State Water Trails Summer Newsletter

Water trails newsletterSt. Croix River

Photograph of the St. Croix River near William O'Brien State Park.

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Try paddleboarding at the Minnesota State Fair

paddleboard simulator

Have you gotten a chance to try out Minnesota’s fastest growing watersport? Starting August 25, you have the opportunity to learn about paddleboarding and give it a try for free!

For a second year, the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) State Water Trails program will provide a standup paddleboard simulator outside the DNR building near the fish pond. The simulator will be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m throughout the 12-day event. The simulator is a great opportunity to learn how to maneuver on a paddleboard from knowledgeable volunteers. You’ll also learn about a variety of life jackets, paddling safety, and where to go to rent paddleboards throughout Minnesota.

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Paddling the Minnesota River in a day

River in a day logo

On June 11, nearly 200 people joined together for the second annual effort to paddle the entire Minnesota River State Water Trail in one day. Despite temperatures in the 90’s and a heat index well into the 100’s, the effort was accomplished for the first time with all 318 river miles paddled. Some of the 31 paddling groups present include: Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, Clean up the River Environment (CURE), Minnesota Valley History Learning Center, Minnesota State Parks and Trails, Friends of Minnesota Valley, Carver County Parks among many others.

This water recreation event is one of several promoted by the DNR as part of the National Get Outdoors Day. The intention of this event is not limited to simply promoting outdoor recreation, but also to enhance appreciation of the Minnesota River and connect the greater community with a monumental goal in mind. “It’s exciting to see communities, organizations and people from throughout the region getting involved,” says Alex Watson, DNR staff and event organizer.

Because of the popularity of this effort, River in a Day has become an annual event. Anyone interested in hosting an organized group next year should contact Alex Watson at 507-359-6062 or

More information about this event can be found at the River in a Day website.

Welcoming Minnesota’s newest water trail

Shell Rock Ceremony

The Shell Rock River State Water Trail was officially welcomed in the State Water Trails system on June 25 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Frank Hall Park, Albert Lea. Representatives from various organizations were present including local watershed committee member Bill Howe, Representative Peggy Bennett, Visitors Bureau Executive Director Susie Peterson, Water Trails Advisory Committee member John Helland, and guest keynote speaker Natalie Warren, river corridor steward for the St. Croix River Association.

In 2015, the Minnesota legislature designated the Shell Rock River as a State Water Trail. Bill Howe reminds us that “even though we are excited to now have a designated trail, our work is not done and to reap all of the benefits of this asset, we all need to continually promote, maintain, and develop together.” Undoubtedly, the Shell Rock River has become a treasured recreational amenity to the community and their effort to promote and maintain the water trail is admirable.

The Shell Rock River State Water Trail is the 35th state water trail and is located in southern Minnesota. The trail begins its journey at the headwaters of Fountain Lake in Freeborn County. It travels 20 miles south and passes Myre-Big Island State Park, the City of Glenville, and two wildlife management areas before concluding at the Minnesota-Iowa border. Due to the proximity of Myre-Big Island State Park, the water trail is already equipped with many paddling amenities including canoe/kayak rentals and paddle-in campsites.

More information on the water trail, including a map and description of the river, is available on the water trails page.

For more information about the June 25 ribbon-cutting event, visit the local news page.

River level reporting improvements

River level reporting

Recent upgrades to the river level reporting page makes it easier than ever for water trail users to assess river conditions across the state. Over 120 real-time interpretations are now available on a system-wide basis, allowing paddlers insight on river condition before they head out.

The interpretations can vary from scrapable conditions (might involve having to get out and pull your watercraft through shallow water); to very high conditions (considered extremely dangerous). All interpretations are provided from knowledgeable DNR area field staff and volunteers with the average paddler’s skill level in mind. The intention of this project is not only to provide current river conditions, but to serve as a tool for paddling safety.

“Since weather events can vary significantly throughout Minnesota, paddlers should always consider this tool to verify river level conditions and to make an informed decision,” said Stan Linnell, DNR boat and water safety manager.

For statewide water trail facilities map visit the water trails page.

Operation Ottertail cleans up Otter Tail River

Operation Ottertail

The Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) Order of the Arrow (OA) are a dedicated organization for scouts that best exemplify Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. The OA was busy this summer planning and preparing several restoration projects under the title “Operation Ottertail.” Operation Ottertail took place in NW Minnesota along the Otter Tail River near the City of Frazee.

This project was a cooperative volunteer effort between Order of the Arrow Section C-1A, the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, the City of Frazee, and the DNR. Over a hot weekend in June, participants improved a river access portage, and installed informational kiosks for three sites along the river. In addition to improving the Frazee area water trail, participants had the pleasure of being out on the river while developing stronger community fellowship.

Erik Anthonisen, Acquisition and Development Specialist for the DNR reflected on the event, mentioning “The work weekend was great!  It was warm, but there were plenty of people ready to pitch in where needed. The end result is fantastic."

Thanks to Order of the Arrow Section C-1A for taking leadership by planning between multiple municipal agencies to make impactful improvements for Minnesota’s State Water Trails! 

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Water Trails Photo Uploader

Did you take an awesome photograph during your last outing and want to share it with more than just family and friends? Reach a wider audience by submitting your photo to the DNR's photo uploader. The photo uploader tool can be found on the introductory page of each Water Trail, or you can visit the photo uploader page directly. After reviewing the Community Guidelines, fill out the form, including the Water Trail you were on, when you took the photograph, and a caption.

St. Croix Photo Uploader

This stunning photo of the St. Croix River was submitted via the photo uploader by Perrine Dailey.

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September 30th Deadline: Summer of Service Grant

Young change-makers can now apply for a Youth Service America Summer of Creativity Grant to help make their community greener, safer, smarter, healthier, cleaner, or fairer. Winners receive a $500 grant to help make a lasting, positive change in the world. Click here for more information.

Clean Water Partnership Loan

The Clean Water Partnership (CWP) program is now accepting loan applications from local governmental units interested in funding to lead a nonpoint source pollution control project for protection or restoration of Minnesota’s water bodies. Applications can be made at any time. Currently there is no end date for application. A total of $11 million is available. Click here for more information.

October 1st Deadline: Fund for Wild Nature

The Fund provides small grants for North American companies to save native species and wild ecosystems, with particular emphasis on actions designed to defend threatened wilderness and biological diversity. For more information, visit the Fund for Wild Nature website.

Minnesota DNR Grants:

Water Recreation Cooperative Acquisition and Development Program

This program provides financial and technical assistance to local governments for public boat accesses, campsites, rest areas and portages on the State's rivers and lakes. Eligible projects include acquisition, development and improvement of public boat accesses, parking lots, docks, boat launching ramps, campsites, rest areas and portages. Engineering and design assistance is available. For more information, click here.


State Boat and Water Safety Grant Program

The purpose of this program is to assist in funding boat and water safety programs carried out through the county sheriff's offices. The goal is to reduce deaths, injuries and property damage on state waters. Funds may be used by the county for patrol, enforcement, search and rescue, buoying, removal of hazards to navigation, boat and water safety outreach, inspection of watercraft for rent, lease or hire, watercraft and water accident investigation, and search, rescue or recovery of accident victims. For more information, click here.

Outdoor Recreation Grant Program

The goal of the Outdoor Recreation Grant Program is to increase and enhance outdoor recreation facilities in local and community parks throughout the state. Eligible projects include park acquisition and/or development/redevelopment including, internal park trails, picnic shelters, playgrounds, athletic facilities, boat accesses, fishing piers, swimming beaches and campgrounds. All park projects must meet requirements for perpetual outdoor recreation use. Click here for more information.


Have State Water Trails questions or comments? Let us know about any channel obstructions, report facility conditions, or make map or river gauge corrections by filling out our conditions reporting form.

For any other issues or inquiries, please contact Erik Wrede, DNR Water Trails Coordinator (651-259-5624,

The Minnesota State Water Trails newsletter is published by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the State Water Trails program in the Division of Parks and Trails.

Erika Rivers, Director of the Division of Parks and Trails

Phil Leversedge, Deputy Director of the Division of Parks and Trails

Erik Wrede, Water Trails Coordinator

Nathan Schilling, Editor, CCM Mapping and Outreach Specialist