More than 100 people answered the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' call to paddle the length of the Minnesota River in a single day.
Although the DNR fell short of its goal to paddle the entire 318 miles from Big Stone Lake in Ortonville to its confluence with the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Alexander Watson, a naturalist with the DNR, told BringMeTheNews Monday, "We demonstrated that all along the Minnesota River there is outstanding recreational paddling."
The river was divided into sections and several groups took to the water in canoes and kayaks, then reported back to the DNR how many miles they traveled. As of Monday morning, 101 people with 13 different groups said they paddled 281.2 miles on Saturday, including 211.7 unique river miles, Watson told BringMeTheNews.
Despite not meeting the goal, the real point was to get people out enjoying the river.
"There's been a lot of talk about the river's health," Brad Nawrocki, president of the Mankato Paddling and Outings Club, told the Mankato Free Press. "... The more people you have on the river, the more people will care about the river."
The Mankato Paddling and Outings Club was among the groups who led paddlers down the river. About a dozen participated in the 11.5-mile paddle from Judson to Land of Memories Park in Blue Earth County, KEYC reports.
Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) also partnered with the DNR, the group said on Facebook. CURE led two groups totaling 20 paddlers, some of whom paddled from Memorial Park to the Upper Sioux Agency Park while others took to the river from Skalbekken County Park to Vicksburg County Park in Renville County, for a total of 26.4 miles, Peg Furshong, one of the trip leaders, told BringMeTheNews. (See photos from the group's paddle here.)
A group of 21 people ranging in age from pre-teens to retired folks enjoyed a leisurely paddle thanks to the swift current from Mack Lake to Highway 4, Scott Kudelka, a naturalist with the DNR, told BringMeTheNews. Canoeists and kayakers spotted bald eagles and kingfishers during their 8.5-mile trip.
Wild River Academy led a group of 29 people along the final 10.7 miles of the river, from the Interstate 35W bridge in Bloomington to the confluence of the Mississippi River, Liz Just of Wild River Academy told BringMeTheNews.
Included in the group were two people who had never paddled before, and an 82 year old, who was the oldest paddler of the day, Just noted. (See photos from the outing here.)
The Minnesota River is described as “gentle and placid,” which made it perfect for everyone from first-time paddlers to those more experienced.
Minnesota water trails
The Minnesota River is one of 33 designated “water trails” the DNR manages throughout Minnesota, which total 4,528 miles; however, that’s only a small fraction of the 69,000 miles of natural rivers and streams in the state.
Water trails are marked routes along rivers, lakes and other navigable waterways that are designed for use by canoeists, kayakers 0r other small non-motorized boaters.
The water trails have marked access points and take-outs, as well as places along the shore to stop for picnicking or camping.
The DNR has an interactive map of all the state’s marked water trails.