3 Underrated Twin Cities Urban Paddling Spots

Not up for a river trip? There are still plenty of options to get out on the water and feel like you’re getting out of town
Snelling Lake

Photo by Tony Webster/Flickr

Everybody in the Twin Cities knows about our famous city lakes and their fabulous skyline views but nobody talks about the floodplain lakes. They are an ideal destination for those of us who would rather not look at skylines.

Pickerel Lake

Located in Lilydale Regional Park, this shallow, 108-acre oxbow lake lies in the Mississippi River floodplain. There are no homes here, so it retains a wild feeling. There is a large cliff on the east side of the lake, which creates some unusual visual drama. The fishing can be good. In flood years, riverine fish species from the Mississippi make their way into the waters, so anglers occasionally catch channel catfish.

Crosby Lake

This 72-acre floodplain lake, located in St. Paul’s Crosby Farm Regional Park, is another undeveloped gem. If you’re reasonably fit, you can drag your canoe down to the water from a parking lot on Shepard Road. You’ll see plenty of birds here. The surrounding forest consists largely of dying ash trees, so keep your eyes peeled for pileated woodpeckers, which feed on the emerald ash borer. You’ll want to check out the lake’s two enormous beaver lodges.

Snelling Lake

This 102-acre lake is located in Fort Snelling State Park, so you’ll need to purchase a park pass. There are no motorized vehicles allowed here (as is the case with Crosby and Pickerel). Snelling is shallow and very weedy, which can make fishing a challenge, but there are some big northern pike. One drawback: airport noise. If you want to forget about civilization, maybe bring earbuds.

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