Conservation Minnesota

State Water Trails Offer Recreational Enjoyment

As our July heat wave continues into mid-summer, a good way to enjoy the outdoors and seek some cooling relief is to venture out on a state water trail.  Minnesota is blessed with 33 state water trails; one on Lake Superior, and the remainder on segments of scenic rivers around the state.  It may be the most extensive water trail system in the country, and is recognized as an outstanding program.

I have the privilege of chairing a new citizen’s committee on DNR water trails to assist the program in any way we can.  The committee is made up of many experienced river managers, both former and current, from the public and nonprofit sectors.  And the members are scattered around the state to alert us and the DNR on recreational river concerns.

Our initial emphasis is to promote the water trails program, to encourage paddling and river stewardship, to eventually ensure that the water trails have annual cleanups, and to hopefully encourage and assist the formation of “friend’s groups” for the individual trails. The DNR Commissioner supports our efforts and promotes citizen stewardship in assisting the department.  And the water trails program has an excellent staff coordinator who helps make our job easy.

Last weekend in Winona on the backwaters of the Mississippi, the DNR, encouraged by us, had the first official “state water trails day.”  A good turnout made the initial event promising.  We had great help from local officials and groups, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with its “Summer of Paddling, 2012” series.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the DNR program (formerly called Canoe and Boating Routes when initiated in 1963).  It will be held along a prime stretch of the Minnesota river, and our citizen’s group is looking forward to helping the DNR make the event as successful as possible.

So while the summer heat is upon us, seek out a state water trail for floating fun and exploration.  Wear your life jacket and jump in the water to cool off.  And think about joining us for next year’s water trail day to celebrate 50 years of honoring recreational river paddling.

Learn more about water trails at the DNR’s website.

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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