Playing with Water
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, bodies of water abound. And paddling, whether in a kayak or canoe, is a great way to get close to the water and enjoy it without the expense of a larger boat.
NABUR member @Shawn Donais, District Supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources State Parks and Trails, knows some of the best spots to paddle in the Fergus Falls area. After Donais and his family moved to the area, he discovered the Ottertail River State Water trail, which quickly became his “second home.”
The affordability of owning a kayak was what attracted Donais and his family into kayaking. In college he liked that kayaking allowed him to be on the water without spending the money involved with getting a larger boat.
“I just get into kind of being connected, the movement of the water, how it affects you,” Donais said. “How you can actually like, watch the water’s surface and kinda play with it, play with the current.”
Where are the best places to kayak? Donais recommends the Glendalough State Park’s Molly Stark Lake, which is a non motorized lake. He recommends the stretches of the Ottertail River that come into Fergus Falls; the 13-mile stretch from the diversion dam coming into town is a popular one.
For someone who wants to get into kayaking, Donais recommends trying it out on a lake first. The I Can Paddle! Group will be running an event teaching anyone who has never been in a kayak before how to use one. The event will be held on August 7-8 at Maplewood State Park.
When he teaches people how to kayak, Donais starts by having them paddle upstream backwards. This allows a kayaker to have more control over the boat and better maneuverability.
“Once you’ve learned that, you can avoid just about anything out there on the Ottertail River,” Donais said.
The DNR has a helpful resource for anyone interested in exploring water trails or national parks called a GeoPDF map. All users need to do is download the map to their phone and it will show them their location on it, regardless of whether or not a user has cell service.
For experienced kayakers, he suggests that you “play in that water, play in the current.”
Some of Donais’ favorite waterways include the St. Croix River, Kettle River and the Boundary Waters because of their remote feel. However, he has a favorite spot on the Ottertail River as well.
“For me on the Ottertail, it’s really probably the Friberg Dam to Diversion Dam. It’s not very developed,” he said. “It’s kind of open and sandy bottom(ed), it goes through a treed area. There’s a few little ripples and rapids and then it ends out on this big broad lake that there’s one little spot where there’s rolling prairie hills. You feel like you’re out in South Dakota somewhere.”
One of his favorite memories related to kayaking is the opportunity to share the experience of a kayak with someone who had never been in one before. He had the opportunity to run “Paddlefest” a few years ago and give children, a lot of them from new American families, a chance to experience canoes and kayaks.
“We had 60 some kids that had never kayaked before out there laughing and giggling and moms taking pictures, and that’s cool,” Donais said. “That’s cool to be able to provide that experience, that’s what I live for.”
With a warm weekend up ahead, I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy living in the "Land of 10,000" lakes whether that's in a kayak or a swimming suit.
Do you have a good canoeing or kayaking story to share?
What is your favorite thing to do in/on/around the water during the summer?