In an attempt to encourage use of little-used local waterways, Jim Bergquist of Crow Wing Kayaks and Wind, Water & Wheels, both of Crosslake, started a club to bring together paddling enthusiasts.
“I started it because I wanted to get people interested in being on the water and paddling,” Bergquist said. “I thought, what better way. We just opened it up to anybody and everybody. The only requirement is to have an email address to put them on the list. If you have something you want to float on, fine. If not, we have a special discount. We take care of the shuttling and I think we’ve had all the way from two to 25 people join us at a time. I think we have 70 names now on our email list.”
Crow Wing Paddlers has been meeting during the summer months for the past three years for outdoor fun on the water. During spring and fall months it is common to see the group paddling the Pine River.
“The bad thing about the river is it fluctuates so much,” Bergquist said. “If I send out a date and we are going to do it on the river, I have to check out the river. We’ve had it too high and too low. It just isn’t safe to do. We’ve done area lakes too around here. As far as the river goes, we try and do a variety of different paddles, some a little longer or harder. Some that are more family oriented so kids can go along. At least on the river, I know it well enough I can tell people what to expect on the river.”
During the summer months when water levels may be down, they take to the lakes. This year they are expanding their repertoire.
“We are going to do one fishing trip this year, and have our buddy, Angler Pat, who has fished from a kayak for years and has his own club. He will take us out to a lake and then there are several people in the club that fish and have done that for years. I thought we would get whoever is interested and do it. He’s going to pick a lake out and do that (in June).”
Other specialty trips are in the making with Bergquist reaching out to wild food instructors, camping enthusiasts and local history experts.
“I thought about having someone tell us the history of the river,” Bergquist said. “I did end up talking to some guys that were in their 80s with the historical society in Crosslake.”
The group is only limited by the interests of its members.
“We are always looking for new ideas,” Bergquist said. “We might even travel.”
The club is all about cultivating a paddling group, and it has brought together locals as well as visitors, such as Gail Arne from New Brighton who learned about the club while renting a kayak.
“I joined to get to know where to kayak in the area and meet others who had that interest,” Arne said in an email message. “It’s a very nice group of people. Fun and safer to go together with someone knowledgeable about the rivers, lakes and learn kayaking skills as well.”
The Pine River down river from the Crosslake rock dam is one of Bergquist’s favorite trips, but Arne preferred a trip on the Cuyuna mine pit lakes. Bergquist’s favorite part of kayaking is the animals.
“I’d say seeing the wildlife is the highlight,” Bergquist said. “We’ve seen pelicans from the city of Pine River down. South of Crosslake we’ve seen a lot of eagles. We’ve seen otters, that kind of stuff. Just being out and not having people. For the years we’ve been doing this, I bet we’ve only run into half a dozen people other than our group. The Pine River is not utilized at all, which is nice and gives us an opportunity to promote it too.”
The group meets approximately 10 times during the summer, with two meeting dates scheduled each month. One date is mid-week while the other is during the weekend so locals have the option of kayaking during quiet evenings before tourists show up for the weekend. Trips last approximately 2-3 hours. Participants can bring their own watercrafts, or rent kayaks from Bergquist for $20. Bergquist also provides a shuttle to and from kayak locations at no extra cost.