Think Nice Ride, but with paddles.
People can now rent kayaks from Paddle Share stations on the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities, and return them a few miles downstream.
The National Park Service is behind this first-of-its-kind program that allows paddlers to rent a single-person kayak from a designated paddle-share station within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, paddle around for a few hours, and then drop it off when their allotted time is up.
The pick-up location at North Mississippi Regional Park is open now, about 3.9 miles upstream from Boom Island Park, where paddlers are required to return their equipment.
A second pick-up spot at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (located about 1.7 miles upstream from Boom Island) is coming soon, the program's website says.
How it works
The National Park Service requires paddlers to be at least 18 years old and have some experience kayaking before taking advantage of the Paddle Share program.
If that's you, visit the Paddle Share website here and click "make a reservation" on the map to choose where you want to pick up your kayak and when. (Each station has 16 kayaks, according to the Mississippi River Paddle Share Facebook page.)
You can choose between morning (8 a.m. to noon); afternoon (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.) or all day (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Then pay online with a credit card – it's $30 for four hours or $60 for the full day.
After paying, you'll be emailed a 10-digit access code that will unlock the Paddle Share locker. Inside you'll find your kayak, a paddle and a life vest – and then you're good to go.
Just remember to return the equipment to the return stations at Boom Island Park before your time is up – if you're late, it's an additional $20 per hour.
The service is open Friday-Sunday through October (depending on weather). Paddlers can also rent kayaks on Labor Day (Sept. 5).
The stations are located near Nice Ride bike share stations, so people can paddle one way and then bike back along the river. (Click here to plan your trip.)
This Paddle Share program is part of the Mississippi Park Connection’s Alternative Transportation Plan of 2012. It costs $215,000, but a federal grant, plus a donation from REI cover all the program costs. Over the next five years, the park hopes to expand the program throughout the 72-mile river corridor, the Mississippi River Paddle Share Facebook page says.