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Days
<1
Motors Allowed?
Yes
Difficulty
Easy / Class A
Distance
11.00 mi (17.70 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Ottertail River is a 192-mile long river in Central Minnesota. Of the 192 miles,157 miles of the river have been dedicated as a trail to be enjoyed by paddlers. The river trail takes you through deciduous and coniferous forest and then onto prairie grasslands, and it goes through many lakes on it's journey through Minnesota, mainly in the Ottertail County area. Eventually the river meets up with Bois de Sioux River in Breckenridge, Minnesota and turns into the Red River of the north.

This portion of the river can easily be done in a day because the current is fairly strong in the spring when water levels are fairly high. Start at the Rice Lake boat ramp and head south with the current to where the river begins again, and then follow it through the quintessential Minnesota backdrop. A beaver dam mound sits at the mouth of the river and marks the start of the journey. After a mile you reach the first of many underpasses. This is a small one that sets up for the next one. You'll reach the Highway 10 underpass, which is essentially two long tunnels in succession. The first takes you underneath the highway itself, and the other goes under the adjacent railroad. The current inside of these picks up quite quickly, so be aware of that going in. There are two of each tunnel to choose from as you enter, so make sure that you look for any log jams in the middle of the tunnels so you can decide which is safer. If you get into a log jam, the current is strong enough to lodge your watercraft sideways in the tunnel, making a rescue your only option. 

Once through the tunnel, the river quiets down and you'll weave through beautiful and quiet river scenery. The water is clear, sandy, and shallow in a lot of places, making fish spotting very easy for the fisherman. In some places it is wise to stay in the middle of the river to avoid getting bogged down in water that is only a few inches deep. Several miles and a few more short underpasses later, the sandy bottom will start to disappear as you approach Mud Lake, and the bottom of the river becomes deceptively deep. Although it may only appear to be a foot or so in depth, the bottom becomes a thin mud that is several feet deep, making it difficult to right your kayak if it overturns. Once on Mud Lake, paddle south for another mile to reach the entrance to Little Pine Lake. Little Pine is a very popular lake in Central Minnesota with a lot of traffic. Luckily right at the exit of the river into Little Pine is a locally famous pizza joint named Zorbaz. It is a welcome site to relax in the shade, refuel, and meet up with a shuttle car that you must arrange yourself. 

This route is not named anything specific and can be modified by anyone as the 157-mile stretch of the river can result in endless route opportunites. This just happens to be a perfect day trip with a great ending point to enjoy a beer and a slice afterwards.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Pros

Current. Clear water. Fishing. Wildlife.

Cons

Underpasses may be blocked by logs. Few services on the route.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)

46.669921378697694, -95.69192145285933

Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

46.625766809063244,-95.57415400888965

Water Temperature

68.00 °F (20.00 °C)

Features

Family friendly
Boat ramp(s)
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Bird watching
Fishing

Trail type

Shuttle

Access

Vehicle

Typically multi-day

No

Shuttle required

Yes

Site characteristics: Water

River

Portage required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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