Cyndie and I were in Pine City, MN on Saturday enjoying the weather; soaking up the sun and swimming in the Snake River with friends. Since we were already in Central MN, I figured we could check out a river in the area. As luck would have it, I have a co-worker that lives in the area just North of Pine City in Kettle River country. A few pre-weekend emails and it was all set.
Cyndie and I met Bonnie and her husband Dale along with Bonnie’s sister, Anita and her husband Mike in Rutledge, MN. We were a titch late after I completely missed some details on the map and we toured Interstate 35 for 20 extra miles or so after dropping the car off at the Hwy 23 bridge. When we did get river-side, the mosquitoes motivated us to get settled and into the water. They were vicious, but once we hit the water it was fairly bug-free.
If you Google the Kettle River you will likely run into information on the rapids in Banning State Park. The likes of Blueberry Slide, Dragon’s Tooth, and Hell’s Gate look pretty exciting, but that really isn’t our speed though. That whole stretch of crazy water lies South of the Hwy 23 bridge; there is a nice orange warning sign on the upstream side of the bridge advising every one of what is in store for you if you proceed. This is exactly the spot we planned on exiting the river.
The stretch of the river we paddled began in Rutledge, MN just off Hwy 61. The drop-point is down a short road just across the street from the Endzone Bar & Grill. This is an excellent stretch for beginners like myself or for anyone who enjoys a leisurely paddle down a mostly calm section of river. I say mostly because there where a few rapids, but nothing major. Well…I guess I was the only on in the group that got hung up, turned sideways and pinned to the rocks on Rustlers Bend (rapids on the left side of picture below). They don’t look like much, but if you are not paying attention – they will get your attention. It’s too bad Cyndie didn’t have one of the cameras with her to capture my folly. I did get a bit nervous initially when I got pinned against the rocks and I started to take on water with my camera around my neck and not in the dry sack. I was able to get out and drag the kayak towards the island in the middle of the channel and get re-situated without further incident. I did decided to bring a DSLR along for this trip. I brought my backup camera, a Nikon D60, to test the waters so-to-speak. I don’t think I will be bringing my other camera in a kayak ever.
There is a campsite in this very spot that has a terrific overlook of Rustler’s Bend. There are some very unique rock formation a short distance down river from this spot. You can access the shoreline through a narrow passage through the rock. It is a bit of a tight squeeze to say the least. Cyndie made the decent with ease and I hung out on top and took in the view. It was a great day; it was really nice exploring this stretch with people who know it well. Thanks Bonnie, Dale, Anita and Mike!