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Canoeing, Rivers, Trip Planning

River #4 – Little Indian Sioux River, MN

June 11, 2009

The Little Indian Sioux River is mainly located in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  The most popular route on the river is traveling North off the Echo Trail.  For this trip we headed South, upstream (entry point #9). This was also a special trip because it was our first ever Father – Daughter trip.

The river is lazy and winding and there is minimal flow, so allow enough time in the day if you are going into Bootleg Lake. A few spots on the river were shallow, I would recommend doing the trip earlier in the Spring or after ample rains. The trip is
doable anytime of year, it just may take a little more effort. There are  two rapids to portage around in the first section, the first being a short 8 rod portage but an impressive “falls”. The second portage is longer, around a rocky stretch of rapids. You will probably encounter a beaver dam or two on this section.  After several miles we veered off onto the Little Pony River, a smaller, narrower river that leads into Bootleg Lake.

Bootleg is a quiet lake with 2/3 campsites. After one night on Bootleg, it was a portage back to the Little Indian Sioux River. We had heard stories about this portage being tough to find. We hugged the shoreline until we made out a path, I jumped out to scout it out, we were in luck, it was recently cleared by the US Forest Service (thank you)!  Double portaging allowed my Dad and I some bonding time (on the non-pack carrying leg).  The MVP from this trip was my Rambler Pack, which we used as our food pack. We hung it from a tree where it was rained on for 10 hours, the next morning it was dry!

Once back on the Little Indian Sioux we wound back and forth so many times I started to get dizzy!  On this section, I spotted my first muskrat, that followed us (or dodged us) several times. After several miles, we exited off the river, onto a long portage that brought us into windy Little Trout Lake.  After a brief respite on Little Trout Lake, we headed into Trout Lake and soon there after exited onto the small, serpentine Pine Creek that leads into Pine Lake.  There are a few long portages off this creek that lead to other less explored lakes but this creek is frequently used by fisherman from Trout Lake. Off of Trout Lake you have a small portage around some picturesque rapids. Pine Lake was the first time we didn’t have a lake or river completely to ourselves. We did enjoy our last night out with a late afternoon paddle around the lake.  At the far end of Pine Lake you can still see evidence of the timber industry, with abandoned railroad posts, from a former bridge, jutting out from the lake in an eerie pattern.

The last morning after another portage, we arrived at Trout Lake and our ride home. The trip was peaceful, with such unique landscape, I will definitely add this to my list to do again. Also, this river trip meant a great deal more to be able to share it with my Father. Thank you Dad for the company, and Happy Father’s Day!

Signed, the Cribbage Champ

Canoeing, Rivers, Trip Planning

River #3 – The Little Fork, Northern MN

May 28, 2009

The great thing about paddling rivers is not just seeking out the grand majestic Mississippi or St. Croix Rivers, but to explore smaller rivers near your home or off the beaten path.

That’s what we did this week. The Little Fork River is a smaller river that is located from the Minnesota and Canadian border and continues for about 100 or so miles. Smaller rivers often have little development which was the case with the Little Fork. We spent the day watching the various landscape of pine trees, farmland, and wooded banks. We followed a river otter for a half mile and watched several eagles and an owl!

The one “challenge” about paddling rivers is the shuttling. When you get out you need a way to get back to the beginning. We took two cars to the drop off, dropped off our canoe and locked it to a tree. Next we both drove to the take out and left a vehicle, then drove back to the put in with our gear, unlocked the canoe and took off.  Often, more popular rivers, will offer a shuttle service. In the past we have even locked a bicycle at the take out and someone biked back to the put in vehicle.

The sections we did had it all, slow quiet water, a few Class I rapids, two Class II rapids and a Class IV-VI Hannine Falls (which yes, we did portage). We lingered long enough to snap photos and a video.


Another important thing about rivers that I have mentioned before is, ALWAYS SCOUT RAPIDS.

Even if you have done the rapids a hundred times before, a downed tree, log, or other obstacle could have recently wedged its way into your path.  Remember, Get Out and Scout!

Canoeing, Rivers, Trip Planning

River #2 – A Trip Down the St. Croix

May 19, 2009


This weekend 7 of us (3 canoe teams) are heading down the St. Croix in WI & MN.
We had planned to start at the beginning of the river at the Gordon Dam, but low waters deemed this section “challenging”.

At the last minute we opted for a lower section, always check water levels before heading out. We put in at the C.C.C Bridge (a few miles north of Riverside Landing) and we took out at the St. Croix State Park Main Landing.This section is wild and scenic. It can get low so check water levels.  There are easy riffles and rapids and a steady flow. Campsites were very nice (watch out for ticks!)

Despite rain on the first night, snowflakes on the second morning, and 35 mph wind gusts, we all had a great time! Without portages you can bring along a cooler and treat yourself to great meals.  Each canoe team was responsible for their own breakfast, lunch and snacks. For two nights on the river, 2 teams each took a dinner, and the 3rd team provided dessert and an appetizer for each of the two dinner meals. We ate well!

The MVP’s of the weekend went to our tarps, with the rain and wind it made
camp-life bearable.  Runner-up went to our knee-high wader boots. It was so nice to have dry feet all weekend and to be able to get in and out of the canoe without having to be next to shore. Also, in low spots, it’s easy to jump out, pull the canoe along, and jump back in. Dry feet!

We saw a lot of eagles, herons, osprey, deer, owls and turtles! We only saw one other boat until the take out, we had the whole river to ourselves. The earlier you can plan a river trip the better. I would recommend the St. Croix as an easy beginner trip.

Canoeing, Rivers, Trip Planning

River #1 – The Bois Brule River, WI

May 14, 2009

The Brule is #1 in my book for a reason: the Bois Brule River in Northern Wisconsin has everything. Quiet-water, riffles, beautiful wild scenery, rapids, whitewater, and world class fishing. Here is a map of the major sections.

There are three major “sections” of the Bois Brule River. The first section from County Road S to Highway 2 is a very popular day trip with canoe outfitters in the area to assist you with rentals and shuttle rides.  It is an easier section with mostly quiet water and a few riffles and rapids. Make sure before doing any of these sections to call for water levels: 715-372-4866. The great thing about this river is thanks to the many wetlands in the area the water level is generally always adequate for paddling.

(Did you know that this river is also called the River of Presidents? 5 US Presidents have stayed and fished on the Bois Brule: Grant, Hoover, Eisenhower, Cleveland and Coolidge)

The second section starts at Highway 2 and ends at Highway 13.  The beginning of this section is picturesque and relatively calm, after Pine Tree Landing there are a few challenging rapids and two famous ledges, Lenroot and May’s.
About half way through this stretch is the Copper Range Campground and Landing. A great place to camp and fish or just have a picnic lunch. ( There are great fishing spots along this river so be on the lookout after every turn for fishermen and give them plenty of room)

The final section is from Highway 13 to Lake Superior. This section has easy rapids but slows down and widens the closer you get to Lake Superior. It was very ominous the last time we did this section. There was a storm rolling across Lake Superior with black clouds fast approaching. We paddled hard and pulled out in time to watch the storm from our car. This stretch is not as popular as the others, but to paddle out directly into Lake Superior is experience onto its own.


Please share your comments with us about the Bois Brule River, I’m sure many out there have paddled it enough to know every twist and turn.

Gear Talk, Techniques & Advice, Trip Planning

River Canoeing

May 7, 2009

When one thinks of canoeing, a calm peaceful lake at sunset with loons calling in the background, often comes to mind. While lakes are beautiful things, don’t forget the peacefulness and often WILD excitement of a river.


Rivers are great because most have a flow that make paddling (or not paddling) easier! I do recommend that you take a paddling river course to learn a few basic strokes to avoid obstacles, mainly rocks, and to learn how to “read the rapids”.  The Duluth area has a great course offered through Community Ed.

Consult a map for local rivers and ask stores in your area that carry canoes for tips on close river trips. Local book stores and sporting goods stores should carry books on local paddling spots.  Local DNR offices are also a great resource.

If you are just getting into river canoeing, the canoe does make a difference.  River canoes should be made from a material that can handle bouncing off of rocks and other obstacles. Royalex is a canoe material favored by our staff. Another important part of the river canoe is kneeling pads. The lower you are the more steady the canoe will be. When approaching rapids, get on your knees!

Bending Branches Expedition Plus Paddle

Bending Branches Expedition Plus Paddle

The canoe paddle also makes a big difference. Don’t bring your new bent shaft paddle on the river to get splintered on the rocks! A straight shaft is the way to go (you need this to post and pry, two popular paddle strokes). Above is our river paddle of choice. This paddle,  the Bending Branches Expeditional Plus paddle,  also had a T-grip, helpful for holding on tight to perform quick stroke movements.

And of course don’t forget your life jacket/PFD! Always have your life jacket on, now matter what the weather or calmness of the river. I made this mistake ONCE when approaching rapids, I was sitting on my PFD and we overturned on a river in a Colorado canyon and I will never make that mistake again (check back for that story).

Always scout the river if you encounter rapids! You could do a stretch of rapids 100 times and that 101st time could have a fallen tree, log, or other obstacle.  Yes, I do have another “mistake” story to tell about this, but that can be a whole other blog post.

Other necessities are first aid kit, water, bug spray, hat/sunglasses, sun block, snacks, change of clothes, rain gear, and a map. Make sure all your gear is fastened down in the canoe. Strap it all in!  Keep our rivers clean!

Rivers are often great  fish habitats, so ask around at local bait shops and bring your fishing pole!

So don’t just limit your canoeing experiences to lakes only, give rivers a try, you may just get hooked! Stay tuned for more on my top 5 rivers in the area…

  1. Bois Brule River, WI
  2. Namekagon River, WI
  3. Kettle River, MN
  4. St. Louis River, MN
  5. St. Croix River, WI & MN

*Always remember canoeing can be a dangerous sport, canoe at your own risk.