As we look back on our year, we are excited to share a few milestones and highlights.
In 2019, we connected 40,000 people to inclusive outdoor adventures through 450 trips and events worldwide. We served 19,000 people of color, 4,800 people with a disability, and those ranging in age from 1 to 87. As we paddle, hike, and explore with people from all walks of life we find that Mother Nature continues to be a perfect platform for discovering our common humanity. When we are in nature together, we break down real and perceived barriers and discover what it truly means to Share the Adventure.
Families of all Abilities and Backgrounds Experience the Outdoors
Building healthy communities starts with healthy families. In 2019, we provided outdoor opportunities for families from low-income backgrounds, families that experience disability, and families that are seeking adventure. Youth interns, like Jozlyn, travel with their family–often for their first outdoor experience.
There are a multitude of benefits to families traveling together and with other families. One participant, John, shared what he felt is the most rewarding benefit of multigenerational travel: “Wilderness Inquiry trips are unique in the sense that they provide a great growth experience for youth. Kids get to interact with people of all abilities and ages and realize that we are more alike than we think.”
Learn more about John’s family experiences with Wilderness Inquiry: https://www.wildernessinquiry.org/current-news/news-notes/the-benefits-of-multigenerational-travel/
Canoemobile Traverses the Country — and Beyond!
Our most expansive tour yet, Canoemobile reached communities from Santa Barbara to New York City. Since its beginning, we have served 114 communities, including 38 cities in Wilderness Inquiry’s home state of Minnesota. This award-winning program continues to bring learning to life as youth paddle in Voyageur canoes, analyze water quality data, hike historical pathways, and more. More than 28,000 youth from all backgrounds and abilities connected to the natural world close to home in 2019.
For the first time, we crossed international borders with Canoemobile and paddled with hundreds of individuals from low-income backgrounds on the Humber River in Toronto, Canada! Thanks to Thomson Reuters for sponsoring this tour — and to our many corporate, foundation, and individual donors for making Canoemobile possible.
Students Get Back on Track to Graduate with Outdoor Credit Recovery Program
In partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools, dozens of students recovered academic credits in science and language arts as they participated in outdoor place-based education. This one-of-a-kind program fosters collaboration between licensed teachers and outdoor leaders to provide a deep and engaging experience for students that learn best in non-traditional ways. In addition to hands-on learning in the outdoor classroom, students are introduced to nearby public lands and waterways such as Minnehaha Park, Fort Snelling State Park, and the Mississippi River.
One teacher shared, “students had a chance to connect a concept to their own life experience and feel connected to a community — this program helps learning come alive.”
Creating Accessibility in the Impenetrable Forest
Part of Wilderness Inquiry’s mission is to create access to outdoor opportunities for individuals that may experience barriers. More than 4,800 individuals with a disability joined us for an adventure this year. In July, a group of adventurers reached the heart of the Impenetrable Forest in Uganda–one of the most remote wilderness areas in the world featuring rugged terrain and mountain gorillas. A participant shared, “This trip was a balm for the soul and I will be forever changed by this totally unique experience.”
Our Voyageur Canoe Fleet Has Grown to 58
Thanks to generous supporters at our 40th Anniversary Celebration in 2018, capital grants, and additional gifts throughout the year, we raised funds to add 26 10-person canoes to our fleet. This new model of fiberglass canoe was created in partnership with Wenonah Canoe and is a lighter and more stable design. These additional boats allow us to increase service capacity and eventually retire older wooden canoes that have become costly to maintain.
Local Community Events Connect Thousands to the Natural World
Here in the Twin Cities, we provide opportunities for individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to connect to the natural world in their backyard. A few events from the year include:
- Multigenerational Workshops and Classes: Outdoor cooking, birding, and photography were a few popular series that offered hands-on learning on public lands and waterways for families and individuals from all walks of life.
- Aquatennial, Pride, and May Day: These community partnership events bring in new audiences to paddle and explore their nearby parks.
- Partner Paddle: Our 12th annual Partner Paddle, sponsored by the Friends of the Lock & Dam, featured more than 130 individuals and 35 organizations paddling from River Park to Boom Island in Minneapolis.
Great River Race 2019 Featured Three Mayors
Our 9th annual Great River Race was our most successful yet–raising more than $100,000 to connect youth to place-based education in the outdoors. Two presenting sponsors, McKnight Foundation and Winnebago Foundation, joined more than 25 additional corporate, foundation, and family sponsors to paddle the 6-mile route in Saint Paul. Guest speakers included Mayor Jacob Frey (Minneapolis), Mayor Melvin Carter (Saint Paul), and Former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. In addition, 400 individuals joined the festivities, including 70 volunteers that contributed more than 300 hours of their time.
A Semester on the Mississippi River Illuminates How Water Connects Us
Beginning at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, students and faculty from Augsburg University and other researchers from across the globe embarked on a River Journey to the Gulf of Mexico in Voyageur canoes. The group was part of an intercultural research project tracing humanity’s influence on the river. The trip gained international attention and culminated at the Anthropocene River Campus put on by Haus der Kulturen der Welt in New Orleans.
Wilderness Inquiry Awarded Charity Navigator’s 4-Star Rating for Ninth Year
Once again, Charity Navigator awarded Wilderness Inquiry its highest four star ranking. This illustrates to donors that Wilderness Inquiry is both efficient and transparent financially. Charity Navigator CEO Michael Thatcher states that “this exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets Wilderness Inquiry apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.”
Wilderness Inquiry in the News
We are honored to have received more than 50 media hits throughout the country for our programs–check out a few below:
Credit Recovery (Earning academic credits through outdoor learning)
Great River Race
Teen Ambassadors: International Falls
Whether you’re planning your first trip or you’ve shared over fifty like Bob, thank you for being part of the Wilderness Inquiry community and for helping us to Share the Adventure!