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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


Nelson-Trevino Canoe Trail - Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Wisconsin

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photo of canoes in swampy river

The water trail offers a chance to explore the backwaters along
the Upper Mississippi River

The 4.8 mile Nelson-Trevino Canoe Trail is the first (upstream-most) in a series of four trails designed to take paddlers into the backwater areas of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The trail access is located on Hwy 25 between Nelson, WI and Wabasha, MN. This trail does contain flowing water but does not follow the main navigation channel.

Paddlers who wish to paddle to the second trail, Finger Lakes Canoe Trail approximately 8 miles down-river, will need to use the main navigation channel and "lock through" Lock and Dam #4 (paddlers unfamiliar with the procedure for using a lock should download the booklet “Locking Through” available at the refuge website). Sandy beaches for camping are plentiful along this section of river. There is no fee for camping on the Refuge.

The Nelson Trevino Canoe Trail is located near the headwaters of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. This trail was developed as an Eagle Scout project in the summer of 2010 and has provided paddlers with incredible fishing, breathtaking views and bird watching opportunities. These aspects and many others were the driving forces behind this section of the Mississippi River's designation as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2010.

photo of view from canoe

Canoeing along the paddling trail

The trail has two loops, the longer loop will take paddlers under Hwy 25 and into the Nelson-Trevino Research Area. The adventurous paddler is welcome to go off the trail and explore the Nelson Trevino Natural Research Area. The 3,700 acre Research Area is a spectacular maze of channels and old growth floodplain forest.

The area is designated as a Wisconsin State Natural Area and Scientific Area, a U.S. Forest Service Federal Research Area, a National Park Service National Natural Landmark and is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. A GPS unit and map are recommended for paddlers venturing off the trail in the Nelson-Trevino Research Area.

The Nelson-Trevino Canoe Trail is one of four canoe trails located on the Winona District of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Spend a few days exploring the river and its unique communities! Paddlers can pull up to the docks in front of the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN to view eagles up close and personal. Paddlers continuing down-river to the Finger Lakes Canoe Trail can also enjoy off-river camping, restaurants and shopping in Alma, WI (River Mile 753). All canoe trails are free and open 24/7 during ice-out conditions. Fall is spectacular for colors but paddlers should dress brightly as all the trails travel through areas open to hunting.


In the Winona District of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The trailhead is on Hwy 25 between Wabasha, MN and Nelson, WI.

Services are available near the trailhead in both Wabasha, MN and Nelson, WI.

For more information:

Upper Mississippi River Nat Wildlife & Fish Refuge Winona District
51 East 4th Street, Room 203, Winona, MN 55987
(507) 457-3473


trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database.

Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


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