J. Clark Salyer NWR Canoe Trail
Designated as a National Recreation Trail, the Souris River Canoe Trail provides wonderful opportunities for wildlife viewing, passing through unique bottomland hardwood forests rich in beauty, woodlands, and wildlife.
The canoe trail can be paddled as a 5 1/2 or 13 mile trip. The 5 1/2-mile route travels from Johnson Bridge to Thompson Well and takes 2-3 hours. The 13-mile route travels from Johnson Bridge to Dam 1 and takes 5-7 hours. Numbered markers are located at each mile along the river if you want to track your travel. Click here to see our canoe trail map.
The canoe route starts at Johnson Bridge where a trail used by Native Americans crosses the river. The river flows northwest toward Canada, meandering in great bends across its flood plain, leaving numerous oxbows along the way. Oxbows are created as the course of a river changes and erodes new channels. Eventually, the former channel is cut off from the main flow and becomes standing water. Oxbows offer good opportunities to view waterfowl and wildlife. The river corridor is lined with willow, elm, ash, box elder, and cattails.
Sandhills Slough, located between river mile markers 3 and 4, is a river oxbow and a favorite spot for tree nesting ducks such as wood ducks and hooded mergansers. Feel free to explore this oxbow and its wildlife.
Thompson Well is located at river mile marker 5 1/2, and is a former homestead site. A boat ramp, rest room, hand water pump, tables, and parking area are available here.
Near river mile marker 6, Willow Creek enters the Souris River. This tree-lined corridor is a good place to view porcupine, deer, and moose. Two more unnamed oxbows are located between river mile marker 12 and Dam 1, offering more waterfowl and wildlife viewing opportunities.
The canoe trail ends at Dam 1, and a boat ramp and a parking area are located here.
Look for nest cavities in trees favored by wood ducks and hooded mergansers. Watch for broods of young ducks in June and July. Gadwalls, blue-winged teal, mallards, and Canada geese nest here. Other water-dependent birds such as American white pelicans, sandhill cranes, great blue herons, and eared grebes can often be seen along the river. Sprague's pipits, and Baird's and LeConte's sparrows, are summer residents, while sharp-tailed grouse, ring-necked pheasants, gray partridge, ruffed grouse, and wild turkeys can be seen year-round in Refuge uplands.
The Souris River Loop Bird List is available at the Refuge headquarters.
A number of beaver lodges consisting of large mounds of sticks and mud are visible along the river bank. These lodges have underwater entrances and contain stores of food for the winter. Look for gnaw marks at the bases of trees along the river, and watch for the beavers themselves swimming in the river.
Muskrats also live along the river. They are smaller than beavers, have narrow tails, and build small houses of cattails and small sticks. Minks, weasels, porcupines, and raccoons may also be seen along the river banks.
White-tailed deer and moose frequent the uplands and may be see browsing along the river. The upland and sandhill areas provide habitat for coyotes, badgers, red foxes, porcupines, and rabbits.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Painted and snapping turtles, garter snakes, tiger salamanders, and wood frogs can be seen along the river corridor.
Northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, bullhead, and white sucker are commonly found in the Souris River. Fishing is permitted along the canoe trail according to State Regulations. Click here for more information about fishing at J. Clark Salyer NWR.