This 11-mile marked paddling trail near Winona, MN, traverses broad pools, islands, braided channels, and extensive bottomland forest.
Designated in 2012
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Paddling on the Mississippi River is quite enticing but also challenging. Refuge Staff often hear, "Will I get lost in the backwater sloughs? How will I find my way out?" This 11.2-mile challenging trail is posted for counter-clockwise travel. It is best for stronger, experienced paddlers, as there is a lot of upstream paddling and the current can be strong. During low water, rock obstructions are exposed and paddlers may need to portage. Trail users also may wish to enter and explore the slow/no wake and electric motor areas.
The canoe trail on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge offers an experience to explore off the main commercial navigation channel. The slower current, lotus beds and side channels offer an experience reminiscent of the days of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The slower pace allows a paddler to view bald eagles soaring and resting in cottonwoods along the shore. Trail users traveling in spring and fall experience bird migration. Early spring allows paddling before the water plants grow.
The hot summers along the Mississippi means hardy paddlers will need to push canoes or kayaks through the beds of lotus. Every season offers the river paddler an experience to immerse themselves in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, which stretches along the Mississippi River and includes Districts in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
The Refuge is part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which also includes Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa.
Established in 1924, the 240,000-acre Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge covers 261 miles of the River valley from Wabasha, Minnesota, to Rock Island, Illinois. The Refuge is divided into four districts, the Savanna District, the Winona District, the McGregor District, and the La Crosse District.
The Refuge includes broad pools, islands, braided channels, extensive bottomland forest, floodplain marshes and occasional sand prairie. These habitats are critical to mammals, waterfowl, songbirds and raptors, amphibians and reptiles. More than 250 bald eagle nests and a yearly average of 15 active heron colonies with a total of 5,000 nests exist on the Refuge. The Refuge and the River support 119 fish species that support a strong commercial and recreational fishery.
The trail is part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, near Winona, MN. From Winona, take the River Road to Prairie Island Campground, travel a half mile to boat landing.
Upper Mississippi River Nat Wildlife & Fish Refuge Winona District 51 East 4th Street, Room 203, Winona, MN 55987 (507) 457-3473 www.fws.gov/midwest/uppermississippiriver