|Many are unaware that Pine River was established as a fur trading and logging community in the 1800's. Prior to the Pine River area being founded as the city of "Pine River" it was common to see Native Americans, mainly Dakota and Ojibwe, and early explorers utilizing the lakes and streams, primarily the Norway brook and the Pine River which both flow through the city of Pine River. Historically Pine River was known for it's great white pines which surrounded Pine River over thousands of acres. What is Pine River today was then coined "the richest stand of timber in the Old Northwest" proving to be a prime location for settlement. The first trading post was established by George Angus Barcley in 1873 on the Pine River just a few years after the Northern Pacific Railway crossed the Mississippi. Mr. Barcley's trading post stocked food stuffs that those living in the north woods so desperately needed. George Barclay was shot in Pine River in the late 1800s never getting the opportunity to see the growth of Pine River from a village to a city. Today main street in Pine River is named "Barclay Avenue" to honor the man who started it all.
In the 1970's, the Burlington-Northern Railroad, spanning the distance between Brainerd and International Falls, started losing it's effectiveness. At the time Pine River was receiving and shipping four boxcars worth of wood per day. The wood was used by the main manufacturer in Pine River since 1940. The deterioration of the railroad was a great threat to the people of Pine River as roughly 150 townspeople were employed by the manufacturing company and road transportation would not be nearly as effective as the railway. In the year of 1985 Burlington-Northern announced it would be closing the Pine River Railroad Depot marking the end of an era not only for Pine River, but many surrounding logging communities.
As of 1983 Minnesota had built and completed a 27 mile recreational trail along the abandoned railway tracks. The trail ran from Walker to Park Rapids and was utilized on a year round basis by outdoor enthusiasts. A Pine River local and real estate broker, Terry McGaughey, began his mission to facilitate the building of a new trail spanning 16 communities. With the help of a Paul Bunyan Trail Task Force, McGaughey began the arduous journey to build the Paul Bunyan Trail. McGaughey spoke to all who would listen about the benefits a recreational trail could bring to these small communities. The Pine River Chamber of Commerce and City Council where the first formal organizations to support the idea of converting the railroad to a recreational trail. Hence the city of Pine River has been coined the "Birthplace of the Paul Bunyan Trail".The 100 mile trail spans the distance between Brainerd and Bemidji and passes right through downtown Pine River.
Pine River is a destination city for many reasons. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, resorts and golf courses. Within a block of the Paul Bunyan Trail travelers will find shopping and eating establishments unique to Pine River.