Rainy River (Minnesota–Ontario)

Rainy River
Barwick ON.JPG
Rainy River at Barwick, Ontario
Rainy River (Minnesota–Ontario) is located in Minnesota
Rainy River (Minnesota–Ontario)
Mouth of the Rainy River
CountryUnited States, Canada
StateMinnesota, Ontario
CountyLake of the Woods, Koochiching
Physical characteristics
 • locationRanier, Minnesota
 • coordinates48°36′54″N 93°21′12″W / 48.6149353°N 93.3532024°W / 48.6149353; -93.3532024
 • location
Wheeler's Point, Lake of the Woods
 • coordinates
48°50′55″N 94°41′30″W / 48.8485930°N 94.6916009°W / 48.8485930; -94.6916009Coordinates:48°50′55″N 94°41′30″W / 48.8485930°N 94.6916009°W / 48.8485930; -94.6916009
Length137 miles (220 km)
Basin features
ProgressionRainy River→ Lake of the WoodsWinnipeg RiverNelson RiverHudson Bay
 • rightWabanica Creek, Baudette River, Whitefish Creek, West Fork Black River, Black River, Big Fork River, Little Fork River, Wilson Creek, Cripple Creek

The Rainy River (French: Rivière à la Pluie; Ojibwe: ojiji-ziibi) is a river, approximately 137 miles (220 km) long, forming part of the Canada–United States border separating Northwestern Ontario and northern Minnesota.[1]


A map of the river charted by an expedition in 1825[2]

The river issues from the west side of Rainy Lake (French: lac à la Pluie; Ojibwe: Gojiji-zaaga'igan) and flows generally west-northwest, between International Falls, Minnesota, and Fort Frances, Ontario, and between Baudette, Minnesota, and Rainy River, Ontario. The Couchiching First Nation (the Ojibwe name spelled in transliterated form) is associated with this river, where it had traditional territory.[1][3]

The name of Koochiching County, Minnesota was derived from the Ojibwe term. Rainy Lake and the river were named by French colonists. These names were translated and adopted into English by British colonists. The town of Rainy River, Ontario was not developed until the late 19th century and not named until the early 20th century.[3]

The river enters the southern end of Lake of the Woods approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) northwest of the towns of Baudette and Rainy River. A dam at International Falls generates hydroelectricity from the river. The drainage basin of the river stretches east to the height of land about 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Lake Superior. It was the southeast corner of the huge tract of land granted in 1670 by the English Crown to the Hudson's Bay Company. The river ultimately drains through the Winnipeg River, Lake Winnipeg, and the Nelson River into Hudson Bay.[3]

The Baudette-Rainy River International Bridge and the Fort Frances-International Falls International Bridge both cross the Rainy River.[3]

The Ontario and Rainy River Railway, opened in 1901 and now part of Canadian National, follows the river on the Canadian side.

Rainy River flows west to Lake of the Woods (lower right) forming part of the Canada-U.S. border and ultimately drains through Nelson River to Hudson Bay in the north[3]


A white sucker weighing 6lb 8oz caught on the Rainy River near Loman, Minnesota stands as the IGFA all tackle world record.[4]

American author Tim O'Brien's novel The Things They Carried (1990), set during the Vietnam War, includes a chapter, "On the Rainy River," referring to this territory.[5]

See also

  • Pigeon River
  • Winnipeg River, for exploration and fur trade
  • List of rivers of Minnesota
  • List of longest streams of Minnesota
  • List of international border rivers
  • List of Ontario rivers
  • Rainy Lake
  • Lake sturgeon


  1. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Rainy River
  2. ^ Franklin, John. Route of the Expedition A. D. 1825, from Fort William to the Saskatchewan River [map]. Scale not given. In: John Franklin. Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1825, 1826, and 1827. London: John Murray, 1828.
  3. ^ a b c d e Waters, Thomas F. (1977). Streams and Rivers of Minnesota. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press. pp. 72–94. ISBN 0816609608.
  4. ^ "Sucker, White". igfa.org. International Game Fish Association. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  5. ^ O'Brien, Tim (March 28, 1990). The Things They Carried. Houston Mifflin. ISBN 0767902890.

External links

Media files used on this page

USA Minnesota relief location map.svg
Author/Creator: SANtosito, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Relief location map of Minnesota, USA

Geographic limits of the map:

  • N: 49.6° N
  • S: 43.3° N
  • W: 97.4° W
  • E: 89.3° W
Nelson river basin map.png
Author/Creator: Shannon1, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Map of the Nelson River drainage basin. Data derived from NASA SRTM, Statistics Canada, US Geological Survey, Natural Earth, all public domain.
Barwick ON.JPG
Author/Creator: P199, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Barwick (Chapple Township), Ontario, Canada
Route of the Expedition A. D. 1825, from Fort William to the Saskatchewan River (1828).jpg
Author/Creator: Manitoba Historical Maps, Licence: CC BY 2.0

Franklin, John. Route of the Expedition A. D. 1825, from Fort William to the Saskatchewan River [map]. Scale not given. In: John Franklin. Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1825, 1826, and 1827. London: John Murray, 1828.

Surveyed by G. Back & Mr. E. N. Kendall; The Astronomical Observations by Captn. Franklin & Mr. Kendall.

Shows the places where an Observation for Latitude was taken.

The Coast Line of Lake Superior is taken from Captn. Bayfields Survey. The unshaded parts from Grand Portage to the North end of the Lake of the Woods, from the map of the British Commissioners for settling the Boundary line; those of Lake Winnipeg from Arrowsmith’s Map.

Captain John Franklin’s two land expeditions to the Arctic traveled through the area which today is Manitoba, and added substantially to the scientific knowledge of both the northern and southern parts of the province. Progress of the expedition can be easily followed since all the camping places are marked. In 1825 Franklin’s party traveled via New York, the Great lakes, Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River to the Arctic. Detailed comments on the rocks observed appear on the map, including the identification of the limestone on the west side of Lake Winnipeg as “Mountain Limestone”. On these maps we see the first results of the application of scientific knowledge by experienced scientific observers to the recording of data on the West. The base maps were from Arrowsmith, but in turn Arrowsmith and other cartographers obtained important information from the Franklin’s Expeditions. (Warkentin and Ruggles. Historical Atlas of Manitoba. map 82, p. 206)

Image Courtesy of University of Manitoba : Archives & Special Collections
Zig Zag Rapid on the Little Jackfish - panoramio.jpg
(c) outtanowheres.ca, CC BY 3.0
Zig Zag Rapid on the Little Jackfish