State Water Trails Newsletter

2014 Paddling Season

Minnesota State Water Trails

State Water Trails are recreational routes managed for canoeing, kayaking, boating and camping.  The Minnesota DNR provides free maps, camping, river level reporting and trip planning resources – all of which can be found on the State Water Trails website

Letter from the Water Trails Advisory Committee Chair, John Helland

John Helland

For those of us who like to paddle on this state's great water trail system, we are eagerly awaiting Spring and open water after our very long winter season. Many paddlers will see some good maintenance work done on Water Trails because of an enhanced effort in channel maintenance and campsite rehabilitation. The Conservation Corps of Minnesota will have three times the funding they had last year to do this important work.

The Parks and Trails Division of the DNR is in the midst of a ten-year system plan, with one of the components being water recreation. A draft plan is almost done and will be trotted out in public meetings throughout the state, so I encourage Water Trail paddlers to lend your input to this effort. There is also a good possibility that there will be an expanded Water Trails grant's program to look for this Fall.

Along the Des Moines river, two dams - in Windom and Jackson - have recently been removed and, as a result, two campsites have been re-established and can be found on the Des Moines Water Trail map.  We are still looking to see if a Des Moines River "Friend's Group" would like to get started in the area.

We have discovered some local efforts on several Water Trails that don't yet have a formal Friend's Group. Watershed districts are doing good work along the Cedar and Whitewater Rivers. Some interest has been noted among folks in northeastern Minnesota for the Little Fork and Vermilion Rivers. A former leader that helped along the Long Prairie River several years ago has shown renewed interest again. We've also heard that there is growing interest in getting locals engaged in the Pine River Water Trail.

While not all State Water Trails have formal "Friend's Groups," all the Water Trails in the DNR's system have active user and citizen's groups to watch over their favorite river. So if anyone reading this knows of local interests that may want to assist on a regular basis, please contact Erik Wrede, the DNR Water Trail Coordinator at

We also are very excited for the Parks and Trails Division to endorse a State Water Trails Summit in late September of 2014. Stay tuned for an exact date and agenda for a two-day event. One of the days will be a paddle on the local Water Trail where the event will be held.

The second day will be an interactive and educational gathering of paddling communities, outfitters, related businesses, friend's groups, and convention and visitor bureaus to broadly increase state water trail user participation, satisfaction and stewardship.

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Water Trail Maps Arriving Soon

Map Collage

New State Water Trail maps are on the way and should beavailable by the end of April. If you haven't ordered maps yet, stop by the DNR Information Center or regional offices to pick one up. To request maps to be mailed to you please contact the Information Center

Maps are paid for with your watercraft registration fees - click here to register your watercraft!

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Lake Service Provider Training

AIS Banner

Are you an outfitter? 

Does your business or organization rent or lease boats, canoes, or other water-related equipment?  If so, you may be a Lake Service Provider.

What does this mean?

Changes to Minnesota invasive species laws affecting lake service provider (LSP) businesses went into effect on July 1, 2013. Under the new legislation, lake service providers now include businesses that rent or lease boats, canoes, or other water-related equipment. These businesses are now legislatively required to have an owner or manager attend aquatic invasive species training and apply for an LSP permit every three years.

Where can I find more information?

For more information on whether you qualify as an LSP or to sign up for a training session, please visit the Lake Service Provider Training and Permit Program website.

Please be aware that all laws are subject to change, click here for more information.


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Visit us at the Outdoor Adventure Expo

Outdoor Adventure Expo Logo

Come and visit our booth at the 58th annual Outdoor Adventure Expo, April 25-27. At the Expo you can pick up Water Trail maps, talk with DNR employees, attend a seminar, try out new products, buy a used canoe or kayak, and much more!



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NEW! Water Trails Photo Uploader

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 (as seen below boxed in red), 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.


Water Trail Photo Uploader

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Be Prepared for Spring Paddling in Cold Water

Kayak - Cropped and Resized

Even on a warm day, water temperatures can hover dangerously in the low 50’s.  Victims who experience an unexpected fall overboard could suffer the first stage of cold water shock in the first minute, which involuntarily causes them to take a series of big breaths, called hyperventilation. If a person’s head is underwater, they can inhale more than a quart of water and drown immediately. Those who keep their head above water (because they have their life jacket on!) may still hyperventilate as their blood pressure jumps. If they can’t control their breathing within 60 seconds, they may suffer numbness, muscle weakness or even fainting, which can lead to drowning. A person with heart disease may experience sudden death due to cardiac arrest.  A victim who survives the first minute of cold shock and hyperventilation will progress to the second stage called “cold incapacitation,” or swimming failure. Within about 10 minutes, rapid cooling of the extremities causes muscle stiffening so a person will no longer be able to perform the tasks, such as swimming, holding onto a floating object, or putting on a life jacket. Even yelling for help can be difficult.

Hypothermia (a drastic lowering of the body’s core temperature) is the third stage. There is a common misconception that it sets in almost immediately after a person lands in cold water. However, a victim won’t start to become hypothermic for 30 minutes.  It is essential for spring paddlers to wear their life jacket and wool or synthetic layers of clothing.  Cotton is not a good clothing material to wear when the water is cold.  

In the event of a capsize, get your watercraft and your paddles to shore immediately (don’t worry about the rest of your gear floating downstream).  Change into the dry clothes you were sure to strap to your canoe in a waterproof bag.  Then, chase after any miscellaneous gear and get off the water as soon as possible because you may no longer have spare dry clothes if you capsize again.  Most capsizes happen when boarding and getting out of canoes and kayaks.  Be sure to take special care and help your paddling partners in and out of their watercraft.  Even experienced paddlers can capsize, especially if they have Spring fever and are so anxious to get on the water that they take shortcuts.

Spring river paddling can offer some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities when lakes are still frozen.  It is a wonderful way to celebrate the end of a long, hard winter.  Just take precautions, and be sure to talk about safety issues and plans with your paddling partners before departing. Be sure to read our Paddling Safety Tips and Paddler's Checklist before heading out for the season.

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Youth Outdoors: Conservation Corps

Conservation Corps Youth

Conservation Corps Minnesota’s afterschool program, Youth Outdoors, connects urban teens to the natural environment through hands-on conservation and neighborhood beautification projects. It empowers young people to become active, engaged citizens and leaders.

The program is currently open to Saint Paul, Ramsey County and Minneapolis high school students, ages 15 to 18, from households at or below 80 percent of the city’s median income.

The Fall 2014 program runs from early September through early November. Apply online by July 31. If you have any questions please contact Hollis Emery at or call (651) 209-9900 x23.

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Available Grants

Outdoor Nation Banner

2014 Paddle Nation Project Grants

Outdoor Nation is pleased to announce that it is accepting applications from nonprofit organizations who are interested in connecting young Americans with their waterways through recreational paddling. This funding opportunity supports pioneering projects and initiatives that are youth-developed and that result in increased paddling participation.

Visit their website for more information.

Environmental Stewards Banner

Environmental Steward's AmeriCorps Program

Do you have unmet organizational needs or need help with a project? Want to have access to National recruitment for your project? Conservation Legacy’s Environmental Stewards Program is providing opportunities for 10-week to year-long AmeriCorps Environmental Stewards for your agency. Stewards can assist your organization with a wide range of activities including: water, habitat, vegetation monitoring, grant writing, program development, volunteer project organization, outreach and education, GPS use and GIS mapping, interpretive services, invasive species management, and other hands-on work related to environmental stewardship. Stewards can start anytime throughout the year. 

To learn more about the Environmental Stewards program, costs, and application process, please visit: or contact the Environmental Stewards Program Director, Michael Rendon at or 970-403-0149.

Fund for Wild Nature Banner

Fund for Wild Nature

The Fund for Wild Nature believes that healthy ecosystems are too essential to be sacrificed. Increasingly rare, wild areas constitute the main reservoirs of biodiversity, and provide key spiritual and scientific reference points for our understanding of the planet's wondrous cycles of birth, life, death and decay.

The Fund provides small grants for North American companies to save native species and wild ecosystems, with particular emphasis on actions designed to defend threatened wilderness and biological diversity.

For more information, please visit

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Banner

National Wildlife Refuge Friends Program Spring 2014

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with its partners, recognizes the important role refuge Friends organizations play in building critical community support for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System.  As such, we are requesting proposals for projects that assist organizations to be effective co-stewards of our Nation’s important natural resources within the National Wildlife Refuge System.  This program provides competitive seed grants ($1,500 - $5,000) to creative and innovative proposals that seek to increase the number and effectiveness of organizations interested in assisting the Refuge System nationwide and their work and projects to support the System.

Visit their website for more information.

DNR Water Recreation Cooperative Acquisition & 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.

The program is funded through the State Water Recreation Account. State Water Trail advocates can suggest projects, and work with DNR to engage a local government entity as the grant recipient.

For more information, visit the DNR website.

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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.

Analeisha Vang, Editor, Events and Community Outreach Specialist

Erik Wrede, Water Trails Coordinator

Courtland Nelson, Director of the Division of Parks and Trails

Luke Skinner, Deputy Director of the Division of Parks and Trails