Snake River (St. Croix River)

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The Snake River is a 104-mile-long (167 km)[1] tributary of the St. Croix River in east-central Minnesota in the United States. It is one of three streams in Minnesota with this name (see Snake River (Minnesota)). Its name is a translation from the Ojibwa Ginebigo-ziibi, after the Dakota peoples who made their homes along this river. Kanabec County is named after this river.

The Snake River


The Snake River with its tributaries drains a 1,009 square miles (2,610 km2) area of Aitkin, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine counties. After initially flowing southward from its headwaters in southern Aitkin County, the Snake flows through Kanabec County, turning eastward near Mora, Minnesota, following a minor fault line. It drains into the St. Croix River 13 miles (21 km) east of Pine City, Minnesota.

Associated lakes and tributaries[edit]

Two lakes are associated with the Snake River: Cross Lake and Pokegama Lake. Cross Lake is a translation from the Ojibwa bimijigamaa, meaning "a lake that traverses (another body of water)", and is located 13 miles (21 km) from the river's mouth. Pokegama Lake, located 17.5 miles (28.2 km) from the river's mouth, gets its name from the Ojibwa bakegamaa, meaning "a side-lake (of another body of water)". Major tributaries of the Snake River are the Knife River, Ann River, Groundhouse River and Rice Creek.


Along with the Knife River, this river served as the main waterway that connected the St. Croix River with Mille Lacs Lake. Chief Kappamappa, as recorded by Henry Schoolcraft, made his home at Chengwatana at the mouth of this river. Near the outlet of Pokegama Lake is a small stream called Mission Creek, named after a Presbyterian mission which brought the first printing press in Minnesota, used to print literature in the Ojibwe language. During the treaty-making periods, this river was inhabited by the Biitan-akiing-enabijig ("Border-sitters") who were equally Ojibwa as they were Dakota. The Biitan-akiing-enabijig had numerous skirmishes among themselves as they defined themselves as either Ojibwa or Dakota, giving a false perspective that the Mdewakanton Dakota Sioux and Ojibwa Nations were at constant war with each other. Eventually, the Biitan-akiing-enabijig who defined themselves as Ojibwa became part of the St. Croix Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Snake River sub-band subsequently became part of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, one of the four constituent tribes of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The North West Company fur trade post was established on the river near modern-day Pine City in 1804. The post was used for several years, but was later abandoned and destroyed in a fire. The site was later rediscovered and excavated. The rowhouse and palisade fence were reconstructed and opened up as a living history museum in 1970.[2]

Together with Cross Lake and the Knife River, the 1757 edition of the Mitchell Map identifies this river system as "Portage River" as it served as the waterway that connected the St. Croix River with Mille Lacs Lake and the upper Mississippi River, via a short portage.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed October 5, 2012
  2. ^ "History of the North West Company Fur Post". Minnesota Historical Society. 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  • Cordes, Jim (1989). Pine County ... and its memories. North Branch: Jim Cordes.
  • Waters, Thomas F. (1977). The Streams and Rivers of Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0960-8.

Coordinates: 45°49′31″N 92°45′58″W / 45.8254°N 92.7661°W / 45.8254; -92.7661