Mississippi National River & Recreation Area


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


Seasonality / Weather

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.



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 Transport: 

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