Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flood Stage

Last Sunday my efforts to find some water to paddle in coincided with the spring crest of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. St Paul did not crest until Wednesday. In the end the Q boat never left the roof of the car but I did get a nice little tour of the riverfront from downtown St Paul up to the Coon Rapids dam. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and I was not the only one checking out the river.

My first attempt was at Hidden Falls, a spot that is open water pretty much all season. I was thwarted there when the gate on the half mile long road down the hill to the launch was locked with the sign in the image. Next stop was Crosby Lake, just a bit downstream from where the Minnesota River flows into the Mississippi River at Ft Snelling. The land for the fort was purchased from the Sioux in 1805 by Lt. Zebulon Pike, a guy who later headed west and got some mountain in Colorado named for him. The island in the top image is named after him as well, Pike Island, and it was pretty much under water on Sunday.

Crosby Lake was accessible but still pretty much frozen as well as flooded, with the the swollen river flowing by to the south. The road to the park was flooded and to my great personal satisfaction, I saw two young boys riding their bikes in the water. I probably should have admonished them and asked them where their helmets were, but watching them brought back too many good childhood memories. Neither of them appeared to have a cell phone or hand held video game, neither looked like Pugsley from the Addams Family, and they seemed to be completely absorbed with their fun. Like my mom when I was their age, I'm sure their mom warned them not to go near the river and, like me, I'm sure they assured her that they would get nowhere near that nasty old river. They told me the water was really cold and I noticed they were wet almost up to their knees. When I asked them what they were going to tell their moms about the wet shoes and pants, they got this blank look (I can really relate to this)which told me that they hadn't even considered it when they pedaled into the water. For just a little bit it restored my faith in kid-dom the way I remembered it.

As the boys were pulling their shoes and sox off and making up a story for mom, a dad and his two little girls showed up with a canoe. My first thought was that it was time for my 'water safety/how could you be so stupid as to take two little girls out on the flooded river' talk and I sidled up to hear what I was sure would be a stupid, ill conceived plan. I was happy and relieved when he said that they walked in the park frequently and wanted to paddle the flooded walking paths just so they could say they did. Twice within 15 minutes I had a life affirming experience that gave me hope for mankind. I had a bit of a return to reality when I headed down to the St Paul waterfront however. By now I had given up hope of launching anywhere downstream from the Minnesota /Mississippi confluence and was just looking at the water with my fellow gawkers. The cops had the road and trails blocked off and a cop was stationed there to prevent the curious and/or stupid from going past the barricades into the river. As I stood there, a perfectly coordinated couple on a tandem, nicely spandexed in colors not found in nature, blew right through the barricades and headed for the water. The cop hollered, "Hey, can't you see that area is closed!" The offended Yuppie woman got off the bike and in that irritating vocal intonation where the voice rises the end of every sentence, making it sound like a question, told him, "I don't think you need to raise your voice? We weren't planning on cycling into the water?". I gave the cop a little smile, and he returned it. The Yuppies pedaled off toward their riverview condo and I headed for the Coon Rapids dam, hoping to get my hull wet.

It was not to be. A narrow channel led from the launch site out into the river which was really cooking. The thought of a possible screw up on a solo paddle above the dam in flood stage made me think that, like the previous day, beer drinking might be the safe and logical choice. The Q boat and I headed for Grumpys and Sunday T-bone bingo and I still have yet to get the boat wet. This weekend the VOR's boys are heading into town, which would normally keep us here. I have a plan however. Trust me, I have a plan. Whether or not I can execute it is another thing but I do have a plan.......


JoPears5 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoPears5 said...

Oops, I meant to include this weblink to Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa:

DaveO said...

Good to hear from you John. It would appear that Zeb got around on his trip west. I've never been on the Iowa side of the river there and it looks like a spot I need to hit.