TRIP LOG: Submitted by Barry Christenson, June 12, 2010
Large thunderheads and frequent lightning dominated the northern sky ahead of us on Saturday morning, May 22, in the apparent direction of our destination – the Mississippi River near Clearwater, MN. I was running late due to a car battery problem, but with the storm centered over our meeting place, I doubted that the group was too worried about my tardiness. When my friend, June, and I arrived at Clear Waters Outfitters it was apparent that my hunch was correct. I found the eight other members of our group exploring Clear Waters’ new store or telling canoeing stories around a small table. No one was anxious to go out into the teeth of the storm. But, while Bob O’Hara told stories of Arctic paddles, others discussed easier options for paddle this day such as maybe a local lake. Finally, the front passed, we loaded our four canoes onto our outfitters trailer, piled into the shuttle van and we were off to St. Cloud for our put-in location on the Mississippi at Beaver Island Trail Park. With fair skies and moderate winds we launched and headed back down to Clearwater which was about 12 miles downstream.
This was the first river trip for the WCHA Minnesota Chapter in several years and I was pleased to see some friendly, familiar faces along with some new ones. Alex Comb came from Knife River and brought his young daughter, Fiona, along with a beautiful Stewart River Boatworks Prospector. Joining Alex in the bow was Nick Barr, a new member who is bravely building his own wood/canvas canoe on a self-made form. We look forward to seeing Nick’s canoe at an upcoming paddle. Tim and Sandy Eaton came paddling a 15’ Fletcher w/c canoe made in Canada. Also jointing us were some canoeing friends of Tim’s, Bob O’Hara and Dave Burkhart, who bravely brought a plastic canoe to this wooden canoe gathering (just kidding – we like all canoes). My 1951 Yankee rounded out the group as we headed downstream into increasing headwinds.
It wasn’t long before we were all wondering if that lake paddle might have been the logical choice. Strong southerly winds came flowing upriver turning our casual paddle into a hard workout and giving even our most experienced paddlers some directional challenges on occasion. But the current was strong and we still made good time down this very scenic section of the Mississippi. An abundance of small islands gave us multiple channel choices and the heavily forested river valley hosted a nice variety of waterfowl, eagle, and other wildlife. After stopping for a leisurely lunch, which allowed weary arms a chance to rest and Fiona an opportunity to collect river mussels, we headed downstream into the wind once again. After 12 miles and 4 hours of hard paddling, we reached our take-out point which was the Clear Waters Outfitters landing, where we were greeted by the friendly personnel ready to help us carry our canoes/gear to our cars.
Even with the strong wind, it was a good paddle and one I would recommend. I would also strongly recommend using Clear Waters Outfitters. They are a new outfitter in central Minnesota and anxious to meet paddlers. They offer shuttle service, paddling equipment for rent or for purchase and good advice for experienced or novice paddlers.
The next Chapter paddle will most likely be on the St. Croix in July. Stay tuned for more information later this month on the location and date.