Urban Kayaking Above Saint Anthony Falls
Growing up on the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River, it is inevitable that one would be exposed to activities on the water. Everything from sailing, motor boating, riding personal watercraft, tubing, canoeing, and more can be done on the water. For many who live by the water, this is a way of life. For me, I’ve done many of these things, but it was never a big part of my life. Of all the things that I’ve done on the water, kayaking has not been one of them.
This past May, I attended TBEX 2016 North America in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota. TBEX is a travel blogger conference held several times a year around the world. As part of the TBEX experience, bloggers have the option to go on tours or activities as part of the conference. While looking through the options for the events that were going on this year, I saw the opportunity to go kayaking on the Mississippi River. I instantly decided this was the activity I wanted to do and booked my spot on the trip.
The morning of the trip, I woke up early and headed across the street from my hotel to get some breakfast. Knowing that I would be using a lot of energy, I wanted to make sure I had a good breakfast. Having lots of energy is essential when it comes to being out on the water in a manually propelled craft. After breakfast, I made my way back to the lobby of my hotel where I met up with the other group members. There was about 20 or so people taking part in the kayaking trip and all of us were excited. We talked amongst ourselves while we waited for our bus. Among the group were a few other adventure travel bloggers; Stephanie DeRosa from Curiosity & Courage and Lina and David from Divergent Travelers.
We took a short bus ride to our launching point at Boom Island Park. As we arrived, we saw our guides setting up the kayaks and laying out our personal flotation devices. We were greeted as we exited the bus and welcomed to the park. After the guides from Above the Falls Sports introduced themselves, we were given a short demonstration on how to use the paddles. All but a few kayaks were two person kayaks, so we all paired up and proceeded towards the water.
Once on the water, the familiar smells of being near the water welcomed me. The smell of the river and the sweet smell from local plants filled my nose. Closing my eyes, I could imagine I was back home on the Susquehanna. As the sky clouded over, several local birds flew overhead as we made our way into the current of the Mississippi River.
From the park, we headed North along the Eastern side of the river. As my partner and I fell into sync with each other, I began to see why so many people enjoy kayaking. The feel of the wind on my face, the gentle splashing of the paddles in the water, and the scenery made everything feel so peaceful. It was easy to forget the worries of the world and just fall into the embrace of the experience. I began to wonder why it had taken me so long to experience this. I now found a new passion for being on the water.
As we paddled up the river, we all talked and got to know each other more. Before we reached our first turning point, our guides pointed out to us the Grain Belt Brewery, which we could just see over the bank of the river from where we were. After a short stop for a group photo in the kayaks, we headed across the river to the other side to explore where Bassett Creek empties into the Mississippi River. We weren’t able to go very far up the creek due to a small tunnel, so we doubled back towards the river.
As we approached the river, the local trees began to shower us with fuzzy, white seeds from their branches. There was so much of the pretty white seeds falling, that it gave the appearance of a snowfall in May. After brushing away a slight covering of seeds, we re-entered the river and made our way back to the Eastern side and began to explore the area around Nicollet Island.
As we explored the area around the island, our time began to wind down. We finished our exploration and began to make our way back to Boom Island Park where we had launched from. I couldn’t believe how fast the last few hours had flown by. It felt like we had just launched into the river, and here we were, landing and pulling our kayaks on shore. I guess it’s like the saying goes, ‘All good things must come to an end’.