The River Ramblers completed a longer trip yesterday on the Cottonwood River. In checking in on one of my Minnesota Paddling books I found a shorter route to try today, with a bicycle shuttle.
The weather today wasn't warm, but it was a nice bug-free day to paddle. The air temperature was barely 60 degrees and there were 5+ mph winds at various points in the trip. That said, this was a great trip and I would do it again. The put in was near the intersection of County 10 and County 27 in Sleepy Eye Minnesota (about 2 hours from the Twin Cities). The shuttle route was roughly 8 miles east of the put-in.
This river valley was fun to paddle though. Lots of 'bird condos' were carved out of the soil and stone surrounding us on this trip. Speaking of wildlife, we saw one deer on this trip also.
Roughly ever mile of the 7 mile trip had a nice burst of current and easy rapids. One section had some very entertaining waves to plow through. With the river at 5.27 feet and 782CFS, most of the paddling was simply adjusting course and watching the world go by.
We didn't see another paddler out today, but we did pass one barn, and one building (above, to the left), that looked almost like a store facing the river. However, once we got closer it was hidden from view.
The takeout wasn't the greatest in regards to stopping and getting out against the current, but it wasn't too messy, and, my favorite, no bugs! At 7 miles and roughly 2 hours of paddling time, this was a great day on the river. The Cottonwood River sections are about 15-20 minutes from the town of New Ulm which is a nice stop for a drink or food after your trip. In addition New Ulm is home to Flandreau State Park. This State Park has a modern campground with shower facilities and a filtered swimming pond. I also like some of the old stone buildings. One of the sites appears to have a stone picnic shelter as one of its amenities! All in all this was a great trip!
Richard Thomsen May 12th, 2013 10:13:54 PM
The observation of the Northern Lights while out on a paddling or camping trip is a memory that will stick with you for years to come. The Aurora Borealis or "Northern Lights" are colored waves of light sometimes visible in the night sky. Usually they are associated with trips to Alaska or Canada, but you may see them in Minnesota from time to time. I have a distinct memory of seeing strange colors in the night sky while out for a drive with my son years ago in the Twin Cities metro area. I wasn't sure what it was until I saw that it was an unusual Northern Lights display on the TV news much later. If you are planning a trip and clear skies are in the forecast, you can check conditions online.
The Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks, Alaska provides this service for observing the conditions in your region. Click on the appropriate part of the globe to see the latest forecast.
The University of Minnesota shares here that 530 GMT is the best time in Minnesota to see aurora. This translates to 1130ish Central Standard Time.
Richard Thomsen January 6th, 2012 05:37:34 PM
Would you like to paddle across endless water and sleep under the stars on your own private island? You can do this and more in Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park! Further, if you bring your own gear, you can't beat the cost of admission and lodging: $0! Voyageurs is a water-based park. You can take motorized boats to explore the far reaching lakes, but I prefer quietly cruising in a kayak. I visited Voyageurs late last summer, and can't wait to return!
After setting off from the Rainy Lake Visitor center, an hour of paddling will bring you to a landscape dominated by trees and islands. Campsites are first come first served, but later in the summer you can have your pick!
I was amazed at how many picture-perfect campsites could be found. Imagine waking up here and making breakfast by a world class view of the northern wilderness! Each campsite had one or two locations for a tent, a fire pit, and a pit toilet.
I found a great spot on the northern tip of Dryweed Island. It was a little rough (new campsite, fresh fire ring) but it was in just the right spot as a basecamp for venture out to explore other islands and "mines" the next day. I plopped our tent facing north facing Canada on the horizon.
For added convenience there are bear proof storage lockers. Despite the presence of the lockers I never saw any bears during my multi-day adventure. What I did see was bats flitting about in the night. If you sat very quietly and gazed up through the moonlight you could see their little shadows zipping this way and that.
The days in late August were a mixture of clear skies and heat boiling down on a glassy lake, to overcast cool days. The water was chilly but bearable if you wanted a refreshing dip after a hot day chopping firewood.
I hope this recap and photos of a really enjoyable trip up North inspires you to visit Voyageurs National Park. I think it's Minnesota's best kept secret!
Richard Thomsen March 29th, 2011 08:43:46 PM
When the whether allows, Lake Superior is a fantastic place to go kayaking. On the Michigan side is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There is a nice sized recreation area on an island near Pictured Rocks, off of Munising, MI. My recent trip was more about seeing rocky cliffs, aquamarine water, and seeing if I had what it took to bring everything I needed to camp. At Pictured Rocks you need a reservation to camp, but the cost was minimal: $10-15 a day.
This trip took place in mid July. We brought everything we needed on two inflatable kayaks, pictured below. Prior to the trip we practiced entering and exiting our kayaks in deep water, and wore drysuits for most of the trip.
As far as supplies go, if you are going to do a kayak camping excursion like this, I don't recommend hauling all of your water with you, like we did, it's heavy and hard to transport. Invest in a nice gravity-driven water filter that you can hang from a tree!
So what kind of scenery can you expect from Pictured Rocks? Miles of different colored cliffs, different hues of clear Lake Superior Water, where you can see gigantic bolders far beneath you....it's awesome!
If you want to get close to nature and feel very, very small, along side giant rock formations, it's worth the (7 hour) drive to Michigan from the Twin Cities!
After a rain you can catch the spray of temporary waterfall:
We paddled 13 miles on day one (oops, I missed a landmark and skipped our campsite by a couple miles)
But what we got to see was worth it!
Now for a little commentary on the camping. We weren't really prepared for the bugs at the ummm....Mosquito River campsites. There is a nice, long, beach, there is a cool bubbling river emptying into Lake Superior, and there are, when the sun goes down, mosquitos. I highly recommend looking into some Insect Shield clothing, maybe even a second 'eating' tent if you can find a way to pack it. I wouldn't take back the memories made on this trip, but I didn't like those skeeters.
I also saw my first 'bear pole', that is a tall pole you can lift your pack up to so Bear's can't mess with your food. We would have used a Bear Locker but it was already filled with someone else's gear. This wouldn't have been a problem but due to my navigation error we set up camp at dusk and once it was dark, we realized our pack was so loaded with food we couldn't lift it up in the air and see what we were doing to find the hanging spot. I recall messing with using the tall hook to get a rope up there and fashioning some kind of pulley, but we got it up there, and Yogi didn't bother us at night.
Putting the memory of the bugs aside, when we were on the water, it was blissful. Do I look like I have a care in the world here?
And, once we got settled, our campsite did have a nice view of Lake Superior at sunset.
All in all...find a way to shield yourself from the flying critters at dusk and plan a trip to Picture Rocks National Lakeshore.
Richard Thomsen March 7th, 2011 11:02:34 PM
The Best in Tent Camping - Minnesota, by Tom Watson, is the best book on where to go camping in Minnesota. While I've received plenty of personal references to good camping destinations, I really like how Tom Watson describes the sites.
After a brief narrative about the area near each campground/park, you get the inside scoop on which site numbers are the author's favorites. So far I've been pleased with his picks. Tom will help minimize the disappointments that might otherwise come with selecting a random campsite at whatever campground comes to mind. The author rates each campground on criteria like spaciousness or privacy, so one can quickly pick the best bet for what they are looking for. If you want to scout campsites and parks from the comfort of your easy chair at home, this book is the best way to do it.
Richard Thomsen May 25th, 2010 09:15:11 PM
The treasured destination for Midwestern paddlers is Lake Superior, notably the Apostle Islands. When planning a getaway to the area, if you have kayaking in mind, its important to be aware of the temperature of the water. For sea kayakers making the trek to Lake Superior, a drysuit and rolling skills are especially important due to the frigid temperature of this northern inland ocean. While air temperature rises in spring and summer, the water temperature of Lake Superior can chill you to the bone most of the prime paddling season. An appropriate wetsuit or drysuit is a must! Late in the summer water temperatures along the shore can rise up to the high 60s and low 70s.
How can you find out the best time (water temperature-wise) to visit Lake Superior? My favorite resource is the Michigan Sea Grant Coastwatch. You can pick a region of Lake Superior and observe current or historical temperatures. For example, below is a snapshot of the area around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Granted, it's early May, but Brrrrr! Check out those 36 degree temps!
Richard Thomsen May 9th, 2010 10:50:48 AM
Whether you're buying your first kayak, adding to the fleet, or selling one you already own, price is often at the forefront of the decision making process. What is a 'good' price? This depends on the following factors:
-Length. The longer a kayak is, typically the more expensive it will be.
-Materials. Kayaks become more expensive as you progress from cheap PVC inflatable kayaks, up to plastic kayaks, and on to the premium fiberglass and composite models.
-Features. Deck rigging, sealed bulkheads, and more comfortable or adjustable seats affect the price of a kayak. Add on additional dollars for a rudder.
-Age and general condition. For any previously owned craft this becomes an important factor.
Okay, so what can you expect to pay for a used kayak? Based on 2010 asking prices on Craigslist, here's a sample of what you can expect for asking prices:
12' Recreational Plastic, or low-end inflatable (Sevylor, Stearns) - $150-300
13' Premium Inflatable (Innova, Aire) - $450-700
14' Recreational/Touring Plastic - $500-700
16' Touring Plastic - 600-900
17+ Sea Kayak, older (say 6+ years) - $1000-1500
17+ Sea kayak, newer -$1500+
Now, if you are persistent in your search, you may find deals to eclipse the above observations...if you do, don't skimp on other accessories like a comfortable PFD or a lighter weight paddle! Finally, don't forget transport! A benefit of inflatable kayaks is that you don't need to purchase expensive rack systems and kayak carriers that go with them.
Richard Thomsen May 2nd, 2010 09:40:59 PM