The Central Minnesota
Sustainable Development Plan

Pine River


Our Story

Population:  944                              

Median Age:  43.7

Median Income:  $29,125

Area:  1.20 square miles

Most Common Industry:  Construction, Accommodation & Food Service, Retail Trade



The City of Pine River was originally established as a logging and fur trading community. Native American people canoed the lakes and streams of the area and famous explorers plied the present day stream named Norway Brook and the Pine River, which both flow through the community and nearby townships.

 Pine River owes much of its history to the pine, particularly the white pine. The pine forests stretching across the state from the shores of the "big sea water" to the plains of the "American Desert" contained thousands of square miles of the finest timber east of the Pacific Northwest.

Found near the center of this mammoth forest preserve, located in the giant forest-fertile crescent formed by the headwaters of the Mississippi River and flowing through many termed "the richest stand of timber in the Old Northwest," is a river memorialized by early explorers as "The Pine".

George Barclay was the founder of the City of Pine River and the main street through the city, Barclay Avenue, is named after him. Mr. Barclay operated Barclay's Trading Post alongside what is now Highway 371. His business supplied a large area with the foods needed to exist in the north woods. Mr. Barclay was shot and killed in a now non-existent hotel in Pine River in the late 1800s and the murderer was never apprehended.

Logging and Railroad were dominant in the late 1800's and well into the next century.  Most towns along the way were built due to these two industries.



Pine River rests on the shores of the Pine River. It is a strong year-round business community because of its unique location. Five highways merge at the city making it a regional service center. Tourism, logging, farming, ranching and other area industries help stabilize the economy through the winter months.

 The Paul Bunyan Trail running right through town was constructed using the Burlington Northern Railroad grade. It is over one hundred miles of trail that is paved from Baxter to Bemidji. The trail is mostly level and wheelchair accessible. The trail plays an important part in Pine River and its unique position on it.  The trail can be used for hiking, biking, in-line skating and skate boarding.  The undeveloped sections are ideal for snowmobiling and mountain biking.  Being in the middle of the Trail, no matter which way you are heading, downtown Pine River provides easy access and a natural stopping point for those using the trail. Or, the large parking area provides the perfect starting or ending location to your trip.  Several places to eat and many gift shops unique to the area can be found within a block of the trail.  Gas stations and grocery stores provide all that's needed for a trip on the unique Paul Bunyan Trail.  Pine River has all you need for a great time no matter how you use the multi-use trail.

Many events are held in Pine River of the course of the year.  Duck Races are held at 2:00 pm every Friday from mid-June through mid-August.  Also on the line-up are the Wild Game Potluck Banquet, Indoor Flea Market, Cass County Fair, Lakes Bluegrass Festival to name a few.  But so much is happening, visitors should really check out the Chamber of Commerce website at: for the full schedule of events.

 Having the Hunt Utilities Group (HUG) campus in Pine River is a huge asset which draws people from all over the world.  Protecting the environment is very important to the residents and HUG is leading the way with cutting-edge, sustainable energy options. 

The Beginning a Healthy Green Community Partnership drew over 130 people to its meetings. Residents are proud of their community garden, food shelf and farmer’s market.  They also belong to the Farm to School program which has local farmers donating to the school and selling in the grocery stores.  Protecting hunting and fishing was similarly mentioned as a high priority. 

Four shallow wells service the city and there is concern that in the future they may become polluted. The Pine River Area Sanitary District possesses a special permit, one of only a few in the state, allowing them to treat an unlimited amount of effluent at their water treatment facility.  The city of Backus, ten miles away, is in the process of running pipe to connect with the sewer district.

Residents identified these specific assets in Pine River

Natural Assets:

Untreated water



Ag land

Clean air & water

Location - great for outdoor activities


Cultural Assets:

Pine River Journal

Supportive neighbors

Deep roots-born & raised here

Saturday Flea Market

Retired residents

Historic Pine River Walking Tour

Pine River Bucks – school pride

Value education


Human Assets:


Engaged people


Fire/law enforcement


Task forces/volunteers

Skilled retired people


Fire/law enforcement/sewer district

Strong values


 Social Assets:

Service organizations/Legion, Lions etc

Fish & game


Senior studies



Food shelf

Family Center

Back to Basics

Students Taking A Renewed Interest  (STRIVE)


Political Assets:


Approachable city council

County Commissioners


Collaborative school district

State agencies, MnDOT/DEED




Financial Assets:

Pine River Revolving Loan fund

Dollars 4 scholarships, multiple programs



Locally owned businesses



Pine River Foundation

Initiative Foundation



Built Assets:


The Depot Historic site




Sewer district plant

Industrial Park

Dam Park


Nursing home/assisted living

Bike Trail


Community Center

Horseback riding

Bull Moose/Paul Bunyan & ski trails


Visitors Center

Community gardens


Placement between Brainerd & Walker



 Community Goals

Pine River is currently participating in the Initiative Foundations Healthy Community Partnership.  They have identified projects that they want to work on and are moving forward in many of the areas targeted during this planning process.  One of their wishes is to complete what they have started.

1. Renovate downtown parks (in progress)

2.  Have a strong and stable economic base.  New industry and manufacturing will be attracted to the area because of the untapped opportunities that exist and city council that is approachable and forward thinking.

Amenities:   airport, TIF district, revolving loan fund

Location:  Strategically located between Brainerd and Walker, 5 highways merge in Pine River; farming, logging, ranching and industry diversify and stabilize the economy; Pine River is not dependent on tourism to thrive.

Workforce:  Skilled and educated workforce

 3. Accessible financial resources – find and apply for new funding opportunities


For more information on the City of Pine River and all it has to offer, visit: