Mississippi River-Minnesota Stretch

im planning a canoe/kayak trip with my friends along the minnesota stretch of the mississippi, top to bottom. my two friends are going in their canoe, and not being able to find a fourth, volunteered to be the lonely soul in the kayak. although i wanted to get a kayak anyways for getting around on the local rivers, so this is best fitted for me. so what im asking is what type of kayak should i get ( touring or expedition style, length, sit-in/on top, cargo space); information on the locks and damns we will have to get through, supplie stratigies(if we will be able to pack enough for the whole trip, if not places within trekking distance to resupply), how long it will take?! i know the distance of the river, but what do you think our speed will be considering our cargo/type of watercraft? also, safety tips for the areas where the big barges are, and any other tips. so, i may be asking for alot, but it will greatly be appreciated. feel free to comment on this or email me. p.s i have experience with the outdoors, and paddling. born and raised in minnesota.

Hey i have lots of friend who did that section…they are also on my facebook site called “missouri river paddlers” go there and post the same message an they should provide a bunch of info.

also contact john rusky at quapaw canoe company…google him

hes done the whole river in a canoe as well as a tom sawyer type raft.

good luck

where at in MN?
I am there too, have often thought about doing that stretch.From what I remember of distance, it is about 700 miles, but the upper reaches are so slow, twisty and filled with beaver dams it might be some slow going. I bet two and a half weeks would be about right, if you had a decent boat. After Winnibogoshish the river is reasonably big.

I was intending to do it years ago, and I got a 14’ 6" kayak for it. Nowdays I think I would use a 16 footer.

Something to think about. If you are buying a kayak for this thing, you might be better off buying a Minnesota 3 by Wenonah, and all three of you use it. You would be more comfortable.

The big lakes are dangerous if the wind kicks up.

Locks let any boat through, but you might have to wait a while. You might be faster portaging them.

Use Google Earth to get a good look at the whole route.

Go in the early spring, before mosquitoes, and while there is still enough water in the upper reaches to paddle in.

Keep in touch. It sounds interesting.

Keep in touch as you plan it out. It sounds interesting.

barges are slow, usually easy to avoid. Your speed is going to be dependent on how hard you paddle, and what you really want to do on this trip.

Are you only paddling easily during the day?

Stopping to fish?


Given a decent boat, paddlers paddling all day and night, sleeping in shifts, etc, etc, you could probably be done in 100 hrs. You probably don’t want that. If you make camp at noon every day and sleep till 10 am and just float along, you might die of old age before you get out of MN.

You might make roughly 30 miles a day at a steady but not taxing pace, with no night paddling. Look on Google maps/Google earth in Bemidji and Little Falls for potential resupply points. You probably want to avoid stopping in the Twin Cities. One nice thing about having a few of you going is one or two can go get food while the other stays with the boats. If you don’t have friends in either of those towns, look up a local taxi service in each town, and put their numbers into your cell if you have one. Print maps of the nearest groceries to the river, so you don’t wander aimlessly looking for food. Once you find it you can taxi back to the river if need be. (lugging grocery bags for 5 miles sucks)

As far as food goes, given you can resupply, you really can take a lot of good fresh foods since you will probably only be away from a resupply point for 4-5 days at most. Just bring a cooler, and make the canoers carry it. Get out and try a two day trip under similar conditions and see what you feel like, and what you can do. 700 miles isn’t as much as you might think. You’ll probably be done in two weeks.

My #1 advice - don’t buy a kayak, buy a Kruger canoe.

Sounds like fun. . .
. . . I did that stretch along with the rest of the river a couple of years ago.

Boat: Something you can carry. You will end up portaging alot before Minneapolis. Something you can get the gear you plan on carrying in. I used an Eddyline Nighthawk 16 with Kevlar hull but I met a guy with a much smaller plastic boat that did O.K.

Not many places to resupply before Beminji. I got a mail drop at Palisade. Nice place to get a restaraunt meal and has a place to camp with hot shower. Before Beminji the river is pretty remote. Fallen trees across river have to be scrambled across/under or portaged around.

After Beminji is a series of dams that have to be portaged. Redwing is another good place to get mail resupply and restaraunt meal, also Little Falls.

First locks at Minneapolis. Locks are not a problem. Having a handheld VHF radio helps but ain’t necessary. Tows are not a problem either. They move slow and have to stay in the marked channel.

I doubt you will make more than 20 miles/day with canoes along. There is not much current to help you along. Make sure you have some kind of shoes that will not be sucked off in deep mud. You are likely to see alot of it along the way sometimes up to you waist.

Write/call to Minnesota and get there little Mississippi River maps. They are very good and free.

I paddled Jacobson, MN to Dubuque, IA. That put Minneapolis at the center point of the trip. (Trip Report: http://www.paddlinglight.com/articles/down-the-mississippi/)

Maps: Minnesota publishes a set of maps that covers the river. Get them here: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/watertrails/index.html

Kayak: Get a touring kayak, like a NDK Explorer. Something in the 17-foot range. You’ll want it somewhat maneuverable, because the river has swift areas and in St. Cloud some light whitewater. If I were to do it again, I’d take my Bell Magic solo canoe. It’d be much easier to carry around the dams you’ll hit before the Lock and Dam system – some of the portages are long.

Lock and Dams: You just call them on your VHF radio and let them know you want to lock through. Otherwise paddle to the start of the dam and pull a cord to let them know you want to lock through. It’s free and easy and unless you have to wait for a barge, fast.

Supply: You can grocery shop in almost every river town. Most have grocery stores near the river. Leave your boat in a marina and go shop. I ate lunch in a diner or pub almost every day of the trip.

How long?: As long as you want. My longest day was about 50 miles. Most were much less. Plan on an average of 20-25 miles a day. At the start, you’ll make much less, but after you get into the faster water, you’ll make good time.

Barges: Stay away from them. Stay out of the main channel. Watch out for wing dams. Don’t paddle between the shore and docked barges. The hardest point you’ll face is the constriction of the river in the Twin Cities; you’ll face lots of boat traffic in a small area. Other than that, barges are easy to avoid.

Camping: Lots of established campsites both pay and free. After you get past the Twin Cities there’s lots of great beaches to camp on. Watch out for poison ivy, because it’s everywhere.

Corps of Engineer navigation charts

Real good and with a colored printer - great