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The Crow Wing River rises in a chain of 10 lakes in southern Hubbard County, Minnesota and flows southeast about 90 miles before joining the Mississippi River at Crow Wing State Park, northwest of Little Falls, Minnesota. Its name is a loose translation from the Ojibwe language Gaagaagiwigwani-ziibi (Raven-feather River). A wing-shaped island at its mouth accounts for the river's name. Because of its many campsites and its undeveloped shores, the Crow Wing River is one of the state's best "wilderness" routes for family canoeists.

The Crow Wing river

The Crow Wing's clear waters are rarely interrupted by rapids and although the river is seldom more than three feet deep, it is nearly always deep enough for canoeing.

Contents

Landscape

Much of the river is flanked by thick forests. For its first 20 miles the river cuts through low marshy lands. The river broadens and the banks increase in height as it flows southward. Jack pine forest has all but replaced the virgin white and red pine forests on the sandy plains of northern Wadena County, Minnesota. Hazel, blueberries, sweet fern, bearberry, wintergreen, bracken and reindeer moss provide lush ground cover. The Crow Wing's lower reaches are flanked by a river bottom forest of elm, ash, cottonwood, box elder, oak, basswood, maple, willow and aspen. Grasslands, bogs and swamps are scattered throughout the river corridor.

Fish and wildlife

Due to its sandy bottom, limited cover and dearth of deep pools, the Crow Wing is not a good game fish river. Northern redhorse and white sucker, both rough fish, are the river's most common species.

The diversity of vegetation along the river supports a wide variety of wildlife. Canoeists may see turtles, otters, muskrats, beavers, mink, racoons, gophers, chipmunks, squirrels and rabbit. Bobcats and a small number of black bears also inhabit the river area. It is not unusual to even see eagles fishing from the river.

Game species include white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock and various waterfowl. The Crow Wing supports only a limited number of waterfowl because of sparse aquatic vegetation and a lack of backwater areas.

Cultural Information

The Dakota Indians held the Crow Wing region until the Ojibwe began moving westward into the region in the early 1700s. By the early 1800s the Ojibwe controlled lands west of the Mississippi and north of the Crow Wing. Signs of Native American presence will mark the river corridor with Native American burial mounds at several sites along the river, including a site at river mile 61.

Fur traders entered the region in the early 1700s. In 1792 the North West Company established the Wadena Trading Post on the west bluff of the river at its junction with the Partridge River. There was considerable overland trade in the area by the 1800s. The Old Otter Tail Trail crossed the river near the Wadena post and was the main transportation route between St. Paul and Fort Garry in Winnipeg.

Dense forests near the river made Nimrod, Minnesota an important lumbering center from the 1870s to the early 1900s. By the turn of the century most of the virgin timber had been cleared and the economy came to depend on agriculture. The river continues to attract a small, but devoted number of visitors, ranging from regional outdoor enthusiasts from late spring to Native Americans who harvest wild rice growing along the river in the autumn.

See also

References

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