The Route

The Itinerary

05/01/2011

Put-in on the Minnesota River below Fort Snelling in St. Paul, MN

Paddle through the Minnesota/Mississippi confluence and east towards Hastings MN

Where the Mississippi meets with the St. Croix at Prescott Wisconsin – turn left MN DNR Mississippi Map – St. Paul to Hastings

Paddle north on the St. Croix to the source and portage near Solon Springs Wisconsin NPS map of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers – the left fork on the map leads to the Brule Portage – the right fork to the Namekagon River

Portage to the springs and source of the Bois Brule River Brule River and Brule River State Forest

Bois Brule River to Lake Superior -turn right Douglas County WI Brule to Lake Superior

Paddle to, along, and around the Bayfield Penninsula to La Pointe on Madeline Island Bayfield County WI Along the South Shore of Superior to La Pointe Ashland County WI Around the Penninsula to La Pointe

Arrive La Pointe around o5/31/2010

But first…some scenery…

St. Croix near Taylor's Falls MN

and more

Historic River Trails

Substitute term “river” for “highway” and looking at a map of the the States you get a sense of how people got around without modern roads for centuries before and years after Europeans first arrived.

U.S with Mississippi highlighted
Here’s My Route

I’ll be paddling the section of river trail that connects the interior of the upper mid-west by way of the Minnesota, Mississippi and their tributaries with Lake Superior and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.

Historic Ft. Snelling - Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers

I’ll begin below historic Fort Snelling. The confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi River below the fort is a historical home to the Mdewakanton Dakota and a significant spiritual site.

The trip ends at La Pointe Wisconsin, Madeline Island, in Lake Superior, a historical fur trading center and a spiritual home of the Anishanaabe people.

James Taylor Dunn, Minnesota Historian and Author and why he’s making me do this trip….just kidding, Mr. Dunn.
James Taylor Dunn wrote his loving chronical, The St. Croix, Midwest Border River in 1965 with new material added in 1979. Part geology,  mostly history but also preservationists’ call to honor and protect the few remaining “wild rivers” in the United States; those rivers mostly undammed and undeveloped. The St. Croix, in its entirety, is neither of these but what wildness remained was threatened by development and plans for more. River Preservation – Preservationists and legislators acted to restrict future degradation by including the St. Croix as one of the first protected rivers under the Wild and Scenic Riverways Act, October 2nd, 1968. Here’s a map which includes the lower St. Croix later included in the Wild River designation.

Additional Maps:

NPS map of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers

Map guide to National Park Service st. Croix River

On the map guide page above, tap the “see map” tab at the top left  for a nice overview with zoom capability of the entire Scenic river waterway. At the bottom of the map page you can see maps of specific river sections. Then, to view the Lower St. Croix, Mississippi (to St. Paul) and Minnesota rivers try Boater\’s Guide to Lower St. Croix, Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers

Two natural springs can be found just north of Solon Springs, Wisconsin. From the bubbling waters of Brule Spring flows the Bois Brule to the north. Bushwack 5oo yards to the southwest and you may find Big Spring, the source of the St. Croix where it begins its journey south. In the final chapter of Dunn’s book he and canoe partner Donald G. Holmquist set out and canoe 115 miles of the most pristine stretch from the headwaters of the St. Croix near Solon Springs Wisconsin to St. Croix Falls. Good reading and honest reporting.

Brule River and Forest – South Section

Brule River and Forest – North Section

By the time I read Dunn’s book in the late 1990’s I’d been canoeing stretches of the mostly lower St. Croix for a dozen years and thinking about a more extensive trip. Dunn’s chapter on the early explorations sealed the deal.

The Brule – St.Croix – Mississippi – Minnesota river trail was well-known to the Native population of the region by the time the Frenchman, Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth followed the route in June of 1680. He heard about it from Native American paddlers while exploring Lake Superior. Du Luth\’s Explorations

Duluth's map of 1678 - 1680 explorations

Jump ahead one hundred and fifty two years of paddles dipped and portages cursed when Henry Schoolcraft explores the river trail beginning on the Minnesota River near Fort Snelling and ending at La Pointe on Madeline Island. The first party with Schoolcraft in charge move efficiently up the river. The second party struggles. Later reportage on the published journals of the trip were none too flattering to Schoolcraft using terms like “unaccountable”, “inhumane”, “UnChristianlike” when describing  his impatience with the second party’s incompetence. I wonder if this really hurt Schoolcraft’s feelings.

Present day - Fort Snelling

Dunn’s third reference to the full river trail recounts an event 1839 when Native Americans are quite put out, and you can imagine why, when it’s decreed that treaty promised annuities would no longer be distributed at the Falls of St. Croix. Dunn describes a day in the third week of June, when approximately 900 Chippewa warriors headed south on the St. Croix river to American Fur Trading Company’s trading post at what is now called Mendota, MN. They came to protest the decision to change distribution to the “distant, inaccessible, Indian Agency at La Pointe on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island  – a difficult and arduous trip”

Coastline Madeline Island

“A difficult and arduous trip” – Well, if that isn’t a challenge. The more experienced, and Euro- world-weary, tired of getting jacked around Native Americans understood most intimately, the toll this route demanded. The less experienced paddler is going to find out just what they were grousing about – and I hope more. Joys? Burdens? Both? That’s what I’m counting on.

 


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6 Responses to The Route

  1. Philip says:

    Dude, I wish I was going with you. Wouldn’t be easier if you started at Superior and went south?

  2. gordon huser says:

    Cool, Corey!

    I look forward to hearing your adventures and more of your planning.

    Won’t you be paddling UPstream for a lot of this trip?

    gg

  3. randy lanari says:

    Corey, you are amazing. You obviously went through a lot of physical and emotional hardship. How did you come up with the idea? I would have chickened out.
    Keep on Truckin’ and canoeing,

    Randy

    • coreymohan says:

      Randy, Thanks for checking out the blog. Sorry it took me a while to respond. I got the idea for the trip from James Tayor Dunn’s book, The St. Croix – Midwest Border River. Once I read about the route, I was hooked.
      I’m guessing that you may have read the Pioneer Press article before finding the blog – perhaps not. I’m saying that because Dave’s feature article on Sunday had to focus on something very specific due to time and space constraints of the newspaper world. He can’t blather on and on like bloggers can over weeks and months and some 50 posts on the same topic ( that would be me). After a long phone interview, Dave, who is an experienced paddler, decided to focus on a particular day and a tough one at that. It certainly wasn’t characteristic of my experience on the overall trip. One correction to his article is that my shoulder didn’t start bothering me until Day 16 rather than the first week. That meant the bulk of the upstream paddle was behind me and in one more day I was at the Gordon Dam and the St. Croix Flowage which was physically far less demanding. With regular doses of Ibprofen and changes in my paddle stroke I was able to adapt to the injury. Only a couple of times did I consider that the condition might be “trip ending”. On reflection, two aspects of my paddling/camping routine really helped make for a satisfying trip. First, I had good maps for the most part which allowed me to set very realistic goals for the day. Often I’d surpass them by the afternoon, sometimes by noon. That was a real stabilizing factor in my emotional/mental health as in it felt great to meet the goal and then decide if I had the reserve to continue or make the decision to start scouting a camp site. Secondly, I had a set up the tent, organize the inside of it, eat supper and off to bed routine that with few variations I stuck to throughout. Once I was in the tent, cozy in the sleeping bag, writing in my journal and then cranking up the weather/FM band radio, the day was essentially behind me regardless of the challenges/difficulties. I say this as one of the least disciplined guys I know – but it really had rewards. Each night I was “home”, comfortable and relaxing. The proverbial “frosting on the attitude cake” was the old friends who supported me on the trail and new ones I met along the way. I’m going to write about that in this week’s post. Anywho, how I do go on and on – something you can’t do in the newspaper business. Thanks to writer Dave Orrick for giving paddling adventures news value in this “motorized” world of ours. Thanks to you too Randy for your kind words. I hope you continue to enjoy the posts ahead. Corey

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