Are you traveling to Minneapolis this Summer or Fall? If it is your first time, your hundredth time, or you live in Minneapolis and want a fun activity in your own town, get ready for a totally different way to experience Minneapolis. By taking advantage of Minneapolis’ location right on the waters of the Mighty Mississippi River, you can discover the City by Nature, witnessing eagles, blue herons, and other wildlife, while never leaving the city or its skyline via kayak. Now, don’t be afraid, you don’t need to be a seasoned kayaker or adrenaline junkie, just follow my lead and recommendations from my travels to Minneapolis earlier this summer. Get ready to be awed one paddle at a time!
Although, I’m a seasoned kayaker and could have just rented a kayak, I always recommend the first trip in a new location to find an experienced tour company for inside information and safety. I chose a kayak tour and rental company, Above the Falls Sports, which is located right in Downtown Minneapolis. Its owner Robert Schmitz welcomed me and introduced me to our guide for the day, Kalen (a fellow Wisconsinite) who was getting our gear ready. While I prepared for the voyage with sunscreen, bug spray (mosquitoes in the Midwest are terrible), and drinking plenty of water, the other curious travelers trickled in making our group a total of six in three tandem kayaks.
With all gear and kayakers ready, we loaded ourselves into the ATFS vehicle for a short ride up river to Coon Rapids Dam. During this time, we got to know a bit about our other trip members coming to Minneapolis from DC, Georgia, Colorado, and Florida. Most were traveling with a friend or family member, but not me. I was traveling alone. Coincidentally, there was another single traveler who would be my Partner In Crime (PIC). I thought this was a stroke of luck. Why? In all of my time kayaking, I think having someone you don’t know in your tandem kayak is actually better. I say this as I nickname tandem kayaks divorce kayaks. For those of you that have kayaked much, you know that many trips in a tandem kayak have sparked many heated fights between couples, friends, and family.
Before launching just Southeast of the dam, Kalen ran through the basics of trip, kayaking techniques, and our safety measures. As the temperature was in the high 80s, Kalen stressed to keep hydrated and pointed to his kayak where he would carry extra water for all of us. He also eased some of the travelers’ worries by mentioning that the 13 miles would be downstream. With a smile, he suggested that if we wanted to stop for lunch, restroom, and a break a little over halfway, he had an excellent recommendation.
So after a little Kayak 101 of paddle right, go to the left and paddle left, go to the right, we were off.
As you can see from the images, Minnesota’s lush green landscape was in full bloom. It had been a rainy season; so, the water had been high, but recently lowered to permit a calm downstream paddle. Along the route, we passed the Minneapolis Water Works and Xcel Energy Plant, which are both providing valuable drinking water and power to the Greater Minneapolis community. In contrast to those current river industries, we also saw remnants of Minneapolis’ rich industrial past in logging and milling.
There were a few shutterbugs amongst the group, myself included, who wanted pictures of Minnesota wildlife. We passed two blue heron rookeries (one destroyed by a tornado and the second its replacement) as well as numerous small islands that were prime nesting grounds for birds, including eagles.
As promised, when our arms were tiring and stomachs growling, the group voted and took Kalen’s suggestion to stop for a snack and drinks at Psycho Suzie’s. We parked our kayaks and walked upstairs to the Hawaiian themed restaurant and bar. We sat outside overlooking the Mississippi while sampling some wicked appetizers: blue cheese and roasted pear flatbread, brown sugar and bacon wrapped cocktail weinies, and cheese curds. I coupled my refueling with a local beer, Surly Furious IPA. I thought when in Minneapolis, drink a Minneapolis brew, right?
With our second wind, we hopped into our kayaks and continued to Downtown Minneapolis. We passed under a newly constructed Lowry Avenue Bridge, various parks, including a waterski park, and shortly arrived at our take out point, just walking distance to the shop. Both Kalen and Robert explained that this was just one of the Minneapolis kayak trips that they offer. They invited us all to join them for an evening social paddle the following day or one of the other tours that explore the gorge and the Mississippi Channel. I would have taken them up on other trips, but my time was limited. However, they were helpful in pointing out a couple visits that I should hit before heading home that evening: House of Balls Art Gallery around the corner and Nice Ride Bike Share ride on the Cedar Lake Trail. Both of which, I did and would recommend if you have a little extra steam after your 13 mile kayak journey.
My travels to Minneapolis this summer were certainly different than any of my previous trips. This time I discovered the City by Nature at a different pace by kayak, foot, bike, Segway, or other. My perspective changed. I invite you to try this both in your travels to Minneapolis and/or your next destination. Thank you to Robert, Kalen, my fellow kayakers, and the rest of the Above the Falls Sports team. This was certainly a good time.
As always, stay up-to-date on more travel stories and tips from Minneapolis, Kauai, Cuba, Quebec, Finger Lakes, Berkshires, Western Wisconsin, and more by connecting with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube. Please send me your comments about this post and your travels to Minneapolis. I’d love to hear from fellow adventureros and wanderlusters.
Here’s to more good times and good stories.