THE RED LAKE RIVER CORRIDOR
As a designated trail of regional significance in Northwest Minnesota, the Red Lake River Corridor (RLRC) plays a unique role in Minnesota’s history and outdoor recreation system. Long-term planning has been established by the Joint Powers Board (JPB) since its inception in 2003 and most recently since 2015 in a continued effort to create the 175 mile corridor as a destination with convenient gap-free access and parking, continuity, and connectivity within and between cities.
The RLRC JPB is made up of representatives from the vibrant corridor communities including Thief River Falls, St. Hilaire, Red Lake Falls, Crookston, Fisher and East Grand Forks and aims to highlight regional attractions and historic sites in Northwest Minnesota. The Red lake River covers a wide variety of terrain across several biomes creating a truly unique experience. After leaving the Red Lake, the river flows through a marsh in the Red Lake Indian Reservation, then flows through prairie land, farmland, and grows steeper, becoming large eroding cliffs. Parts of the river are thickly forested and all segments provide a unique experience to connect with one of the few Minnesota state canoe routes in the area.
To date, the RLRC JPB has had successful funding from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission and the Northwest Minnesota Foundation in 2016, 2017, & 2018 with pending funding in 2019.
TRIP PLANNING TIPS
“Leave only footprints; take only photographs, and perhaps a few fish…”
The RLRC JPB continues to increase usage on and along the river and seeks to engage communities through various activities and events. Some safety considerations for continued safe use of river amenities and the best experience on the Red Lake River are as follows:
Travel with a companion or group. Plan your trip with a map and advise someone of your planned department and arrival times.
Most people paddle two to three river miles per hour.
Do not underestimate the power of the wind coming off the prairie. On extremely windy days, it will be difficult to paddle even downstream along portions of the Red Lake River. Keep this in consideration when travelling or planning your trip.
Bring a first aid kit that includes waterproof matches.
You must pack out all trash! If you see trash, pack out what you can to help keep our river clean.
Start your trip with the proper safety equipment:
Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFD) are required by law and should be used in rough waters and heavy rapids.
Paddles often break in rapids; carry a spare.
Don’t overload your canoe.
Never carry more than three people in a canoe.
Snag-ridden streams with overhanging branches are often tricky to navigate. Underwater branches can easily tip a canoe. Watch for branches and rocks.
River levels are important considerations when planning a canoe trip. Both high and low water levels may mean that you draw your canoe more than paddle it. Always be aware of the location of dams along your trip’s course. Portages may be necessary and are common.
Not all sections of this water trail are suitable for motor use. Check with community guidelines and rules.
Register your watercraft. All watercrafts more than 9 feet in length, including non-motorized canoes and kayaks, must be registered in Minnesota or your state of residence.
Rest Areas & Camping Sites
Public rest areas are available along the route to rest, picnic, and explore.
Camp only in designated campsites, or be sure to contact any land owner to ask permission to access/camp their land.
Bring drinking water. It is only available at a limited number of rest areas. Drinking river water is not recommended, but if you do, it must be treated.
Respect private property. Stop only at designated sites unless you have land-owner permission; much of the shoreland is private property.
Be sanitary; use designated toilet facilities or bury human waste away from the river.
Always research the water levels of the river prior to your departure. Also, have a look at flood forecasts. Real time data from river gauging stations can be found at the following sites:
Please click here to see maps of various segments along the river.
DISCOVER NORTHWEST MINNESOTA ON THE RED LAKE RIVER
As a tributary of the Red River of the North, canoeing the river is an enjoyable experience for beginners, intermediate, and experienced canoers and kayaks in addition the numerous recreational activities and amenities available in the corridor communities. See links for additional information on the region and state of Minnesota:
Minnesota DNR State Water Trail - Find statewide water trail information.
Boating Guide - A summary of Minnesota boating laws and regulations.
Explore Minnesota - Places to stay, things to do, where to go, dining, festival and events across Minnesota.
National Weather Service Radar in Grand Forks - Current weather radar.
Northwest Regional Development Commission - Supplement efforts by local units of government to maintain our economic strength and improve the quality of life in Northwest Minnesota.
Red Lake Watershed - The regional governmental unit responsible for managing and protecting the water resources of the Red Lake River watershed (5,990 square miles including all or part of ten Minnesota counties).
NEWS & PROJECTS
Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission
Recent success in funding applications have led to great enthusiasm throughout the region and increased use on the Red Lake River Corridor in an effort to create a water trail experience that is second to none in Minnesota and the region. The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission recommended funding in 2018 ($200,786) and 2019 ($1,491,881). These amounts were in addition to $20,000 in funding from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation for grant writing and purchasing of signage for the water trail. Local communities provided matching funds for all of these applications at approximately 25% for each application.
The RLRC project seeks to continue to increase the use of the river by residents and visitors resulting in better quality of life, better health outcomes, and more equitable access to outdoor recreational opportunities. Secondly, the project strives to increase tourism, contributing to the local economies and improving overall economic development in the region. The project continues to provide better physical accessibility to the river and improve stewardship of public lands and waters as a result of a strong corridor identity and education.
This work has been made possible through the support of the University of Minnesota Extension, Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, which has been instrumental in the planning process, convening and grant writing for the Joint Powers Board.
Red Lake River Enhancement Project
This grant-funded project in partnership with the Center for Changing Landscapes generated a number of results in an effort to protect and restore the river’s natural corridor to enhance water quality and fish and wildlife habitat to provide educational, recreational and economic opportunities. The specific goal was to produce culturally and environmentally sensitive planning and design documents for boat access points, city and county parkland and trails, and a geographic information system focusing on a 175-mile-wide corridor from Lower Red Lake to East Grand Forks. Links to this plan can be found here.
Red Lake River WRAPS
The Red Lake River Watershed Restoration and Protection (WRAP) project is a watershed wide assessment of the water quality, biotic integrity (fish, aquatic macroinvertebrates), and stream channel stability in the Red Lake River and its major tributaries. The primary goal of the project is the completion of a watershed-based study that will provide a watershed restoration and protection strategy (WRAPS) report, protection plans, and TMDL reports (restoration plans) for impaired waterways and lakes in the watershed. As of Fall 2016, data collection was completed. Many of the key components of the WRAPS and TMDL reports have also been completed such as trend analysis, stressor identification, TMDL calculations, updates water quality assessment information, a list of restoration and protection strategies, and HSPF modeling results. Visit the RLR WRAPS website for more information.
Invasive species are species that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Minnesota’s natural resources are threatened by a number of invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermillfoil, common buckthorn, and emerald ash borer. Invasive species can occur on land or in the water. The Department of Natural Resources works to help prevent the spread and promote the management of invasive species.
Red Lake River Rendezvous
The Rendezvous Tour celebrated its 40th anniversary of the Red Lake River being designated as an official MnDNR canoe rout, the only such route in northwestern Minnesota, in May-June 2007. The diverse historical and natural features of the Red Lake River continues to be celebrated through such events that connect with communities along the route to offer greetings, celebrations, meals, and special events.
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U of MN Extension NW Regional Office
510 Co. Rd. 71
Crookston, MN 56716