Mississippi National River & Recreation Area

Quick Facts

Mississippi National River & Recreation Area


(651) 290-4160

Map Directions

Things To Do


Used by Native Americans for trade, food, and water long before Europeans visited the "New World," the Mississippi River and its watershed has long been a major contributor to the ecology, culture, politics and economy of the North American continent.

To acknowledge this fact, Congress established the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in 1988. The park's boundaries encompass about 54,000 acres and 72 miles of river. These 72 miles are a significant and representative stretch of the Mississippi. They contain the only gorge and waterfall on the main course of the entire 2,350 miles of river. Named St. Anthony Falls in 1680, the falls were later used to generate power for logging, flour milling, and electricity for a growing population. Less than ten miles away, the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers was an early outpost for the American military and an important crossroads for fur traders. Further downstream, St. Paul marked the upper end of steamboat navigation and was the jumping off place for tens of thousands of settlers. The Vermillion River bottoms are excellent examples of floodplain forest ecology.

This recreation area has numerous smaller destinations within it, including parks, falls, locks and dams, bridges, and overlooks. From visitor centers to trails, from industrial centers to Mississippi River backwaters, Mississippi National River and Recreation has a bit of something for everyone. The

Map of Mississippi

Latitude, Longitude: 44.801710, -93.007560



  • Boating

    The Mississippi River can often be overlooked in the land of 10,000 lakes. Yet the 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area provides a unique outdoor experience that is as diverse as the historic, cultural and natural locations it flows through.

    Launch from the confluence of the Crow and Mississippi River and enjoy the quiet natural surroundings as you float downstream to the Coon Rapids Dam. The wildlife and natural features along this 12.7 river mile stretch of the Mississippi River are a unique journey that must be experienced to truly enjoy. Both boat launches offer parking, restrooms and are handicapped accessible.

    Located at river mile 829.5, Lion's Levee Park offers paddlers a boat launch, picnic and grilling area and lighted parking lots. The boat launch is handicapped accessible and is open from 4 a.m. until 11 p.m.

  • Bird Watching

    Part of one of the most important migratory flyways in North America, the Mississippi River provides a 2350-mile continuous watercourse from southern wintering areas to northern nesting areas. Situated in the middle of a densely populated urban area, the Mississippi supports a surprising variety of environments for a diverse population of birds and wildlife. There are many places within the recreation area to watch for birds and wildlife, including Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, Coon Rapids Dam, Fort Snelling State Park, and the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge.

  • Bicycling

    There are several opportunities available for bicycling. Visitors can ride a portion of the 3,000 mile long Mississippi River Trail or take advantage of a multitude trails in nearby state or regional parks.

  • Fishing

    Boat boat and shoreline fishing opportunities abound within Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The Mississippi River in the northern suburbs and further north is a nationally recognized smallmouth bass fishery with both good numbers and size of fish. Walleyes flourish below Lock and Dam 1. Floodplain lakes contain trout, panfish, northern pike, and largemouth bass.

  • Hiking

    Suggested walks, generally shorter than hikes and on hard-surfaced trails, include the 1.5-mile Mississippi River Visitor Center Walking Tour, Mill Ruins Park, Stone Arch Bridge, Water Power Park and Minnehaha Regional Park. Suggest Hikes include the Winchell Trail and various Scientific and Natural Areas.

  • Hunting

    Hunting opportunities within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area are somewhat limited as much of the park lies within a heavily populated metropolitan area, but opportunities do exist. Check with park officials for information on good hunting locations and organized hunts.

  • Picnicking

    Several parks along the river boast outstanding picnicking spots. Hidden Falls Regional Park was voted "Best Picnic Spot" by city Pages. Fort Snelling State Park has two fully accessible picnic shelters.

  • Water Sports

    Many of the recreational area's units allow for swimming, and some have wading pools.

  • Winter Sports

    Many consider winter to be an "off-season." But for those that love the cold this is the time when the trails are at their most peaceful, eagles trace lazy circles in blue skies, and animal tracks write eloquent stories in the snow. Park goers bring skis and snowshoes, ice fishing poles and ice augers.


Minnesota is known for its extremes in temperature. Winter days can sometimes get no warmer that -10 degrees F. Summer days can reach 100 degrees F. But it is a rare day that people are kept indoors because of the weather. A wide variety of recreational opportunities can be found throughout the park in any season. Plan to dress in layers, and be prepared for mosquitoes during the warm seasons.

Park Partners

Jefferson National Parks Association

JNPA provides quality educational products and related services that enrich public understanding and appreciation of America's national parks, public lands, and historic places.

(314) 678-1553



Interstates 35 and 94 meet in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. Locally, county and state highways as well as local streets all offer ways to get to the river for either a view from above or to a local park or visitor center.


The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport is the hub airport for Northwest Airlines, but is also served by other airlines including Sun Country, Delta, Frontier and others.

Public Transportation

City buses provide transportation within the corridor. Service is especially convenient to activities located near near the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Phone Numbers


(651) 290-4160