Trip Reports and Photos
2013 Paddling Season - a sampling of outings
Root River North Branch
Last week in April Jim Moran and I took advantage of a rare warm day and kayaked from Fugles Mill to County Rd 116, about 10 miles. The river level had dropped since the snow runoff the last couple of weeks. There were two places where fresh fallen trees blocked the channel causes us to make short portages. Water was clear but cold. It felt good to get out on the river after a long winter.
2012 Paddling Season - a sampling of outings
Vacationed on Sanibel Island, Florida between Christmas and New Years with family members. Had a chance to kayak the Tarpon Bay mangrove area of the . N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a fantastic birding area where saw several alligators and other wildlife. Also got a chance to do some kayaking in Costa Rica in February.
A great trip and a welcome change in weather from the Minnesota "frozen north".
Zumbro River between Silver Lake Dam and 37th Street Bridge
Late September with the area rivers at almost record lows I decided to paddle a short route of the Zumbro River starting at the 37th street bridge and paddle upstream 1.4 miles upstream to the Silver Lake dam and then paddle back downstream to the 37th street bridge access. On the upstream stretch I had to get out of the kayak 5 times to get around a tree strainer across the river and several shallow rock strewn spots that I could not paddle through. On the downstream stretch I only had to get out once where the tree strainer blocked the channel.
The upstream paddle was the interesting and fun part of the outing. Going upstream moving through the waterway I observed a variety of wildlife including hawks, many ducks, and fish swimming in the clear water in front of the kayak. Also spotted a blue heron that kept flight in front of me as I was paddling, but I did get a good picture of the heron on the downstream stretch.
Zumbro River: Theilman to Funk Ford
The first week in August Jim Moran and I decided to run this route with our kayaks. This is a nice short route with great scenery and wildlife sightings. On this trip we saw several eagles and hawks.
This is a 6.6 mile route that winds through a wide valley with a background of high forested hills. The current on this section of the Zumbro is always good with plenty of depth. The bottom is mostly sand, quite different from the upper sections of the Zumbro which are narrow with frequent rock bottom areas. There are numerous tree "stick-ups" in the channel on this route as trees become snagged in the sand bottom after floods. The GPS recorded a moving average of 4.6 mph with just easy going paddling. The DNR put-in access near Theilman upstream of the County Road 4 bridge is steep and can be difficult to launch your canoe/kayak. The Take out access at Funk Ford is upstream from the horse trail bridge in the Zumbro Bottoms Wildlife Management area. The shuttle route is about 11 miles. Use County Road 4 North from the Theilman access to Hwy 60 then East to County Road 86 (Gravel Road) South .7 miles to 235th Ave. Follow 235 Ave (a narrow dirt trail) about 1.2 miles to the access.
Root River, Moen Bridge to County Road 16 access
A pretty route on a warm (low 89's) day. We put-in at the Moen Bridge Access on County Road 21 West of Lanesboro and went 13 miles to the County Road 16 access East of Lanesboro. The first 5 miles were quite shallow with mostly rocky bottom so we had to carefully read the river to find a route through the shallow areas. We had to get out 4 times to line the kayaks through the really shallow spots. We stopped for lunch at a nice campsite at mile 5 on the route. From this point downstream the river narrowed a little and the channel was deeper. This is a very scenic route with four canoe access campsites along the way.
Whitewater River, Elba to County Road 30 access
This is a 6.2 mile route that always has a good fast current and depth. Jim Moran, Sam Cook and I met at the County Road bridge by Elba, after leaving the shuttle car at the take out access jus upstream from the County Road 30 access. Even though most of the streams in Southeastern Minnesota are low this time of year this route still has a good flow. We saw several eagles, one flew just a few feet over Sam's kayak as we rounded a bend in the stream. We also spotted one of the 3 eagle nests on this route. Use Hwy 74 between Elba and the County Road 30 access as a shuttle route (about 10 miles roundtrip).
Cabin Time Up North
Spent the last week of July at the cabin on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. I took 3 kayaks and the newly acquired Stand Up Paddleboard. The Kayaks got a lot of lake time but the highlight was the Paddleboard that was in use from early morning to evening. Everyone from the 5 year old grandchild to adults enjoyed the water sports.
Moonlight Paddle night at Chester Woods Lake with a full moon.
I recently bought a paddle board and am still in the learning phase, but after a few outings am beginning to feel quite at ease on it. It's lots of fun and great all body workout. The grandkids love it!
Straight River Owatonna to Faribault 24.5 miles
Ran three routes on the Straight River between Owatonna and Faribault. The first route from Owatonna (Moorehead Park) to Medford is 9.8 miles and is a tree lined stretch with many twists and turns and some class I rapids. Near Clinton Falls there are the remains of an old dam that was used by a flour mill in the 1800's. If the water is high it's class III, on this trip the water level was on the low side and could not run it but it is a short portage on the left. The take out at Medford is at Straight River Park.
Pictures of access below the dam at Morehead Park in Owatonna; scene with the tree lined canopy and the rapids at Clinton Falls. The water level was at 4.5 ft. at the downstream USGS gage.
The section of the Straight River between Medford and Krogh's Landing (6.3 miles) is a nice short route. The day we ran this section the water level was high so most of the ripples and class I rapids were washed out but it was a very fast current and we had to be careful to avoid the frequent tree strainers. It was a little tricky getting out at the Krogh's Landing access because of the fast water.
The best route of the Straight river I think is between Krogh's Landing and Teepee Tonka Park in Faribault a distance of 8.8 miles. This section is fast with many ripples and class I rapids as the river winds towards the Cannon River valley in Faribault. Upstream a few miles from Faribault the river goes through the River Bend Nature Park and here the banks are lined with sandstone cliffs provided some great scenery! There are many boulders (left behind from the glaciers) that line the river banks and also some large ones midstream.
April & May outings
May 30th 2012 Root North Branch (County Road 1 bridge to County Road 116 Bridge), 9.5 miles.
Three of us decided to run this route even though the downstream USGS at Pilot Mound indicated the river would be on at below normal water level. As we met at the take-out access (at County Road 116 Bridge) to drop of the shuttle car we checked out the river and although it looked low we decided to run it. We drove to the put-in at the County 1 Road Bridge and from the bridge the river looked like it was at a good level. We unloaded the kayaks and launched them on the downstream north end of the bridge. The first 1/4 mile was OK as we navigated some of the ever present tree snags, but then we began to bump the rocks on the shallow areas. Every time I run this route I am amazed at the breathtaking scenery with the sheer limestone bluffs lining a good portion of the route.
As for wildlife viewing we saw a few eagles, some hawks, and the ever present Blue Herons. I also spotted a coyote running along the riverbank.
Take note: This is not a DNR maintained water trail so you are on your own for access to the river and also should have river paddling experience to avoid the tree strainers that you will encounter. There are no fences on this route. The new Root River County Park is at about the 3.5 miles mark on the route. We stopped here and had out lunch break.
If you are in to a moderate non-DNR maintained route for a bit of roughing it, then this is a great route.
May 25th 2012 Whitewater River, Elba (County Road 26 Bridge access) to Beaver (County Road 30 access)
The Whitewater River is one of my favorites especially when the area rivers are on the low side because of rain shortfall. This route is "old reliable" as far as always enough water level and flow to make a great paddling trip! This is a short route (6.2 miles) but offers some quick water with lots of obstacles such as tree trunks and branches that can keep you busy avoiding the just barely submerged logs and branches. This is a DNR route but it is not regularly maintained so keep your eyes open for obstacles. The access at Elba County Road 26 Bridge is a short carry to the river. The access just upstream of the County Road 30 access is muddy but not too bad.
May 4th 2012 Zumbro River, Zumbro Falls to Millville
We caught this stretch of the Zumbro a couple of days after some spring thunderstorms dumped significant rain on the upper forks and branches of the Zumbro River watershed area. This is a 12 mile route with the river town of Hammond that can offers an access midway.
4/21/12 - Root River North Branch, Allen Bridge (County Road 11) to Moen Bridge (County Road 21).
Southeastern Minnesota streams are low but the main branch of the Root River from Chatfield to the Mississippi can easily be paddled with some "river reading skills", like avoiding shallow gravel bars. I was scouting this route to see if it would be good for a couple of my younger grandkids to paddle. The route is just over 5 miles. which is about right for the young paddlers. Also this is a great route for fishing. There are plenty of smallmouth bass lurking in the many pools above the ripples and also in the eddies below the ripples. There are also Brown Trout in this section as there are some trout streams that flow into the river.
March 2012 early spring: Zumbro River; Silver Lake & upstream through downtown Rochester.
The winter in Southeast Minnesota this year with well below snowfall. In early March the temperatures began to rise causing the snow to melt. The river levels went up a couple of feet but there was still considerable ice clogging the rivers. The Zumbro South Fork that flows north out of Rochester was an exception. Except for a few really cold days the river was ice free from the Silver Lake dam downstream for a few miles with some cold weather paddlers on the water.
In mid March the temperatures were at record levels (20 - 40 degrees above normal). The water was still very cold so still had to take precautions. The temperature was in the high 70's as I launched my kayak on Silver Lake and made my way upstream on the Zumbro River through downtown Rochester. It was great to get out on the water! The lagoons on Silver lake were still clogged with ice but melting fast!
Hope for rain to get the rivers up to normal levels
2011 Paddling Season a sampling of outings
09.20.11: Root; Parsley Bridge to CR 11
09.13.11: Root Moen Bridge to CR 16 access (upstream of Whalen)
Very nice trip! No significant rain for several weeks and the river was on the low side. Several places you need to read the river to get through the shallow areas, but we had no problem. Water was very clear and saw lots of fish. Great scenery with the high tree lined bluffs. Saw a few bald eagles. Some watched us float under the tree they were on, keeping a keen eye on us. One mature eagle flew up the river toward us and provided a spectacular sight as it flew low over our kayaks against a clear deep blue sky – couldn’t get my camera set in time to get a picture!!! Met some people at the CR 16 access who were traveling through the country (they were from Idaho}, who thought the area was really beautiful.
09.10.11: Chester Woods Lake moonlight paddle
Absolutely perfect night for a moonlight paddle. A full harvest moon and perfect temperature with no wind. Eight kayaks met at the boat launch at 8:45 and were outfitted with lights and then paddled up to the eagles nest on the Southeast end of the lake through the submerged trees and stumps on the way! Spent time just enjoying the silence and super full harvest moon! Then returned through the trees and on to the area past the beach area and finally back to the boat launch area. Just an awesome outing!
8.16.2011 Whitewater River: Elba to County Road 30 access.
- Who: Jim Moran, Steve Holtegaard and myself
- Weather: Sunny high 70’s, winds 15-20 mph.
- Sightings: Couple of Eagles one mature one young.
- Gauge: Whitewater 10.62
- GPS: 6.2 miles; 2:40 hrs total; 1:44 hrs moving; 56 min stopped ( lunch).
- 2.3 mph speed overall; 3.5 mph avg speed moving
No significant rain so far this month so the branches and forks of the Zumbro and Root rivers are too low to paddle. As I really like to paddle the smaller narrow twisty creeks I usually about this time of the year paddle the main stems of the Cannon, Zumbro or Root Rivers or the Mississippi backwater areas. The exception is the Whitewater River. The route beginning at the DNR access at the Elba County Road 26 bridge and ending at the DNR access just upstream of the County Road 30 Bridge is a 6.2 mile route that offers mostly narrow twisty run, especially the first 2 1/2 miles, with plenty of submerged tree trunks and tree limbs snagged on the sandy bottom keeping you busy avoiding them. There are three eagle nests on this route so watch the trees for eagles watching you. The access at Elba (County Road 26 bridge) is a short carry, the access upstream of the CR 30 bridge has been filled in now but still muddy, but not too bad.
This route downstream of Elba always has good water level and current as the three forks of the Whitewater river meet near Elba. Upstream of Elba on the North, Middle, or South forks are just too shallow for paddling.
8.26.2011 Whitewater River: County Road 30 access To Mississippi River (Old Hwy 61 access)
Who: Jim Moran myself
Weather: Sunny high 80’s, winds 15 mph.
Crafts: I had Santa Cruz kayak, Jim had Pirjon.
Sightings: Five eagles all mature and flying close
Gauge: Whitewater 10.62
Route length: 10.3 miles
No significant rain recently
I met Jim at the DNR access by CR 30 and we both drove to the old hwy 61 access ( very windy gravel road) and left my car there. We went back to the Put-in access and were on the water by 10:50am. The current was very good as was the depth. The first few miles of this route is so so with some tree lined banks and some open areas with high dirt banks. We encountered a hugh log jam where the DNR blocked the old channel in 1999. Had to drag kayaks up a steep bank and luckily could follow a DNR trail aways to the edge of a cornfield, then dragged the kayaks along the edge of the cornfield stopping a couple of times and made our way to the river bank through 8 ft high weeds (nettles) only to find the banks were mud and straight down. We finally found a spot to launch the kayaks (muddy though) and were on the river again after ½ hour. From this point for the next 2 + miles we encountered a few more tree jams but could float through them with some difficulty, although one we had to get out a precariously step on logs and get the kayaks over (water was deep), took about 15 minutes. The next few miles were windy with less trees in the river because the area is open. Then the river was tree lined again and twisty with lots of submerged logs, stumps etc to keep us busy. There were 4 wing dams on this stretch with the 3rd one having a big drop with big waves, we both took on water getting through. It was obvious no paddlers had been on this route for awhile. Pretty rough, but I liked it!
8.05.2011 Root, South Branch Mantorville to Oxbow Park
At the river access by the bridge at Mantorville the water level looked good as Steve, Jim and I launched our kayaks. But as we rounded the first turn we scraped on the rocky river bottom we realized the water level was low enough that we had to constantly read the river to make it through the many rocky ripples. We bounced around, glanced off some boulders lying just below the surface and managed to make it through most of the shallow spots without having to get out of the kayak. But in some spots it was difficult to see a good path through the shallows and had to get out and line the kayaks through. There were several trees across the river that were dislodged from the river bank from the high water earlier this summer, all but one we could squeeze around, go under or climb over. Even though the water level was low we still enjoyed the day with the great scenery, keeping busy reading the river and seeing who could make it through the shallows without getting stuck on a rock!
7.12.2011 Root, Middle Branch: County Road 5 to Morgan Road (Township Rd 332)
As we pulled up to the Put-in at the CR5 bridge put-in there was a farmer trying to set up a electric fence line across the river (along the bottom of the bridge deck). He said no problem with canoers/kayakers crossing his fence (which is on the road right of way) to get to the river and he is building a gate and crossing boards to enable crossing the fence easier. He told us he had set another fence across the river a couple hundred yards downstream from the bridge. He asked us if we would help stringing the wire through the insulators crossing the river. We hesitated but agreed to do it, but as it turns out he was not ready when we were ready to launch.
We had to get out at a fence, about 200 yards downstream, as it was too low to go under and was in a fast ripple. Some fresh trees in the river the first mile or so but no problem getting around them. Stopped for lunch at 3.3 mile island. Big log jam is still there completely blocking the channel. The banks were steep and the water was deep so we had to portage the kayaks quite a way downstream of the blockage. Found a likely spot to launch, but did look a little muddy. I dropped the kayak into the water and stepped out away from the bank to get in but my legs sunk into quicksand like muck up to my knees. I could not move. I struggled for quite awhile before I finally worked my way to solid ground. Had to portage another 50 yards to a better spot. That quicksand episode was scary! Rest of trip was good with nice current and only scraped bottom in a few places. Had to use buddy system at take-out just upstream on right bank of the Morgan Road bridge.
6.28.2011 Root, Bear Creek: County Road 38 to Fillmore (County Road 5)
River levels still good but are beginning to drop. Water level and flow for this route was good although we did bounce a few times in the shallow areas. There were three fences, the first one I could go over it and held it down for Jim and Steve. The 2nd one we could duck under, and at the 3rd fence we had to work through a strainer just upstream of the fence. Had to get out once for a tree strainer across the channel but only a short carry. Near Fillmore there was a tree across the channel that we could float over it. Overall a very nice scenic trip!
5.18.2011Root, Deer Creek: CR1 to CR38 (Masonic Park)
The river level was OK, we did bump rocks in some shallow drops, but overall it was a great trip. At 4 or 5 places we had to portage short carries or drags around obstacles ( tree strainers). There is a re-built ATV bridge about ¾ mi from the takeout at Masonic Park that is high enough in normal water levels to float under. There were a number of tricky spots where good river paddling skills are needed to avoid strainers and tight turns by rock walls. Note that the following pictures show the slower mild sections of the route because I could not "get set" with the camera in the most difficult and interesting sections. The put-in at County road 1 bridge is difficult with with steep banks. We ended up dragging the kayaks 50 yards downstream to a suitable spot to launch the kayaks. Spectacular scenery throughout the entire route. The scenery along the route is spectacular