Kayaking the Snake River

The Snake River is great for canoeing and kayaking–but only when there is enough water in the River.  On the upper stretch of the River, canoeists and kayakers often put in at the Aitkin County Park or the Silver Star Road, north of Woodland off Highway 65, and canoe down to the township bridge on Olympic Avenue east of Woodland.  This stretch of the River contains the Upper Falls, and Lower Falls, and terrific white water when the River flow is high in the spring or following heavy rains during the summer.  The next stretch of the River is a more gentle, less dramatic downhill slide with some easy rapids on the Horseshoe and long pools down to the Hinckley Road north of Knife Lake.  The Snake River drops again between Pine City and its mouth at the St. Croix River.

Some kayakers have taken videos of their white water rides on the Snake River, and posted them on YouTube.  Make sure the sound is ON when you watch these.  Here are our favorites:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS6qe7ly8F0      May 13, 2014, 6:44
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1N0Y3v1wmQ       2008 & 2009, 5:39
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwpgYhk0_-I       May 23, 2015, 3:45
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pAkEcxM6DA       May 24, 2014, 28:16
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKmNDyMPRmM      2011, 2:36
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W5uYQuw2qY      April 19, 2014, 2:23
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVHAscK2t24       April and June, 2013, 7:37
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RLI-_eXhjw     2013, 2:27
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NbEvJsjYYw     April 2010, :50
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxfraW_3PNk     June 4, 2011, 8:45

Note the time of year on these videos–most are in the spring, following snowmelt and runoff, when the River has substantial flow.  At this time of year the water temperature is cold!  But following heavy summer rains the River level rises and is passable again.

Some advice:

  • Be prepared for trouble, like swamping, losing paddles, soaking your sleeping bags, and the bugs of summer.  We have three summer bug seasons: ticks, followed by mosquitoes, followed by deer flies.
  • Always wear a life jacket.  Plan to dump in the rapids and to get banged up on the rocks when you do.
  • We have rescued many canoeists over the years.  Rescues follow from trying to canoe when they swamp or there is too little water in the River.  People lose paddles, walk out of the woods barefoot because they lost their shoes, have insulin shock, hungry, bug devoured, etc.  Murphy will accompany you on the Snake River–anything can go wrong.  And there are virtually no exit points between launch sites.  This is truly a wild, wild River–and we want to keep it that way.
  • Be sure there is enough water in the River before you launch.
  • Tell someone when you expect to get out of the River, and tell them when you do.  The local sheriff  knows us too well when looking for lost canoeists.
  • Enjoy the River.

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