Minnesota adds a new route for paddlers this year with the 20-mile Shell Rock River State Water Trail, flowing from Freeborn County’s Fountain Lake, through Albert Lea, Myre-Big Island State Park, the city of Glenville and on to the Iowa border.
Shell Rock River brings the number of Minnesota’s Water Trails to 35. The water trail system — now collectively covering 4,500 miles — ranks as the oldest and largest in the country. Services along the routes include public accesses, rest areas and campsites for paddlers.
At least a dozen water trails celebrate a 50th anniversary in 2017. They include the Cannon River; Cloquet River; North Fork of the Crow River; Crow Wing River; Des Moines River; Kettle River; Mississippi River; Red Lake River; Root River; Rum River; Snake River; and St. Louis River.
The DNR lists outfitters online, posts water conditions and offers “I Can Paddle!” classes that start in mid-June at locations throughout the state. “I Can!” guides help participants explore eight different rivers by kayak or canoe. Kayakers must be at least 12, while canoers can be 8 or older. These instructional trips typically run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They cost $35 per canoe (which can hold three members of one family), or $20 per child and $30 per adult per kayak.
LISA MEYERS McCLINTICK