Population (2010)



Elk River is one of the communities on the exurban fringe of the Twin Cities metro area, but visitors will find plenty of reasons to pull off the highway and check out the sites.

Visitor Information

Direct your questions to the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce (763.441.3110).


Pierre Bottineau, a trader and guide, staked a claim in 1848 where the Elk River joins the Mississippi River. The village of Orono (later called Upper Town) incorporated in 1855 and served as the county seat for a short time. A dam on Elk River provided power for a few businesses including a lumber mill and a flour mill. Ferry service was established by John McDonald at Orono in 1856. The village of Elk River (Lower Town plus Orono) was platted in 1865, but it wasn’t incorporated until 1880. The town center shifted when the tracks were laid for St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Upper Town was devastated by a fire in 1887; another major fire ripped through town in 1903.

One of the last executions by hanging in Minnesota took place in Elk River on December 5, 1905 when CD Crawford was hanged for the “Box Car Murder.” As you might guess, the crime took place in a railroad boxcar. Heino Lundin was killed by two men who he had been riding with in the same box car. Crawford and George Parmer robbed a couple of guys in the boxcar on a train that was heading south from St. Cloud. Lundin had been sleeping and didn’t respond when nudged, so Parmer allegedly told Crawford to shoot him, which he did. The gunmen were soon caught (at Rogers Siding). Parmer got 30 years at Stillwater prison for his role, while Crawford was given the death penalty.

Highway construction in 1941 took many of the buildings in the original city center. In 1979, the township and the village of Elk River consolidated into the City of Elk River. Elk River today is working on reviving its town center; you’ll find some housing and a couple of places to eat and shop.

Exploring the Area

Kelly Farm; Elk River, MN

The Oliver H. Kelley Farm near Elk River (15788 Kelley Farm Rd.; 763.441.6896) replicates a working farm from the 1860s-era, complete with guides in period clothing and demonstrations of 19th century cooking techniques. The homestead also has a 2.5 mile hiking trail along the Mississippi.


Canoeing the Mississippi River at Elk River

River’s Edge Commons (679 Main St.) is an attractive little park between the city center and the river.

Babcock Park (17900 US Highway 10; 763.635.1150) is a highway rest area, with nice riverside picnicking, shore fishing, and shade.

Bailey Point Nature Preserve (1 Morton Ave.; 763.635.1150) has 24 acres where the Elk River meets the Mississippi. The land is pretty much left alone, so there are no facilities; you are free to wander around and explore.

Entertainment and Events

Farmers Market

The Elk River farmers market runs on Thursday afternoons from early June through September at Park Plaza on Main Street (720 Main St. NW).


Elk River hosts a summer concert series on Thursday evenings from mid-June through August at River’s Edge Commons (679 Main St.).

**Elk River is covered in the Headwaters Region Guide; other places in northern Minnesota are covered in Road Tripping Along the Great River Road, Vol. 1. Click the links above for more. Disclosure: This website may be compensated for linking to other sites or for sales of products we link to.

Where to Eat and Drink

The Blue Egg Bakery (713 Main St.; 763.441.1911) gets high marks for their freshly baked bread, muffins, and other sweet treats.

The Olde Main Eatery (313 Jackson Ave.; 763.241.8113) is a popular place for a hearty breakfast or lunch.

The Diamond City Bread Company (315 Jackson Ave. NW/Lower level; 763.441.0002) specializes in sourdough breads, and they sure come up with some interesting variations, like wild rice blue cheese and cranberry pecan. If you’re looking for lunch, they’ll also make a sandwich or box lunch for you.

The 1950s are still alive at Daddy-O’s Café (709 Main St.; 763.241.5595), where the burgers, fries, and shakes might have gone up a bit in price, but the kitsch lives on.

Where to Sleep


Wapiti Park Camp Grounds (18746 Troy St.; 763.441.1396) in Elk River has scenic sites along the Elk River that accommodate tents to RVs.

Getting There

The Northstar Line commuter rail (612.373.3333) runs trains from Big Lake (198th Ave. and County Road 43 NW) to downtown Minneapolis (ending at Target Field), with stops in several river towns (Big LakeAnokaCoon Rapids, and Fridley); riding the entire distance takes about 50 minutes.

Where to Go Next

Heading upriver? Check out Big Lake.

Heading downriver? Check out Ramsey.

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©Dean Klinkenberg, 2015,2017