Fall is for paddlers. A little rain brings the river back up, and the bluffs and banks are soaked in color. The white pines stand out boldly green amidst gold and orange and a little red.
Also, winter is long, and it’s good to make the time between being on the water as short as possible.
Below is a brief video made where the Kettle River joins the St. Croix. Rushing water, sandhill cranes, a little breeze, and warm afternoon light.
The Kettle is designated by the state of Minnesota as wild & scenic, as well as an official water trail. Its last few miles run through remote country, with the 34,000-acre St. Croix State Park on one side, and 29,000-acre Chengwatana State Forest on the other, and the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway ahead.
The water had come up enough to make the rivers floatable, though we did bump rocks in most of the rapids. The route was a succession of calm pools and swift riffles.
Here is a photo slideshow of the same trip:
Lastly, a slideshow of a cloudy Sunday trip from William O’Brien State Park to the Boom Site landing north of Stillwater. The sky was mercurial — clouds blowing across the valley, blue and sunshine occasionally breaking through.
A cold drizzle settled in for our last few miles. We paddled steadily, the changing leaves softened by the rain. Three otters swam along with us from 30 feet away for a ways.
I’m already looking forward to April, when we’ll return to the river, and ducks will fly up from the banks, herons will flop and squawk on their nests, and a chorus of birdsong will sing in stereo from both banks.