Kayaking the Flooded Forest

Wabasha, Minnesota isn’t very big and were told that there is a “ton” to do, but the list could be completed in an afternoon. 

Since we are going to be here for nearly a month we needed something more than the Eagle Center and the Grumpy Old Men café. Luckily there are a ton of good hikes along the bluffs nearby, and even better for us an expert and affable kayaking company called Broken Paddle Guiding Co.

We met in a deserted park at the edge of town Sunday morning. We were early and the only car in the lot was ours. Minutes later a big white van rolled in towing half a dozen kayaks, two of which we would find ourselves in for the next 4 hours.

We chatted with Aiden who would be our guide for the day. He had the ready smile and clothing of someone who spends the majority his time outside and on the water – shorts and sandals despite the chill start to the fall morning.

We hopped into the van and soon were crossing into Wisconsin where we would begin our guided kayak tour of the flooded forest and backwaters of the Mississippi river.

After negotiating with several duck hunters (and their dogs and boats and decoys) for space at the boat launch, we were off and immediately drifting alone. It’s amazing how the shore and all it brings fades into a distant memory as soon as you push away. We instantly felt like the only three people on earth. Above us circled two adult eagles, which is common for this area. Aiden explained that this stretch of the Mississippi River is home to 60 or more eagle nests, and pointed out a few of them.

Flooded forest in the Mississippi River

Flooded forest in the Mississippi River

Twice we wound up paddling amongst the tall trees that are submerged and flooded by the river, wondering how they can survive and even thrive in such wet conditions.


Of course there is wildlife. Kingfishers and eagles and vultures, but mainly it was just the three of us chatting away, talking about our travels, favorite books and movies and the diverse food scene in the twin cities. Aiden was everything you would want in a guide, and I don’t just say that because he brought coffee.

But he did. We glided to a stop in one of the sections of the flooded forest and Aiden pulled out a thermos of fresh hot coffee. With our kayaks side by side, he handed me a fresh cup. I’ll tell you that I’ve had coffee in unusual places and circumstances, but this is up there with some of the best.

While crossing the big waters of the Mississippi to get to our destination in Wabasha, Jill became a little motion sick from the wake of boats cruising up and down the big water of the Mississippi. Aiden darted effortlessly over to her and guided her to less turbulent waters closer to shore.

He also gave us some great kayaking tips that even after several guided kayak trips managed to remain unknown to us.

I still maintain that you don’t truly get to know a place until you get out on the water. This is true of the Mekong, and this is certainly true of the Mississippi.