Water Trails: Year in Review

Newsletter Banner2015: Minnesota State Water Trails
Photograph taken by Jon Wood on the Redwood River.
Water trails news banner
John Helland

Letter from John

The snow is melting, so paddling season must be just around the bend!  But first, let’s take a look back at some highlights from 2015:

Natalie Warren, our 2014 Water Trails Tourism Summit keynote speaker, is the newest member of the Water Trails Citizen Advisory Committee. Natalie also has a relatively new job as the River Corridor Steward for the St. Croix River Association.

Unfortunately, planning for the 2016 Water Trails Tourism Summit has been discontinued due to a projected budget deficit in the Water Recreation Fund. Revenue in the fund (boat, canoe, kayak license fees and a portion of the gas tax) has remained somewhat stable over the years, but has not kept pace with inflationary costs. A future Summit and Water Trail facility development and maintenance activities will depend on whether a legislative fix can be found for the long-term sustainability of the fund. I encourage you to contact your local legislators to inform them of the need to fix the budget shortfall.

The new law that required Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) trailer training was legislatively repealed in 2015. Instead, boaters and nonresident anglers will now just need to affirm that they have read and understand AIS laws when they purchase their licenses. Keep an eye on the DNR’s AIS webpage for more information in the coming weeks.

Stakeholders and DNR staff began discussions about potential dam renovation or removal projects that could benefit both aquatic habitat restoration and recreation opportunities.   Whitewater park designers and fish passage experts met with interested parties in Granite Falls (Minnesota River) and Fergus Falls (Otter Tail River).  These talks are in the very early stages.  Any potential projects could take years to implement, but are exciting possibilities for paddlers.

Governor Mark Dayton's landmark buffer initiative was signed into law in 2015. The law establishes new perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet along rivers, streams, and ditches.  These buffers will help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment; and will provide critical wildlife habitat. The DNR's role in Minnesota's new buffer law is to produce maps of public waters and public ditch systems that require permanent vegetation buffers. 

The Shell Rock River State Water Trail near Albert Lea, MN was legislatively designated in 2015. The map and website should be available by the end of April.

Happy paddling in 2016!

John Helland, Water Trails Citizen Advisory Committee Chair

SUP State Fair

Paddleboarding at the Minnesota State Fair a success

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is the fastest growing sector of paddlesports, so the DNR showcased it at the Minnesota State Fair. Over 2,100 people tried out the new stand-up paddleboarding simulator during the 12-day event.

This free attraction was located near the DNR fish pond and was staffed by Conservation Corps Minnesota members. Crew member Carly DeVries reflected on the event, saying, “I thought that working at the simulator was fun when people were genuinely interested in learning how to do it… A lot of people were interested in the self-inflating life jackets and thought they were pretty neat.”

The experience started out with a demonstration of life jacket fitting and a safety message before boarding the simulator. The simulation activity lasted about three minutes, and introduced participants to proper paddleboarding techniques. Be sure to make it out the State Fair this summer to see what else the DNR has to offer!

Visit mndnr.gov/sup for more information about stand-up paddleboarding in Minnesota.

CCM Work

Conservation Corps crews help maintain Minnesota's State Water Trails

In 2015, DNR Parks and Trails once again contracted with Conservation Corps Minnesota (CCM) for maintenance services on Minnesota's State Water Trails. This work is in addition to the work that DNR crews perform, and it is an effort to catch up on a lot of backlogged maintenance needs statewide.  

Nine young adults made up two CCM crews that paddled and boated over 700 miles on Minnesota's State Water Trails between late-April and mid-October. They went through intensive training to safely use chainsaws both in and on water. Their work included woody obstruction removal, remote campsite maintenance, and documentation of conditions along the Water Trails. Crew member Andy Nail had time to reflect on his experience, saying: "The uniqueness of this experience is unmatched, and I would highly recommend anyone who is interested to actually go out on these rivers and see for yourself what they have to offer."

CCM offers a wide range of opportunities for young adults and youth to get involved in their community and learn more about environmental stewardship. 

Learn more at conservationcorps.org

Chisago Lakes

Local Water Trail competing for big prize

John Olinger, Lindstrom City Administrator attended the 2014 Minnesota Water Trails Tourism Summit. This event contributed to his concept of developing a Local Water Trail. John has been working with surrounding communities to promote water recreation. The proposed Chisago Lakes Water Trail will consist of interconnected lakes that offer a wealth of water recreation tourism opportunities, and the convenience of suburban amenities. The Local Water Trail will include 13 miles of paddling on a total of 10 lakes.

John was delighted to share the development story of this Water Trail. “We knew there was great potential for a Water Trail in our communities because of the quantity and distribution of picturesque lakes. Mother Nature has already provided the Water Trail; we just need to provide maps and formal definition of public infrastructure. I like to describe this Water Trail as ‘Boundary Waters Lite,’ and it’s only a half hour drive from the Twin Cities.” he said.

The Chisago Lakes Area is positioning itself to become one of the first highly successful Local Water Trails in Minnesota. The area has also been recognized as the only Minnesota candidate in the America’s Best Communities competition. The Chisago Lakes Area has moved on to the semi-finals of the competition, with only 15 communities remaining. In April, eight finalists will be selected to receive a community revitalization award of $100,000 each. The grand prize winner will be awarded $3 million! Good luck Chisago Lakes Water Trail!

I Can Paddle! kayaking photo

Kayaking skills added to the DNR’s I Can Paddle! Program

The DNR’s I Can Paddle! program offers first time paddlers the opportunity to develop skills necessary to enjoy a lifetime of paddling. The program is made available through Legacy Amendment funds, and expanded in 2015 to include kayaking programs on lakes and rivers.

The 2015 I Can Paddle! season was a huge success with well over 600 people participating in canoeing, kayaking, sea kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding programs at State Parks and on State Water Trails.   

Registration is not yet available for 2016 I Can! programs, but keep an eye on our website for registration information on all of the following programs:

I Can! Programs
Prepare to Launch!

Prepare to Launch!

Are you interested in the development and improvement of carry-in watercraft accesses? The River Management Society (RMS) recently published Prepare to Launch! Guidelines for Assessing, Designing, and Building Launch Sites for Carry-in Watercraft in partnership with the National Parks Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program and trail users.

Prepare to Launch! is an in-depth guide that can assist Water Trail planners and project leaders in creating carry-in access sites that are tailored to the needs of specific watercraft users. The guide addresses planning launch locations, user accessibility, launch design, funding resources and more.

To learn more about River Management Society Water Trail Management resources, click here.

Photo uploader

Water Trails Photo Uploader

Did you take an awesome photograph during your last outing and want to share it with more than just family? Reach a wider audience by submitting your photo to the DNR's photo uploader. The photo uploader tool can be found on the introductory page of each Water Trail, or you can visit the photo uploader directly. After reviewing the Community Guidelines, fill out the required boxes, including the Water Trail you were on, when you took the photograph, and a caption. 

Help us update our outfitters and organizations lists

If you know of any outfitters that provide shuttle services or canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard rental for use on State Water Trails, please make sure they are listed on our Outfitters page. 

Grant opportunities banner

Water Recreation Cooperative Acquisition and Development Program

This program provides financial and technical assistance to local governments for public boat accesses, campsites, rest areas and portages on the State's rivers and lakes. Eligible projects include acquisition, development and improvement of public boat accesses, parking lots, docks, boat launching ramps, campsites, rest areas and portages. Engineering and design assistance is available. For more information, click here.

Outdoor Recreation Grant Program

The goal of the Outdoor Recreation Grant program is to increase and enhance outdoor recreation facilities in local and community parks throughout the state. Eligible projects include Park acquisition and/or development/redevelopment including, internal park trails, picnic shelters, playgrounds, athletic facilities, boat accesses, fishing piers, swimming beaches and campgrounds. All park projects must meet requirements for perpetual outdoor recreation use. Click here for more information.

Logos: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Conservation Corps, and Minnesota State Water Trails

Have State Water Trails questions or comments? Let us know about any channel obstructions, report facility conditions, or make map or river gauge corrections by filling out our conditions reporting form.

For any other issues or inquiries, please contact Erik Wrede, DNR Water Trails Coordinator (651-259-5624, Erik.Wrede@state.mn.us).

The Minnesota State Water Trails newsletter is published by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the State Water Trails program in the Division of Parks and Trails.

Erika Rivers, Director of the Division of Parks and Trails

Phil Leversedge, Deputy Director of the Division of Parks and Trails

Erik Wrede, Water Trails Coordinator

Nathan Schilling, Editor, CCM Mapping and Outreach Specialist