The Snake River is located in east-central Minnesota, between the Twin Cities and Duluth, and is a part of the St. Croix River basin. The River begins about 6 miles north of McGrath, in the Solana State Forest in southern Aitkin County, and flows 90 miles southward and then eastward, and about 560 feet down to the St. Croix River east of Pine City. The Snake River and its tributaries drain about 986 square miles of watershed.
The earliest name for the Snake River was Portage River given by the European fur trappers. The Mandan Indians were the earliest known inhabitants of the region, followed by the Dakota, who in turn were displaced by the Ojibwe, and eventually by European settlers.
The Snake River has “some of the wilder and more scenic river environment in Minnesota” according to Dr. Thomas Waters, the founder of Friends of the Snake River. The upper half of the watershed is relatively wild and forest covered. (See photo above.) Logging of the high quality stands of white pine in the area began in 1837 and peaked in the 1880’s. The virgin stands of white pine were completely removed and the land transformed by wildfires and clearing. The replacement forest consists of hardwoods and aspen. Some of the steepest gradients in the River are found between McGrath and the bridge east of Woodland where the River flows through two granite gorges known as the Upper and Lower Falls of the Snake River.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides maps and information on the river basins and watershed of Minnesota from its website. For the DNR description of a watershed, see Watershed. This site also shows the major basins and watersheds of Minnesota. Coverage includes water characteristics, landscape, fish and wildlife, and cultural information. DNR also provides descriptive information on the Snake River in particular. See DNR Snake River.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides extensive information on the Snake River watershed from its website. This information includes: environmental profile, water, land, people, and air. See EPA Snake River Watershed profile.