Thursday, May 22, 2008
Paddling with my pal Chris Godsey on the St. Louis River
It was one of those unreal days in Northern Minnesota. Sunny 60, total clear blue sky. The kind of sky that seems to shimmer in its deep blueness when you are wearing polarized sunglasses. It was also a work day so with that in mind I knew that I was going to go outside somewhere, it would just need to be close to home. Great minds think alike and sometime in the afternoon my phone rang and Chris Godsey was on the line asking me what I was going to do that afternoon, after all it was perfect day.
One similarity that Chris Godsey and I have is that we both own Wenonah Canoe's Advantage. The Advantage is a very fast light touring canoe, it is solo, and it loves to eat up river miles like no other touring canoe on the market. With that in mind it all clicked, I had yet to paddle most of the St.Louis River above Cloquet or Brookston. In my interaction with the DNR over the years I had met several Trails and Waterways managers who were instrumental in buying up land parcels along the St.Louis River Waterway, adding to that the Fond Du Lac Tribe owns protected land on both sides of the river, this creates a scenic corridor nearly the length of the river. This of course was a huge coup. The "Louie" as we call it is the biggest watershed in the whole Lake Superior basin, it is also one the most challenged and is an EPA "Area of Concern".
The section of river we ended up paddling was from Brookston to Cloquet. It was rougly 19 miles and the Flow on the river was about 5.5 feet or about 4,500 CFS. Pretty high for this section of river. But that was good as the river map showed several sections of class one, class two rapids, features that slight, fast and tender canoes like Advantages generally dont like. With higher water the speed would be quick but also the rapids would be buried so we could hopefully glide over them. Well, the river turned out to be just what it had been touted, in 19 miles of paddling we saw two small and tasteful cabins and that was it, the shoreline was gorgeous and the flow just what we had hoped for in speed, the level however was not enough and we encountered a bunch of pretty solid rapids, yet our skill and our caution delivered us unharmed in Cloquet and eating at Mexico Lindo in about three and a half hours. I was shocked at how preserved and how beautiful that section of river is, and it is right out our door. I think the next step for me will be to join the St.Louis River Citizens Action Committee and see what Margaret and I can do to help keep this river as clean in the future.