Water Trails

Performance Area: Outdoor Recreation

Number of water trail maintenance events


Why Is This Important?

Minnesota ranks second in the nation in number of licensed boats (810,000 in 2018) and first in boats per capita, with one boat for every six people. Twenty-six percent of registrations are for non-motorized watercraft, and state water trails are important facilities to these users. Recreational boating is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Minnesota. The DNR manages 35 state water trails for canoeing, kayaking, boating and camping. The nation’s first and largest water trails system includes over 4,500 miles of routes, and over 1,500 facilities (public water accesses, campsites, rest areas and portages).

The state water trails system has backlogged maintenance needs, but the DNR is focusing efforts on taking care of what we have.  A well-maintained system typically will result in safer recreational opportunities and higher visitor satisfaction.  Additional benefits include increases to the local and state economy and participation in stewardship efforts.


What Is DNR Doing?

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Woody obstruction removal in progress   Image 1 of 2 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)
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Peaceful rest stop with scenic view   Image 1 of 2 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)

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The DNR and local government unit partners work together to maintain facilities on state water trails.  The DNR also contracts with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota (CCM) to remove woody obstructions, clear portages for safe passage and maintain campsites for those on longer paddling trips.

The DNR provides the public with maps for each state water trail and real time interpretations of river level data for paddling conditions. The DNR formed the Water Trails Citizen Advisory Committee to assist the DNR in improving the system and promoting best management practices.The DNR worked with MNIT to create a GIS mapping application to track maintenance accomplishments and needs. Maintenance crews document conditions before and after their work, and use this information to report accomplishments and future work planning. 


Target: Clear 300 woody obstructions, maintain 50 watercraft campsites, clear 20 portages and maintain 20 carry-in-access sites along state water trails