The Rum River is rich with history. Once known as the Spirit River by the local Dakota tribe, the Rum River can be quite spirited in certain sections. For centuries, the Chippewa and Sioux tribes would fight for the fertile and spiritual land that borders the river. During the 1800’s, the Rum River was actually made more of wood than water due to the hundreds of thousands of pine tree logs that flowed down all the way to the Twin Cities. In less than 50 years, the century old pine trees in east-central Minnesota were completely harvested and became the foundation of what the Twin Cities is today.
What Makes It Great
The era of traders may be in the past, but the Rum River is still a busy route today. While paddling on its waters, you may see competitive canoe teams race past you; kayakers working their muscles while hard paddling; and inner tubers lazily drift by sipping their cool beverages. Though the Rum River is not the river it once was when the Sioux and first pioneers explored its headwaters, there are still sections with its original rugged character. From Cambridge, the river takes you due south and once the city disappears behind you, the wide mouth Rum River gifts you with long vistas of the forested river valley.
This portion of the river has limited riffles and little to no rapids, so most paddlers enjoy setting down their paddles and letting the river’s current guide them. Some paddlers bring a fishing rod and drop a line, hoping for a nibble. The river offers three popular game fish species: northern pike, smallmouth bass, and walleye. Since the waters are deeper, this means the fish are generally larger as well.
From Cambridge to Anoka, the scenery changes from urban homes to rural farmland to marshland to stands of red and white pine. There is a vast diversity of wildlife that you may see depending on what area you are in. While paddling, you may see white-tailed deer sipping from the waters edge; beavers working on their mud-homes; or the hooting of owls in the tree canopies. Also, do not forget to look to the sky for circling hawks, ospreys, and eagles high above. If you need to stretch your legs or use a restroom along the way, there are many parks you pass by that have hiking trails and water facilities. With enough planning ahead and an adventurous spirit, there are a few available campsites that can turn your trip into a multi-day adventure.
Who is Going to Love It
Rum River is one of Minnesota’s six designated scenic waterways and meanders for 145 miles through some of central Minnesota’s most beautiful landscapes. Appropriate for intermediate and beginners, this wide, deep stretch of water is perfect for a day trip.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The actual water trailhead starts 145 miles north at Lac Mille Lacs, but instead of taking a weeklong canoe trip, the more common option is to paddle the 42-mile section from Cambridge to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi River at Anoka. Most paddlers park their cars at Cambridge West Park, which offers carry-in access.