Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Podcasts
Tales of Water Trails: Minnesota River .mp3 (568 Kb)
Listen to other DNR podcasts
Welcome to "Tales of Water Trails" presented by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Our guests, Lynne and Bob Diebel, are experienced canoeists and kayakers who have paddled more than 2,400 miles of Minnesota water trails. They describe these routes for other travelers in their two books Paddling Northern Minnesota and Paddling Southern Minnesota.
For this series of programs, the Diebels are sharing their insights about Minnesota's water trails. Minnesota DNR manages over 4,000 miles of water trails for canoeing and kayaking including the north shore of Lake Superior and dozens of rivers statewide.
Here are Lynne and Bob Diebel to tell us about paddling on the Minnesota River.
The Upper Minnesota River, between Granite Falls and Redwood Falls, the Minnesota offers paddlers a quiet, often wooded, refuge from the farmland of southwestern Minnesota. There's some great campsites, a close-up look at some of the oldest rocks in the world, those are 3.6 billion years old, and a chance to fish for flathead catfish. We're talking about a 36-mile stretch between Granite Falls and Redwood Falls.
The river is pretty placid. There are some points to watch out for though. Patterson Rapids is about 3 miles down from the 19 bridge crossing and it'll kind of surprise you. It surprised us, we did not expect too much, and as I recall the left side of the river has a significant drop. And we happened to not go over that, but it'd be very easy to be not paying attention and go over that and you could easily capsize. So beware of that one.
Yeah, Patterson's Rapids – actually a couple people did drown there, so it's definitely one to be aware of on a river that's otherwise quiet.
Part of the charm of the Minnesota River is, although it's a rather placid river without a lot of exciting water, the huge and beautiful valley that you are in is quite a treat. There are some, Lynne had mentioned, the ancient rock that is in that area and some of that rock is exposed right on the riverbanks at certain points as you go down the river.
And in Vicksburg Park, which is one of the Renville County Parks, there's a big, the rock is called Gneiss, it's pronounced "nice," it's G-n-e-i-s-s, it's a very nice outcrop.
There's a 22-foot deep fishing hole that's formed next to one of the rock outcrops by Vicksburg Park and its known locally as Big Eddie. Apparently it yields some pretty good fish.
There's another fun thing to look for in the "old department" along the river and that's that bison bones and elk racks from the long ago wash up on the sandbars when the water levels change.
The wildlife along there is really a treat too. The white pelicans cluster at the mouth of the Yellow Medicine, which is right along Upper Sioux Agency State Park. There're warblers in the spring by the thousands, there are eagles, kingfishers, and hawks.
This is a river that's used by some high school paddlers that have taken annual trips from Montevideo to the Twin Cities. And there's a group headed by a science teacher from that town that have done this trip and he's helping to build awareness of the students for their local environment and the value of the river. The Minnesota needs some work, it needs some cleaning up, so it's a way to expose these students to the river and make them appreciate it.
This is one of the state's "wild and scenic rivers" and Butch Alterman, he's the high school teacher, takes that seriously. He's also a member of Clean Up the River Environment, which is a local river action group. These people do wonderful things for the Upper Minnesota. If you think of the Minnesota River as simply a polluted river you're making a big mistake. It's a beauty and it's a really undeveloped land to paddle through.
And in the category of related paddling in the area, there are some rivers that are not part of the Water Trail designation that are well worth considering. There's Hawk Creek, Yellow Medicine that flow into the Minnesota River almost opposite each other along the river. Both very exciting paddles. Small rivers, but some great two or three hour stretches on their final descent into the Minnesota
Scalbekken County Park, Vicksburg County Park these are two of the Renville County Parks. Excellent camping, really nice spots. Wildflowers in the spring - don't miss them.
A wonderful paddle. See you out there.
For more information on Minnesota's water trails including free maps, river level reports, and trip planning resources visit www.mndnr.gov/watertrails.