Strapping on the skis to scout an open water adventure ahead

The Minnesota River now runs free where the Minnesota Falls dam stood for 107 years.

MINNESOTA FALLS – There is at least a month or more wait for the ice to break up on the Minnesota River and before the first open water paddling of the season can be attempted.

But there is a decent snowpack on the river, and that’s reason to hope our drought may break and that there will be an open water season ahead.

The snowpack also provided the opportunity to strap on the cross country skis and scout what some are promising will be a true paddling destination on the Minnesota, the three mile stretch of river upstream of where the Minnesota Falls dam stood for 107 years.

It is like no other stretch of the river.

The river drops like an amusement park slide, with all the twists and turns. The winter cover of snow and ice makes it difficult to see exactly what we have here for a channel, but the landscape’s drop is obvious to the eye. The removal of the dam has allowed rapids that had not been seen for 107 years to re-asset themselves. In a couple of places they churn and keep open water. In those locations it is possible to see just how hurried the river races through this stretch. Paddlers will remember it not just for the whitewater but for its pace.

I’ve been on other rapids along the river, but even the largest, such as Patterson’s, don’t move with this kind of speed. Nor is there any other stretch of the river that demands the kind of maneuvering to weave between rock outcrops and boulders as will be found here.

This fall of about three feet is upstream of where the dam once stood.

I have a strong hunch that running this stretch will be an adrenalin run comparable to what the Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine Rivers, or Hawk Creek, offer when water conditions are optimal. A couple of key differences though. The Minnesota River channel here runs through a much wider, more open valley. Rock outcrops and boulders replace steep river banks as the obstacles to avoid.

Also, there are going to be a lot of places along this stretch where you are just going to want to put on the brakes and drop a fishing line. That may ultimately be the challenge of this stretch. So many places to fish, and yet, so many reasons to keep moving.

 

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