Thursday, May 23, 2013

Paddling Theater and WRA Pilot Trip

Hello WRA friends!

Last weekend we attended the 50th Anniversary of the Minnesota River Water Trail. To celebrate, the DNR, CURE MN, Playspace Productions, Wilderness Inquiry, and the Granite Falls Community put on a 3-day event of speakers, theatrics, and paddling. On Friday night, Anna and I attended a series of talks at City Hall. After I presented on my canoe trip to Hudson Bay and Wild River Academy, we heard a wonderful talk about the benefits of dam removals, pertaining specifically to the removal of the Minnesota Dam. We learned about river hydrology and the importance of free flowing water trails to promote a healthy water system for native fish to spawn and migrate. Some people argue that dams are important barriers to keeping invasive species from extending their reach. Luther, the presenter, told us that this is not true. With all of the flooding in our watersheds, invasive fish species, i.e. asian carp, are able to jump and sometimes even swim around dams. Besides, there are 21 other ways that invasive species can spread into new waterways. Crazy! After the Granite Falls dam, there are 254 miles of free flowing water trail until the Minnesota River flows into the Mississippi River at Fort Snelling State Park. That is more free flowing water than the St.Croix, yet the Minnesota River is rarely known for outdoor recreation. 

Nick, Anna, and I just got off the river from a four-day paddle from Moonstone Farms to Morton. We ran the new Minnesota Falls (just go down the center left, it'll be great) and several other rapids along that stretch of the river. I quickly remembered the beauty of the Minnesota River; despite the cold rain, we enjoyed our short expedition and we were in awe of the jungle birds, pelicans, eagles, beavers, granite outcroppings, and dense forest. We made more connections along the route, including new farmers and potentially someone to talk to us about the geology in the watershed and lead a star-gazing session for our groups. With all there is to do along our route, it is a wonder if we'll even have time to paddle anywhere!

We are leading the WRA Family Expedition next week, June 1-5. We start our excursion at Moonstone Farms where we will tour the farm, have orientation, cook dinner, and get to know everyone around a campfire. We will paddle to Memorial Park in Granite Falls the next morning where we will meet someone from the DNR Fisheries Department who will teach our groups how to fish. The next morning we will visit the WWII museum and then paddle to Upper Sioux State Park where we will tour the park to learn about Dakota history and the war of 1862. We will camp there. The fourth day of our trip we will paddle to Vicksburg County Park where we will meet with a local musician. The last day, we will paddle to Redwood Falls where we will meet with Scott Kudelka from the DNR to learn about healthy water systems and to look for macroinvertibrates in the Redwood River. Then we will depart back to our homes after a reflection session and goodbyes!

If you are interested in participating, there are four open spots on this expedition. Visit to sign up. Once you submit your online registration, we will contact you with more information. The cost is $400/person.

Thanks and see you on the river,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Paddle for Change Debut!

Under the name Paddle for Change, 7 individuals are preparing for the trip of a lifetime. We are going to paddle the entirety of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca south to the Gulf of Mexico. Time spent on the river will be around 70 days from September 18th to sometime before Thanksgiving. This trip is a dream of everyone involved and is slowly becoming a reality. Paddle for Change will make stops in communities along the river to show the documentary: Do the Math, created by Bill McKibben and to highlight the growing dangers of climage change and the causes behind it. Following the showing. we will facilitate a discussion on local issues pertaining to the themes present in the documentary. Our team includes: Erika Gotcher, currently working with Camp Manitowish; Elizabeth Just, working to implement compost systems in schools; Lee Vue, soon to be a graduate of the University of Minnesota; Joseph Snowdon, who just graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Forestry; of course, Anna Johnson, Natalie Warren, and Nick Ryan will be involved in the trip as well.
Considering our pack out date is a summer away, we are planning a string of fundraisers for the summer months to assist us in purchasing gear and funding our expedition. Our first fundraiser was on May 5th and involved a stunning performance by the Walker Brothers Band, growlers containing delicious Fulton Brew, and additional beverages provided by Surdyk’s liquor store. We prepared a taco bar utilizing gift cards generously donated from Rainbow grocery and the Seward Co-op. This fundraiser is the first of many and if you’re interested in attending a benefit concert at a local venue or a portage parade then visit to sign onto the mailing list and receive updates.


Here comes a much needed update on all things Wild River Academy and some things Paddle for Change. We left you in late March, Anna had not yet joined us in Minneapolis and the weather continued to look bleak. Now it is the middle of May and we have acquired vital equipment and helpful partnerships in our race to the pilot trip on May 19th, 5 days from this posting! A huge thank you goes out to all those wonderful companies and individuals that have helped us along the way. Natalie was able to give a presentation at the Bloomington, MN REI on Tuesday May 7th. The presentation was excellent and REI will be a huge support throughout our summer and into the future. GSI will be providing us with a cookware set and Wilderness Medical Systems, LLC has sponsored us with 2 large first aid kits. Thomas Barry, an active member of the MN outdoor community, avid paddler, and white water rafter, generously donated 8 Watershed Colorado dry bags as well as a Watershed camera bag. These sponsored items, alongside support from companies and individuals, boost our ability to efficiently run trips this summer, while also building our network in the outdoor industry and community.

Wild River Academy tabled at Midwest Mountaineering’s annual meeting April 26th through the 28th. The exposure to like minded individuals at expos through conversations made with participants and our fellow table neighbors facilitates lasting friendships and partnerships. Midwest Mountaineering was brilliant in their planning and managed to organize a host of presenters that rivaled the line-up at the recent Canoecopia event in Madison, WI. Organizing the basic expo with presentations, manufacturers, and tabling organizations is a massive undertaking in and of itself, that being said Midwest Mountaineering went above and beyond by orchestrating a fantastic dinner and gathering with the employees, volunteers, manufacturers, and organizations; basically, thank you so much for a wonderful expo Midwest Mountaineering.

Among Wild River Academy’s partnerships, our relationship with River’s Edge Academy has proven to be a wonderful opportunity for Wild River Academy to pursue our mission of outdoor experience and education for all. River’s Edge Academy aims to reduce the drop-out rate, increase the graduation rate of Minnesota’s urban youth, and reduce the achievement gap between white and non-white students. They envision using the natural environment to engage students in work that is hands-on, standards-based and college preparatory. Wild River Academy will be organizing a fully sponsored, free trip for River’s Edge Academy students... wait a second guys, how can we fully sponsor up to 14 students to attend one of our trips?! That’s where you, the blog reader and Wild River Academy enthusiast come in. We need donations, as low as $10, that will allow us to provide this life changing opportunity to the maximum number of students. Our goal is to raise $8000 dollars before June 23rd. The donation page can be found here: Thank you in advance for making this expedition a reality for these awesome students!