Explore the river
Where do FMR staff visit and explore our metro Mississippi River? We've featured 30 of our favorite places on this map. Be sure to check out the links to guides curated by experience and region below.
What do you want to do?
When the snow melts, cold spring waters trickle down our yards, driveways and gutters, ultimately swiftening our creeks, swelling our rivers and making our waterfalls roar. We suggest visiting two waterfalls — one famous, one not so much, during their spring peak:
• Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis
• Vermillion Falls, Hastings
Enjoy the popping colors and buzzing pollinators in a few of our favorite metro prairies. Spanning from Elk River to North Minneapolis to Hastings, they're located in many of our favorite parks and natural areas. Learn more about these prairies that FMR has helped protect and restore:
• Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Cottage Grove
• Sand Coulee SNA, Hastings
• Ole Olson Park, North Minneapolis
• Pine Bend Bluffs SNA, Inver Grove Heights
• River Oaks Park, Cottage Grove
• Spring Lake Park Preserve – Archery Trail, Rosemount
• Houlton Conservation Area, Elk River (our largest prairie restoration yet)
While there are many tasty restaurants and dining options near the Mississippi, there are only a few right beside the Mississippi. Here are our favorite spots to grab a cocktail (or mocktail) and watch the river flow by:
• Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge, Minneapolis
• Red River Kitchen at City House, St. Paul
• Mississippi River Pub, Inver Grove Heights
Want to see the river wend its way through floodplain forest, past our Twin Cities or through bluff country? Check out our list of stunning river overlooks:
• Pine Bend Scientific and Natural Area, Inver Grove Heights
• River Oaks Park, Cottage Grove
• Indian Mounds Regional Park, St. Paul
• Ole Olson Park, Minneapolis
Over its entire journey from Itasca headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi collects 7,000 tributaries. Here are two confluences you can visit in the metro where major rivers alter our Mississippi and help make it the mighty river it is:
• Where the Minnesota River meets the Mississippi, St. Paul
• Where the St. Croix River meets the Mississippi, Hastings
The reach of the river before Hastings is home to an array of islands and coves. Read about our staff's favorite places to fish and canoe:
• Grey Cloud Island near Cottage Grove
• Crystal Cove, St. Paul Park
Where do you want to explore?
The Minneapolis riverfront north of St. Anthony Falls is an interesting juxtaposition of the natural, urban and industrial. Here you can enjoy bike and pedestrian trails, or rent a kayak to see a heron rookery, restored prairie, riverfront raingarden parks and sculptures, as well as industrial relics. You'll also want to visit often over the next decade to experience the changing riverfront, as more industrial sites are converted into public parklands.
The river is central to Minnesota's largest city. Downtown Minneapolis glows above the Mississippi at the end of the Stone Arch Bridge. The Mill District near St. Anthony Falls earned Minneapolis its historical title of “Flour Milling Capital of the World." And Nicollet Island is both a hideaway and a hub, partially naturalized and connected by trails and bridges.
With limestone bluffs, natural springs, oak savanna and hardwood forests, the Mississippi River Gorge is a national treasure in our midst. Carved by a retreating Saint Anthony Falls over the course of 10,000 years, the river gorge spans from roughly downtown Minneapolis to just west of downtown St. Paul and is the only gorge the length of the entire Mississippi River.
Although lesser-known, the St. Paul riverfront on the west (or south) side of the river is home to miles of riverfront parkland and trails, including dramatic river bluff views, historic sites, massive cottonwoods and floodplain forest.
There are countless more places to explore along this stretch of the Mississippi River. To learn more about these places and related projects, opportunities and river news, subscribe to our e-newsletter, Mississippi Messages.