Blue Earth River - East Branch
I grew up around the Blue Earth River and since it is the only river in the area, I have always wanted to float it. During a week of leave back in Minnesota, I got my chance. My goal was to canoe from Walnut Lake to the city of Blue Earth. I figured the river would only be possible to float during high water in the spring so the first thing I did was check the water level. It looked like it was just below flood stage and about perfect for floating. I printed off maps of the entire stretch with street names from Google Earth and prepared to float the next day.
I started off from the dam on South Walnut Lake at 10:00 AM. The first part of the trip took me along the boundary of the Walnut Lake game refuge and mainly through marshy areas. If there are waterfowl that reside in Southern Minnesota, I probably saw them there. The river continues to meander through farm and marshland for a few miles until you start to hit forested areas (along with log jams) at about the Highway 253 bridge. During the last two hours or so from 510th Avenue to the 70th Street Bridge was a very bad stretch where there seemed to be logjams around every corner. After a couple of portages, I started to get pretty good at finding holes a canoe could just get through. I took the canoe out at 5:40 PM at the 70th Street Bridge. In total for the first day, I had to portage around five logjams and paddled 7 hours.
I drove out to the 70th Street bridge where I had left off the previous day and started paddling at 9:40 in the morning until about 3:30 PM when bad thunderstorms forced me to quit for the day. Day two was a pretty relaxing day, passing North of the city of Frost, right by Dell Church and pretty much going through forested land the entire time. I took out the canoe at the 450th Avenue bridge. I paddled for almost 6 hours the second day and had to portage only once.
I started out at 7:15 in the morning from the 450th Avenue bridge. During day three I passed several farms and wooded areas and again had to navigate through numerous logjams. I finally took out the canoe at the East Leland Parkway wayside in the city of Blue Earth. Mission accomplished. Total time paddled the third day, 7 hours. I portaged 3 times, two of which were in the city of Blue Earth.
I had a great time paddling the river. The trip took me a total time of 20 hours, 24 minutes passing under 18 bridges. I had to get out of the canoe 9 times to portage around logjams, and I got to see some of the only wilderness left in Southern Minnesota. I saw thousands of geese and ducks, well over a hundred whitetail deer, six wild turkeys, several beaver, and one coyote (I think), along with other animals. I also was able to see a lot of the history of Southern Minnesota with the old abandoned farm sites that you wouldnt normally see because nearly all the land along the river is posted.
Some recommendations for running the river:
- Do it in early spring when the water level is high. I would have probably had to portage hundreds of times in normal or low water since the entire river is riddled with down trees and logjams
- The shorter the canoe the better. I used a 14 foot aluminum canoe and was able to navigate through the tight turns of the river and through the branches of fallen trees.
- Keep your load light. I was able to make it over several fallen trees with just inches of water flowing over them, but it was just me, some food and emergency gear. Two overweight adults and a kitchen sink will quickly get caught up on the many submerged logs in the river.
- There are some great spots to camp along the river, but it is almost entirely private property. Get permission from land owners before you go out.
Author Comments: I decided to write this article because in trying to research the trip I found nothing and I have never heard of anyone floating that entire stretch before. I would like others to know it is doable and well worth it.
None. Public camping is available at Legion Park, located North of the river at the 520th Avenue Bridge.
14 Foot Grumman Aluminum Canoe
From Interstate 90, take exit 134 (Bricelyn/MN Lake). At the stop sign, head North for approximately one mile and take a right on 125th street which goes about two miles and then dead-ends at the South Walnut Lake dam.
Google Earth Maps worked out well
- Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)