Ann Raiho standing along the bank of the Minnesota River near Mankato

I recently interviewed Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren who are paddling their way to Hudson Bay in an effort to become the first women to do so. The pair is making the 2,250 mile paddle to demonstrate to young women that the outdoors are accessible and open to exploration if you just get out there.

They are also raising money for Camp Menogyn, a YMCA camp focused on just that—introducing young men and women to the outdoors and providing them with the skills they need to enjoy the outdoors.

Located on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, Menogyn offers wilderness canoe, backpacking, rock climbing and winter camping trips for teens through remote locations including Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Yellowstone, Alaska and trips upwards of 50 days through the large, historic rivers of the Canadian Shield.

One of those 50-day trips is the Femmes du Nord (Women of the North) crossing remote areas of the Canadian wilderness. In 2007, their friendship became cemented when Raiho and Warren traveled along the Kazan and Kunwak Inuit heritage rivers of Nunavut, Canada and ended in Baker Lake.

Their desire to do an even larger trip came after many conversations reminiscing about that Femmes du Nord trip. The route was first made famous by Eric Sevareid in his book “Canoeing with the Cree,” published in 1935. In 2008, Sean Bloomfield and Colton Witte made the journey to commemorate Sevareid’s journey seven decades earlier.

Their journey began only four days after their graduation from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Departing from Fort Snelling on June 2, the plan is to paddle upstream on the Minnesota River, switch over to the north-flowing Red River, paddle across Lake Winnipeg, stop at Norway House in Manitoba and then finish the trip paddling down the Hayes River into the town of York Factory on the Hudson Bay.

“We found out that we are the first women to attempt this trip so that was pretty cool, but we also wanted to make it known that the reason we are able to do this type of trip is because it is really accessible and because Menogyn is a place that taught us how to do long trips,” Raiho said.

If you look at a map of Minnesota, the Minnesota River comes down from its headwaters near that “bump” on the west side of the state. It flows southeast and then, at Mankato, abruptly heads northeast to the Twin Cities. The pair have been averaging over 15 miles a day and are already through Mankato meaning that they are now heading north.

Their goal is to finish the Minnesota River by the end of the month and then take a week break, mostly so that Warren can be the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding. Afterwards, it’s back to the trek and to either finish the Minnesota River or begin on the Red River of the North to Lake Winnipeg.

I’ll be providing regular updates as to their progress but also encourage everybody to visit their website at On there you can view a map of their progress (click on map and then click the map for their latest location). There are also biographies of the two women, a blog, information on Camp Menogyn and a place where you can donate to support their efforts.

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