Despite a reputation for murky water, the Minnesota River and its tributaries see plenty of recreational use. Those in the know enjoy paddling, fishing, and camping. Just ask Mark Bosacker, president of the Mankato Paddling and Outings Club (MPOC). Or the folks at Mankato-based Bent River Outfitter. Depending on water levels, the rivers in the Minnesota River Basin offer a range of paddling conditions, from gentle to series of rapids. Game fish abound in the favorite spots of local anglers. Or you can camp in a tipi at Upper Sioux Agency State Park.
Founded by Bob Zoet, MPOC organized in 1994 for river clean-up, group expeditions, and other outdoor activities. In the early years, they worked to clean up all kinds of trash dumped over the banks, mostly on popular sections of the Blue Earth and LeSueur rivers. This year 40 attended a paddle on Swan Lake, and 10 on the Blue Earth River gorge.
Bent River Outfitter opened for business in 2011, specializing in kayak, canoe, stand up paddleboard, and snowshoe rental and guided trips in the surrounding river valleys. Its second annual river clean-up event is scheduled for September 14.
“I paddle mostly on all the smaller tributaries,” Mark says. “The Cobb, the Le Sueur, the Maple, the Watonwan, the Rush, and High Island Creek. At times the Blue Earth is crowded. On a hot summer day, the size of access parking lots is the limiting factor for the number of boaters on the Blue Earth.”
Today MPOC membership includes about 80 households. It owns four canoes, three kayaks, and an antique ‘war canoe’ vintage 1925 that holds 10-12 people. They also have associations with Bent River Outfitter, Blue Earth River Rock Hoppers, and the Blue Earth Project, Mark says.
He joined the club at its second meeting in 1994. Its popularity grew quickly, drawing more than 300 people. “The initial motivation was to clean up trash,” Mark says. “Back then there was a lot of trash and tires, and there was competition to see who could collect the most.”
The National Guard pitched in, providing heavy equipment. One year, they recorded seven tons, and recovered the most tires in 2011. Blue Earth County also has been supportive.
“We were getting burned out, but it was a sport to see how much trash we could get in a canoe,” Mark says. “Now we are trying to pass effort on to younger people. The clean-up this past May did not find much garbage, and we were happy about that.”
The MPCA released new reports in July describing the need for widespread changes to help improve water quality in the Minnesota River Basin. Learn more and offer input on the MPCA reports on the Minnesota River Basin pages.