Canoemobile returns to Cedar River

Published 6:27 pm Thursday, May 12, 2022

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Canoemobile has returned to the Cedar River State Water Trail for a week of programming on the land and water for area students, ending with a free Community Day on Saturday.

Austin Mill Pond’s southwest landing at the city pool parking lot will be the site for Canoemobile’s Community Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. led by the nonprofit Wilderness Inquiry from Minneapolis. The event for all ages will feature free, guided canoe trips on the Cedar River above the downtown dam. Canoe trips last about 30 minutes.

“Canoemobile is a really great experience thanks to the amazing crew from Wilderness Inquiry, who make canoeing fun, safe and accessible for everyone,” said Tim Ruzek, CRWD outreach coordinator.

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This week, starting on Monday, Wilderness Inquiry has teamed with the Cedar River Watershed District to provide Canoemobile programming on the Cedar River at Ramsey Dam for students from all public and private schools in Mower County along with Blooming Prairie and Hayfield. All Austin fourth-graders are invited to participate; the other schools send students from either fourth, fifth or sixth grade.

Canoemobile now has done programming in Austin on the Cedar River four times since May 2018. Due to the pandemic prohibiting two regular sessions in May 2020 and May 2021, CRWD and Wilderness Inquiry worked with area schools to provide a special, makeup session last September at Ramsey Dam in which about 1,100 students paddled the river in one week.

State funding given annually to Mower County for aquatic invasive species (AIS) awareness and prevention is used to fund the annual program at the request of CRWD/Mower Soil & Water Conservation District. Mower County’s Board of Commissioners approves the proposed AIS budget each year and supports the Canoemobile program.        

On Saturday, 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. The smallest life jacket can fit a child weighing 30 pounds; waiver liability forms also need to be signed before canoeing. Children under age 18 need to have a parent or guardian.

Rain ponchos will be available, if needed, on Saturday but canoe trips could be canceled or delayed in the event of heavy rain, lightning or thunder.

Annual state funding for aquatic invasive species awareness and prevention efforts in Mower County makes the Canoemobile possible for area students.

CRWD-SWCD uses Ramsey Mill Pond — the largest water body in Mower County at about 53 water acres — for the Canoemobile program to highlight an underused and beautiful part of the Cedar River Watershed. Ramsey Dam, on the Cedar River next to the Old Mill Restaurant creates, Ramsey Mill Pond, which is surrounded by wooded golf course property and nearly 400 acres of state wildlife management land. Paddlers also will flow under a historic, abandoned railroad bridge over the river that was built in 1911.