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Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Podcasts
Tales of Water Trails: Whitewater River .mp3 (571 Kb)

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Erik Wrede:

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 describe paddling on the Whitewater River.

Lynne Diebel:

A fast little river through the Driftless Area, the Whitewater attracts birds and wildlife as well as paddlers.  Don’t try to reach the Mississippi.  Before you get there you’ll run into so many deadfalls that you’ll find yourself portaging constantly in the marshy lowlands of the Whitewater bottoms.

The best stretch is the 10.4 miles between Elba and the place where the river swings over to Highway 74, which is the Beaver to Weaver road, and makes it possible to get out there.  There’s also an access, it’s further upstream, at County Road 26.

Bob Diebel:

There’s a class I rapids right by the Highway 30 bridge near the little town of Beaver, in fact it’s so little you’ll really miss it when you’re paddling down the river.  So that’s something to watch out for.  Otherwise it’s no whitewater to think about.  It’s a narrow river so deadfalls are a consideration.


This is a river that was a real problem to early settlers because they had farmed the land so extensively that erosion and runoff was terrible.  And this river flooded so many times in the early 1900’s that it completely buried all the houses in the town of Beaver.  Beaver is now located a couple miles away from the river.

It’s a sand bottom river.  The reason it’s called the Whitewater is not because there’s any actual whitewater, but because the soil that runs off is a clay based soil that would turn, at runoff, the water a pale, milky or white color.  That’s the reason for its name.  Now you’ll find a sand and gravel bottom, a lot of riffles, a deep narrow channel, and the South Fork of the Whitewater flows in a couple miles downstream of where you put in.  Now the importance of that is that the South Fork is a designated trout stream.  And the confluence of a trout stream and another river is where the trout like to hang out.


This is a very beautiful river valley in the Driftless Area.  One of the advantages of going to this area is the close proximity of the Whitewater State Park.  So this is well worth spending a pleasant afternoon paddling when you’re doing the rivers in the Driftless Area.


We spotted eagles, we saw and eagle’s nest, that was in 2007.  We saw owls, kingfishers, herons, sandpipers, swallows, warblers, flickers, wild turkeys, orioles, killdeer, and some big snapping turtles.  We had a really good time with our wildlife watching that day.


Yes, we highly recommend this little river.  Check it out and have a good paddle.


Thanks for joining us.


For more information on Minnesota’s water trails including free maps, river level reports, and trip planning resources visit www.mndnr.gov/watertrails.