Local Getaways: Paddling Minnehaha Creek

Mark and Mike paddled recreational kayaks and said they really enjoyed negotiating the Creek's twist and turns, although they were ready to be finished sitting in the cold water by the day's end. I went solo in my 16" Royalex Wenonah canoe. The creek bottom was hard enough for me to get in some good poling practice when I wasn't using my ash paddle with the Maine Guide Style grip.

Mark and Mike paddled recreational kayaks and said they really enjoyed negotiating the Creek's twist and turns, although they were ready to be finished sitting in the cold water by the day's end.

I went solo in my 16" Royalex Wenonah canoe. The creek bottom was hard enough for me to get in some good poling practice when I wasn't using my ash paddle with the Maine Guide Style grip.

One of the great things about living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (and many, many rivers, creeks, and streams!) is that a paddling trip doesn't always have to be a minutely-planned days- or weeks-long trip, it can be just one afternoon. I wanted to get out and paddle a bit before taking off on a trip to Phoenix, so I got together with a couple of my buddies, and we hit Minnehaha Creek.

Minnehaha Creek starts in Lake Minnetonka and stretches west for 22 miles. The majority of this route has you floating through suburban backyards, but there are some spots along the Creek that are fairly wooded and make you think you've escaped city life--at least momentarily.

Overall, Minnehaha Creek is good if you live right near the Creek or are desperate to get on the water and can't get out of the Twin Cities metro area, but this is not my favorite local paddle. As a paddle location, I'd give it a C+.

A particularly fast stretch near Utley Park in Edina. The Creek flows over a dam just north of here, requiring a portage across 50th Street. You always get some curious looks from the basketball and tennis players in the park as you carry your canoe across the busy street.

A particularly fast stretch near Utley Park in Edina. The Creek flows over a dam just north of here, requiring a portage across 50th Street. You always get some curious looks from the basketball and tennis players in the park as you carry your canoe across the busy street.

On the plus side, Minnehaha can be great in certain parts if you want to practice poling or whitewater moves. You can park in one spot and make short trips up and down with logistical ease while being able to test your skills on the Creek. 

On the other hand, due to the many low-clearance bridges (if we get any more rain, I won't be able to get my canoe under some of those bridges), the potential for heavy traffic while shuttling your canoe, and the crowded, high-budget residential development (in many parts, I felt like I was paddling through a Parade of Homes backyard tour), I'd rather step a bit outside the metro area and paddle Sand Creek in Jordan, MN or the Kinninnic River near River Falls, WI.

The low-clearance bridges posed a bit of a problem for a guy like me who is 6' 5" tall. At several points, I had to slide down and lie on the bottom of my canoe just to get under the bridges. This made me less than happy, and I was questioning going through with it. If for some reason I'd tipped, it could've caused a bad situation trying to get out of the canoe. Checking water levels after any heavy rain is highly recommended (you can check out the water level of Minnehaha Creek here).

Another plus to Minnehaha Creek is if you're a hardcore whitewater paddler who wants to practice maneuvers, Minnehaha Creek at 54th Street can be a great local spot (check out the photo below of a couple of guys we ran into on the Creek). 

The creek has lots of riffles and shoreline entanglements to avoid, and one big drop at the 54th Street Bridge. I was tempted to run it, but  with my set-up and skills, I figured my chances of making it through were 50-50 at best. We were running out of daylight, so I hit the portage trail.

The creek has lots of riffles and shoreline entanglements to avoid, and one big drop at the 54th Street Bridge. I was tempted to run it, but  with my set-up and skills, I figured my chances of making it through were 50-50 at best. We were running out of daylight, so I hit the portage trail.

Playboating at 54th Street.

Playboating at 54th Street.

If you're looking for a quick and easy getaway this weekend, check out your local rivers and lakes. If you don't know where to start, check out your state's DNR website. Typically, the DNR sites provide ideas for paddling locations. Minnesota's DNR site is a great resource for maps, water levels, and extra planning tips. Remember: getting out on the water for a fun paddling trip to enjoy the outdoors doesn't have to be an overly involved trip--look into your local waters, too!