For paddlers looking for wilderness without rapids, the Crow Wing River in north central Minnesota is shallow and gentle, and offers landscapes of forests, marshes, grasslands, and bogs. The 90-mile river flows southeast from southern Hubbard County and joins the Mississippi River at Crow Wing State Park south of Brainerd. A detailed DNR river map shows access points, campsites, fishing piers, and other resources.
Outfitters in Menahga, Sebeka, and Brainerd rent canoes and kayaks and offer advice on where and when to go on your river trip. They also transport people, cars, canoes, and kayaks to starting or ending points. The Crow Wing River is rich in wildlife and history. Canoeists may see turtles, otters, beavers, mink, eagles, great blue herons, and perhaps bobcats or black bears. Fishing is best at the lower river's Pillager Dam and Sylvan Dam reservoir areas, which are reached by easy portage trails.
Dakota and Ojibwe Indians were the first inhabitants of the Crow Wing region, and Indian burial mounds are found at several sites along the river, including mile 61 near Nimrod. Today, American Indians harvest wild rice growing along the river each fall. Traces of 18th-century fur trappers' trails can still be seen along the river. Check the DNR website for more info on the Crow Wing River and other watertrails.