Enjoy the dramatic scenery along the great lake, the harbor towns along the shore and all that Lake Superior has to offer along the Lake Superior water trail.

In the same area, the St. Louis River offers seven miles of rapids through Jay Cooke State Park.

The Superior National Forest has more than 2,000 lakes and rivers that offer a chance to canoe, boat, fish and camp. Visit and play in the areas of Minnesota where early Native Americans, voyageurs, missionaries, loggers and explorers once traveled. Here is the DNR guide to the Superior National Forest.

About a third of the Superior National Forest lies within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Visitors to the BWCAW will find solitude and back country recreation. Permits are required and special regulations apply to visits to this area.

The U.S. Forest Service manages the 1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota.

Other Major Minnesota Water Trails

The Mississippi River runs for about 680 miles through in Minnesota; the entire river is about 2,350 miles long. Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park is the source of the Mississippi River. The river is the most famous Minnesota water trail.

The waterways along the Mississippi River range from calm and quiet scenic rivers to whitewater paddling opportunities through rocky rapids in northeast Minnesota. From it's small beginning in Itasca, the river widens significantly near St. Cloud's Beaver Islands, then continues on to the water of Lake Pepin at Lake City.

The Minnesota River is about 370 miles long. It flows into the Mississippi at Fort Snelling State Park.

Minnesota Water Trails

Minnesota Wild and Scenic Rivers

Some Minnesota rivers have been designated wild and scenic rivers under the Minnesota Wild and Scenic Rivers Act or the National Wild and Scenic River Act. 

These are the rivers with that designation: 

  • St. Croix River on the border with Wisconsin features a 200 foot deep gorge, ice age potholes, and scenic formations on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.
  • Kettle River in Pine County
  • Mississippi River from the city of St. Cloud to the cities of Ramsey and Dayton
  • North Fork of the Crow River in Meeker County
  • Minnesota River from the Lac Qui Parle dam to the city of Franklin
  • Rum River from Ogechie Lake to the city of Anoka
  • Cannon River from the city of Faribault to the Mississippi River
  • Root River in Southeast Minnesota offers calm paddling water that is ideal for families.

Boundary Waters Canoe Trails

Maps and Lists of Water Trails in Minnesota.

More About Minnesota Water Trails

Minnesota's Wild and Scenic Rivers

Water trails in Minnesota
Explore the Great River Road established in 1938 as the national parkway of the Mississippi River. Its route traverses nearly 3,000 miles through 10 states. Read more about the Great River Road in Road Trip USA Great River Road



Related Pages:

Minnesota Hiking Trails

Minnesota Bike Trails

Minnesota ATV Trails

Minnesota Cross Country Ski Trails

Minnesota Snowmobile Trails

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