Little Falls to Two Rivers State Park to a Midnight Encounter with the Police

Two Rivers State Park

Anoka, Minnesota
August 14, 2019Dear Family & Friends:

This report is long because I have been offline for awhile. I’ll try to keep my reports shorter in the future.

I will start with an observation about through-paddling the Mississippi River: be prepared for every imaginable challenge that can be thrown at you. Patience, perseverance and creativity are essential.

My last report was from a quaint little city park by a church in Little Falls. A funny thing happened in the wee hours of the morning. At 2 am., I heard the voices of teenagers entering the River, presumably on flotation devices. A few minutes later, a car pulled up in the parking lot and more kids piled out. I could see their shadows from the inside of my tent. They were wandering all over the park. Then, they all got back in the car and left.  What was that all about?

August 12

In the early morning hours of August 12, I departed from my stealth camp and started down the River. The trip was mostly uneventful except for the damn dams. There are nine dams on the River from the headwaters to Minneapolis. South of Minneapolis, there are 29 dams, but they linked to locks, which allow paddlers to paddle into the lock and be lowered to the downstream side of the River. More on this when I encounter my first lock.  The nine dams from the headwaters to Minneapolis are great for energy creation and water control, but they create misery for paddlers. First, the dams create large lakes, with no current to help with the downstream paddling. Second, paddlers have to portage around the dams. This involves unloading the boats of gear, installing wheels and dragging the boat around the dam from the upstream to the downstream side of the dam. Third, when the water authorities decide to lower the water level downstream, this creates shallow water and sandbars that trap boats.  More than once over the last few days, I have had to drag my canoe over sandbars in the middle of the River.

I encountered two portages around dams on my August 12 journey down the River. I handled the Little Falls Dam portage with ease and finesse. To be honest, I was feeling pretty cocky. Then, I hit the Blanchard Dam portage. It was an unmitigated disaster. The portage was over 600 yards on rocky, dirt trails with a lot of dragging and pulling my canoe up and over steep terrain.  My canoe tipped over at least twice, requiring me to unload my gear, reinstall the wheels and continue plodding ahead.  It took me two hours to complete the portage. My ego was deflated. I ended up finding a campsite along the River at Stearns Park.  The total distance travelled on August 12 was 27 River miles.

August 13

On August 13, I paddled from Stearns Park to Boy Scout Point, a distance of 26 River miles. There were two more portages around dams, which I handled well. After the first portage at the Sartell Dam, I encountered the Sauk Rapids. I had been warned these are Class 3 rapids that can be very dangerous. So, I donned my life vest for the first time and installed spray skirts on my canoe to keep water from entering the canoe. The trip turned out to be  a Disneyland “A” ticket, and not an “E” ticket. The Sauk Rapids were short and easy to handle. The second portage at St. Cloud Dam was very long. But, I was saved by Kathy & Grace, two River Angels employed by Riverside Park. They drove up in a motorized cart and offered to portage my canoe, gear and me to the downstream side of the Dam. This saved me a lot of time. Thanks Kathy & Grace.

About one-half hour after pushing off from the downstream side of the St. Cloud Dam, I heard rolling thunder. Then, the sky filled with dark and ominous clouds. I immediately pulled off the River onto an island and took shelter in the trees. I recognize this is not the best shelter from lightening, but I had no choice. Soon, the rains came. I sat in the trees wearing a rain poncho and covered with the body of my tent while a torrential rain fell. When the rain subsided, I paddled furiously to my next campsite-Boy Scout Point. After arriving at this campsite, I laid my gear out to dry while I started to cook my dinner. Within fifteen minutes, the rain started to fall again and I had to gather my gear and try to shelter it from the rain. This cycle of sun and rain was repeated over-and-over while I tried to cook my gumbo soup and settle in for the night after a hard day.

August 14

On August 14, I had the most productive day of the journey. I paddled 45 River miles from Boy Scout Point to Two Rivers State Park in Anoka. The paddling was really tough because of the stiff headwinds. By the end of the day, I was tired and desperate to find a campsite, but nothing was marked on the maps. So, I decided to take my chances and stealth camp at Two Rivers State Park. This was a beautiful campsite, with a great view of the River, lots of green grass, water and bathroom facilities. I waited until after dark to pitch my tent so no one would see me.  I drifted off to sleep around 11pmAt midnight, I heard a voice outside my tent. Here is the dialogue:
Policeman: “come out of the tent.”
I exit the tent.
Policeman: “you are not allowed to camp in this Park, and you must leave immediately.”
Me (half-asleep and squinting my eyes to see the policeman pointing his flashlight directly into my eyes): “I have to leave right now?”
Policeman: “Yes.  The City of Anoka has enacted an ordinance prohibiting camping in public parks.”
Me: “I have to break down my campsite now and get back on the Mississippi River at midnight?”
Policeman: “Yes, I am telling you to leave the Park immediately.  But, I am on another call, so I’m leaving. And, I won’t be coming back to check on you. Hint. Hint.”
Me: “Thanks officer.”

I reenter my tent and sleep until 6 am.

Overall Perspective on the Trip

The scenery is changing dramatically from the first two weeks of the trip. The first two weeks were very rough and rural with lots of flora and fauna, primitive wilderness and difficult navigation. Now, the River is much wider, with long straight sections and not so many twists and turns. Many beautiful homes line the riverbanks. I am passing through cities and hearing traffic noise. More boats are on the River, mostly pontoons and private  fishing boats. This is great because navigational is easier and there is comfort in numbers. But, I miss the beauty and remoteness of the Upper Mississippi River.

I have now travelled 470 miles on the River.

Bill

View from Boy Scout Point

Stealth camp at Grace Covenant Church

River travel

Not all paddling is on the water

Spray skirt for the Sauk Rapids

Kathy & Grace- My River Angels

My River Angels

Caught in the thunderstorm

View from Boy Scout Point