Edit ModuleShow Tags

Paddle It. Protect It. And Appreciate It.


Some things in life reap such a big reward that the struggle before the high becomes an instant, distant memory. (Childbirth? Marathons?)

And that’s how I’d ultimately summarize Minnesota's annual Mississippi River Challenge.

The views! The camaraderie! The sore arms! (Caveat: I heard 24 miles and current, so didn't prep. At. All. Turns out it was 24 miles per day, and very little current.)

While it's perfectly true that will power and pride got me to that finish line, I still don't regret it—of course, not until after I survived without calling uncle (though there is that option, if you need it).

But I guess that's why they call it a challenge, and a gorgeous one at that.

river challengeThis year, the route is somewhat new: Paddlers will start on the Minnesota River, go through the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, and then join the Mississippi River at Pike Island, continuing on through St. Paul and further downstream to Grey Cloud Island on day two.

Though there are hundreds of paddlers, everyone gets pretty spread out at times, so there's a definite quiet and peacefulness throughout. Then everyone meets up at the very convenient, well organized, and very welcome stopping points along the way, for snacks, rest, and often a little education.

Any paddlecraft (ie. no motor) is allowed, with lots of easy rentals you pick up on the day, so the river is full of single-person kayaks, groups in canoes, and even a paddleboard or two—though I can't imagine taking that the whole way. I found the single kayak pretty easy to maneuver, and didn't feel tippy or unsafe. Everyone wears a life jacket, the current isn’t strong, and safety captains are all out paddling, ready to help if you need it (though I didn't see them needed that often).

A definite highlight was camping overnight at Historic Fort Snelling. Our tents and gear were right there when we arrived, and a big meal and live entertainment kept us busy until our weary heads were no longer upright. This year, paddlers can enjoy live music by the Roe Family Singers.

And the food was stellar. Lots of cold drinks, snacks, and hearty meals easily sustained us along the way.

This isn't all fun and games, though. It's for the river: Each paddler over 18 is required to raise a minimum of $200 (half-day paddlers) or $250 (one- and two-day paddlers) in pledges to participate. Paddlers ages 16-18 are asked to raise a minimum of $50 in pledges, but there is no minimum for those 15 and under. And all that goes directly to the Friends of the Mississippi River, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit that works to "protect and conserve land along the river, its water quality, and its value as a recreational, ecological, cultural and historic asset for everyone in the community."

You can learn lots more about the fund-raising and half-day (11 miles), one-day (17 miles) and two-day (39 miles) options on the event site. This year, I'm considering a three-person canoe, so I can enjoy the views even more during my "off" shifts.

The actual Challenge is next month, July 28 & 29, but this advance notice is three-fold:

  1. Register by July 1 and you get a reduced sign-up rate.
  2. You'll need time to start raising those funds.
  3. And lift some weights. Your arms will thank you.

It's truly one of the greatest outdoor experiences I've ever had in this great state, and well worth it.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

It's Farmers Market Season

No matter where you live in Minnesota, fresh produce, flowers and homemade goodies await

Origami in the Garden

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's latest exhibit puts the art of folding paper on full display with a garden and metal twist

New Ways to Explore 3 Classic MN Destinations

From Fort Snelling to the North Shore, check out this summer's technological updates to historic and wild Minnesota places

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

What to Wear + Where to Go: Music Festivals

Your style guide for Minnesota music festivals

Mesabi Trail Offers New Views in Northern Minnesota

The Mesabi Trail, a 120-mile paved cycling and hiking trail that spans the Mesabi Iron Range, recently opened a new connection in Virginia, MN that crosses the state's tallest bridge and offers amazing views of former minelands.

Glensheen Mansion Bonfire Nights

Enjoy this summer tradition from one of the most iconic estates in the state

Twin Cities Festival Spring Babies

If April showers bring May flowers, spring babies bring fun for the whole family

Record Store Day: Where to Find Rare Releases in MN

On April 21, rock out at mini-music festivals around the state, dig into gourmet donuts, and collect the rare vinyls available one time a year

Catch the Lyrids Meteor Shower

The meteor shower peaks April 21 and 22, just in time for Earth Day

A Day Trip to Excelsior

Just 20 miles west of the Twin Cities, this waterfront town is complete with charming shops and lakeside dining

Night Art Gallery Is Your Sober Night Out

The Lindstrom art gallery entertains with hors d'oeuvres, tons of art available for purchase, and non-alcholic drinks

Treasure Island Resort & Casino 2018 Summer Concert Series

Check out the awe-inspiring lineup of summer concerts at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Weekend Activities to Satisfy Your Inner-Child

Check out these weekend activities that will have you feeling like a kid again.
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags