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Canoemobile returns to get students on water

With a fleet of six, 10-person canoes, the nonprofit Canoemobile program has returned to the Cedar River Watershed for a week full of getting area youth paddling the Ramsey Mill Pond area.

Minneapolis-based nonprofit Wilderness Inquiry started its canoe program Monday on the Cedar River State Water Trail above Ramsey Dam. The program is set up each day on public land across the river from The Old Mill Restaurant on Austin’s north edge in coordination with staff from the Cedar River Watershed District-Mower Soil & Water Conservation District.

After five days of school programming at Ramsey, Canoemobile will relocate Saturday, May 18, to Austin Mill Pond in downtown Austin for a Community Day finale event that will run on an open-house format from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is one of the major events planned by CRWD and partners while hosting the We Are Water MN statewide traveling exhibit at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin.

On Saturday, Canoemobile will set up along Austin Mill Pond’s southwest shoreline at the city pool parking lot. Free paddling trips in a 24-foot, wooden canoe will be offered, with a “boat captain” provided by Wilderness Inquiry for each canoe along with paddles and life jackets for participants. The smallest life jacket can fit a child weighing 30 pounds; waiver liability forms also will need to be signed before canoeing. Children under age 18 need to have a parent or guardian.

“Canoemobile is an awesome experience led by the highly talented crew from Wilderness Inquiry, who make canoeing fun, safe and accessible for everyone,” said Tim Ruzek, CRWD outreach coordinator. “When you can fit up to nine of your friends and family into one canoe, it’s also a great photo opportunity.”

Participants on Saturday will paddle up river from Austin Mill Pond and back, lasting about 30 minutes. Rain ponchos will be available, if needed, but canoe trips could be canceled or delayed in the event of heavy rain, lightning and thunder. A limited number of free items also will be given to those who take a Canoemobile trip.

Prior to the Community Day event, all public and private schools based in Mower County will participate in the student programming this week provided by Canoemobile.

Annual state funding for aquatic invasive species awareness and prevention efforts in Mower County is funding the Canoemobile program once again for Mower County youth. CRWD-Mower SWCD staff have coordinated the programming with Wilderness Inquiry and are helping with the land-based portion focused on learning about water quality and the history of the Ramsey area.