The Mighty Mississippi River is truly one of the great icons of the world. Wilderness Inquiry began paddling the river in the early 1990's, and we have come to fully appreciate its beauty and its power. Over the years, water quality has dramatically improved, and the fishing is superb. The stretch of river between Coon Rapids and Hastings is a unit of the National Park Service. It's wild and wonderful, you'll never know you are in the heart of the Twin Cities. Join Wilderness Inquiry, the National Park Service, and many of our partners on one of these Mississippi River canoe trips.
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Stretching over 2,350 miles, the Mississippi River winds through an impressive expanse of the country, but changes more in character in our stretch through the Twin Cities than in all of the rest of its length. Wilderness Inquiry’s Mississippi River day trips paddle 24-foot cedar strip voyageur canoes through the heart of the Twin Cities Metro Area. The 72 miles of river and adjacent shorelines that make up the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) offer paddlers of all levels an opportunity to immerse themselves in a place rich with historical and natural significance. WI offers three standard routes that we paddle depending on water levels—The Prairie River, The Gorge, or The Gorge to Floodplain River. Each route has a distinct natural and historical significance that shapes its personality.
The river changes character dramatically within the park boundary. From the river’s humble beginnings at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, it enters the park north of Dayton, Minnesota, as a small prairie river. Moving through a mix of landscapes in Minneapolis, including an industrial area that marks the head of barge navigation, it thunders over Saint Anthony Falls, through the river’s tallest lock, and under the historic Stone Arch Bridge into a river gorge. It winds through this relatively tight and narrow canyon, where it is easy to forget that you are in a city, until its confluence with the Minnesota River below the restored and historic 1820's Fort Snelling. The sandstone and limestone cliffs stand fairly close to the river as it continues on the way to downtown Saint Paul, where the river valley opens up to the large floodplain river that flows to the sea.
Archeological evidence suggests that people have lived alongside the river for nearly 12,000 years. Known to the Dakota as Ha-Ha-Wakpa (meaning Waterfall River), native peoples used the Mississippi as a means of trade, travel, and for important religious practices for thousands of years. Following European exploration in the late 1600's, Dakota villages became important sites of trade and commerce.
By the late 1800's, the Mississippi River had become both a tourist attraction and an economic powerhouse as the expanding lumber and flour milling industries took advantage of the waterpower of Saint Anthony Falls. By the 20th century, Minneapolis led the nation in lumber production and the world in flour production. The Gold Medal and Pillsbury Best flour brands, processed with the power of the Mississippi, soon became famous around the world. The Mighty Mississippi remains the lifeline of the Twin Cities’ economic, cultural, and historical life, and today we can paddle through it in our very own National Park, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.
Following a concerted community effort to clean and preserve the river, the Mississippi is once again home to an extremely diverse ecosystem. Pelicans, herons, egrets, wild turkeys, and many more species of birds nest or migrate along the river. You may see a fox hunting along the shoreline, or a playful river otter diving through the water. Even within the heart of the city, it is common to see eagles soaring overhead as you paddle along the river. Rarely does an urban landscape allow for so many opportunities to view wildlife and natural scenery so easily. There is no better way to experience nature’s wonders than from the water. The Mississippi River is yours to enjoy and WI will help to navigate it!
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