Top things to do on the water in mankato
Since Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” it’s no surprise that ample opportunities to enjoy the water await you in this beautiful state. Mankato, in particular, has a number of fantastic options for you to get outside and make waves. Whether you like canoeing, kayaking, boating or simply opting for a quick swim, Mankato’s stellar reputation with outdoor enthusiasts is well earned.
Blue Earth County has more river shore than any other place in Minnesota, so no matter where you find yourself in the city, there’s an inviting body of water right around the corner. There is a lot to do here so you may need a few days. Check out our lodging options including hotels and campsite.
1. Minneopa State Park
If you prefer a more laid back aquatic experience, try Minneopa State Park on the west side of Mankato. Two waterfalls await you, including one that drops 39 feet into a large gorge surrounded by limestone. It’s a favorite spot for lingering, so take in the picturesque views and post your best photos to social media. Afterward, enjoy a scenic hike around the trails that encircle the falls, explore the view from the bridges, enjoy a picnic, bird watch, visit the abandoned Seppman Mill or make reservations to go on a bison tour. Camping sites and cabins can also be found on-site.
2. Minnesota River
The state’s namesake waterway, the Minnesota River, borders Mankato to the west, thereby affording you several chances, both in-town and out-of-town, to go with the flow depending on your mood and style. Kayaking and canoeing are quite popular here, whether you intend to go solo or with friends and family. While here, enjoy the other must-see stopping points that make for a memorable trip down the river. In town, Sibley Park (360° virtual tour) is recognized for its distinctive petting zoo, and Riverfront Park’s Vetter Stone Amphitheater (360° virtual tour) is an unforgettable venue to see a concert. But if fishing is what you seek, consider heading north of Mankato to Seven Mile Creek Park.
3. The Blue Earth River
The Blue Earth River is known by thrill-seekers because of its daring rapids. Notable detours include the Devils Gulch ravine, Triple Falls with three separate platforms and Big Moe, a glacier boulder in the middle of the river. If you’re up for an adventure, but need a helping hand, Bent River Outfitter rents kayaks, canoes and even stand-up paddle boards. The company also offers lessons, guided trips and custom group activities. Access points are available in-town at Sibley Park or Land of Memories Park or right outside of town at County Road 90 Bridge or Rapidan Dam Park.
4. Lake Washington
Situated approximately 10 miles northeast of Mankato, Lake Washington is the largest lake in the area. Covering almost 1,500 acres with over 13 miles of shoreline, residents and visitors alike flock to this beautiful body of water for fishing and water sports of all kinds like paddle boarding and jet skiing. Fishermen, in particular, are drawn here because of the plentiful Crappies, bass, Northern pike and Walleye. Fisherman can access the water by the two public access ramps to launch their boats, and camping and picnic spots are available as well. For a bite and a cool drink, kick back at the Westwood Marina Bar and Grill, which boasts fantastic waterfront views, live music on the weekends and a large beach for kids to play and swim.
5. Hiniker Pond
Located on the north side of town, Hiniker Pond is a natural retreat in Mankato, perfect for a day of family fishing and swimming. Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to sunset, the 55-acre park is home to a 28-acre spring-fed pond with outstanding water quality. The sandy beach, open from 9 a.m. to sunset during the summer, draws a crowd looking for an outdoor respite and room to relax and spread out. You can fish from the handicapped-accessible pier, picnic with friends or family, or take a peaceful stroll through the trails. The pond also has a shelter that can be reserved for $60 per day if you need a dedicated space.
6. Madison Lake
Less than 15 miles east of Mankato is the 1,113-acre, freshwater Madison Lake. Best known for fishing, swimming and boating, the warm months see a steady stream of sun enthusiasts and cyclists. Also, for those who want to extend their trip, several areas for camping are nearby including Bray Park, which features numerous amenities like RV hookups, a fishing dock, swim beaches, and kayak and paddle board rentals. Quaint shops and restaurants offer an enticing distraction away from the heat. And to add local flavor to your fresh catch, stop by the farmers market from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday mornings from May until October.
7. Lake Jefferson
The third lake in the area, named after admired former President Thomas Jefferson, is Lake Jefferson. Slightly smaller and father northeast than Madison Lake and Lake Washington, Lake Jefferson is known to anglers as a spot that is populated with a plentiful amount of Bluegill, Largemouth bass, Northern pike and Walleye. Besides fishing, water enthusiasts can enjoy swimming, boating, skiing and paddle boarding and other outdoor activities you’ll be tempted to engage in while on the water. If you’d like to spend a night or two to extend your adventure, check out plenty of lodging options to choose from such as hotels, campsites and more.
8. Red Jacket Valley Park
Just 2.5 miles southwest of Mankato, formerly known as the Guaranteed Sand and Gravel Pit, the Red Jacket Valley Park is a scenic area designed for hiking, canoeing and kayaking, swimming, fishing and picnicking. There is a beach area on the south side of the pond and wooded walking trails throughout the park. Across the road is access to the Red Jacket Trail, Red Jacket Trestle and the Le Sueur River.
9. Land of Memories Park
Two rivers, one location. Situated at the convergence of the Blue Earth and Minnesota Rivers, Land of Memories Park is right on the edge of Mankato, making it a convenient setting for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Campers and those with recreational vehicles will appreciate the easy access to the rivers with boat ramps, as well as rustic yet relaxing accommodations. You’ll find individuals, couples and families enjoying this pet-friendly, 100-acre park. Hiking trails await you once you leave the water and follow the rivers, spaces dedicated for disc golfers, soccer fields, bike trails, a playground and a pavilion for rental. The city of Mankato also hosts several events here throughout the year.
10. Spring Lake Park
Spanning 52 acres, Spring Lake Park is located at the corner of Webster and Lake Street and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Though it offers many outdoor activities year-round, in warmer months families are drawn to the newly renovated Spring Lake Park Swim Facility. But if swimming isn’t your thing, Spring Lake is also ideal for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Additionally, two playgrounds, volleyball courts, ball fields, a walking trail and picnic shelters add endless hours of outdoor family fun.
11. Tourtellotte Pool
Open from June through August, Tourtellotte Pool on Mabel Street offers a more traditional and inviting city swimming pool experience for your family. Featuring an Olympic-sized pool, with both a diving well and heated wading pool, you can take advantage of the general and lap swim times as well as family nights for a small fee. The facility is outdoors, staffed by lifeguards and has concessions available for purchase. If you’d like to hang around the pool a little longer or celebrate a birthday or special occasion, the pool has fully-equipped picnic shelters and other outdoor activities on-site. Swimming lessons can also be arranged by contacting the Mankato Family YMCA or Tourtellotte Pool.