In This Issue
Armchair Paddlers Resurrected
CIP Ball Caps Available
CIP at A-mazing Prairie Festival
The Lure of the Boundary Waters
Middle River Dedicated Oct 1st
What to Wear Paddling
Paddling & Portaging Isle Royale
Spring in the Fall
Middle Raccoon River Trip Report
Gee, Apostle Islands Again???
Middle River: Iowa's Newest Water Trail
Des Moines River: an Afternoon Delight!
Quick Links
Who We are:
Central Iowa Paddlers is an informal group of paddlesport enthusiasts formed in 1997.


What We Do:

The mission of the club is to share paddling

information, promote paddling opportunities and paddlesport safety, and encourage care of our aquatic resources for both new and experienced paddlers. 



Where did summer go? It seems it wasn't that long ago when I was complaining about the heat, and now the temps are comfortably cool, meaning it won't be long before the real cold sets in.

The CIP newsletter will continue monthly, though its content might be reduced.  What's more, CIP is resurrecting the popular Armchair Paddler Series starting Tuesday, October 11th here in Des Moines. 

We have partnered with the City of Des Moines Park and Recreation to offer a speaker session the 2nd Tuesday of every month through April 2012.  See article below.

John Wenck
CIP Chair

Armchair Paddlers Event: Tuesday, October 11th at 7PM


Piper Wall
Central Iowa Paddlers is partnering with the City of Des Moines Park & Recreation to bring you the Armchair Paddlers series on the 2nd Tuesday of each month from October 2011 through April 2012.  These speaker sessions will focus on paddling related information and are open to both members and non-members absolutely free--bring your non-member friends! 

The first presentation is titled "Air and Water Temperature: What to Wear Paddling" by Piper Wall from Ames.

Piper Wall is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who works at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in the Surgery Residency Program doing trauma and surgery related research. She is a certified American Canoe Association (ACA) canoe and kayak instructor and the primary instructor/coach for the ISU Canoe and Kayak Club as well as an instructor and board member of Iowa Whitewater Coalition. She has been paddling canoe since 1973 and whitewater kayaking since 1983, and has recently (since 2010) become a big fan of Stand Up Paddling (SUP) in flatwater and whitewater. The sport of paddling has taken her to many states as well as two countries.


The Armchair Paddler Series is held at the same location the 2nd Tuesday each month through April 2012:



Pioneer Columbus Community Center

2100 SE 5th Street

Des Moines, Iowa 50315

(515) 248-6312




Tuesday, October 11th



Pioneer Columbus Community Center is located on the south side of Des Moines just a couple blocks east of Indianola Road and north of Hartford Avenue.  Park on the south side of the building--the upper parking lot.  See map below:



Central Iowa Paddlers Ball Caps Now Available!


A few months back, a board member suggested we purchase t-shirts to help promote CIP.  Discussion ensued and the group decided that ball caps might be better suited, since they're easier to store, sell, and one size fits all.  Besides, everyone sells t-shirts.

Well, the ball caps are here and the board is pleased.  They will be available while supplies last.

They will be available at the first Armchair Paddler Series presentation Tuesday, October 11th for $15 each.




CIP Helps Out at A-mazing Prairie Festival

The A-mazing Prairie Festival hosted annually by Polk County Conservation at the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt was held on Sunday, September 11th. It was quite a success if you measure success by the number of participants and the positive comments made after paddling a canoe.  


This awesome event typically draws hundreds of participants who immerse themselves in nature for a day.  It's where paddling canoes, observing and learning about raptors, wending your way through a corn maze, catching a ride on a hay rack tour, and listening to live music can all be done for free.


CIP is often asked to help launch and land canoes for the participants.  This year, 11 members of CIP volunteered their time to help Polk County give back to their community.  It's always rewarding to hear the positive comments after participants take out a canoe.  For many it's their first time paddling.  Some display fear and hesitation, but they all return with smiles and reports of what they saw.  This year they reported seeing snakes, spiders, and lots of frogs.


The water level was very low this year and as a result there was about a 2-3 foot stretch of mud between the dry rock beach and the water, but CIP volunteers would push and pull canoes past the mud so participants had a dry entry and exit.  The work was hard, but rewarding.




The Lure of the Boundary Waters: A Mixed Bag

by Steve Parrish


What do you get when you mix a retired Law Professor, a web designer who lives in Belize, a 15 year old boy, and a business guy who likes to kayak? If you put them in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) you get a good time!


My brother (the professor) talked me into putting aside my kayak for once, and re-create a canoe trip from 45 years ago. My Dad, brother and I had canoed in the BWCA when I was just a young teenager. I remember parts of that trip like it was yesterday, so it was no problem agreeing to this break from my big water kayak trips. Joining us in Ely were my brother's son (who lives in a hut in Belize, using solar panels to create websites for a successful web design company in North Carolina), and a 15 year old Virginian for whom my brother is a kind of "big brother".   The three of them used an outfitter ( the same outfitter owned by the same family, in the same building as we used 45 years ago); I outfitted myself, including using a kayak paddle instead of a canoe paddle.


We put in at Mudro Lake, and paddled up to the falls at the Canadian border, enjoying Horse Lake, Tin Can Mike Lake, Fourtown Lake, and other small lakes in the area. Four nights of superb camping, hiking approximately 20 portages, and the usual mixture of sunny and rainy days. A typical BWCA experience.


The BWCA comprises over 1 million acres of woodlands and waterways, sporting more than 1500 miles of canoe routes, 2000 campsites, and 1000 lakes. So to say "I paddled the BWCA" is silly. I can report, however, that our little slice of the BWCA experience was wonderful. One thing I found unusual was that the outfitter supplied an excess of camping gear and food, but no stove. There was so much deadfall that we never had trouble finding wood, and cooking on the campsite grates became a twice-a-day routine. Another aspect I found interesting was the variety in the waterways we paddled. One day we went from Horse Lake through Horse River to get to the falls at the Canadian border. Each portage was like a new attraction at a theme park. The first section of the river was a set of rock gardens that formed fun rapids. The next section was a field of underwater river grasses combined with a field of lily pads on the surface of the water. The water shimmered with the whites and purples of the lily pads. A short next portage and we were in more of a traditional oxbow river channel where we worked through the twists and turns of the current. A longer next portage resulted in a long stretch of tall river grasses that we snaked through like airboats working the sawgrass of the Everglades. Using our paddles more as poles than paddles, we did our best to detect the sections of the grasses where canoes had preceded us. Work, but fun work. Finally, the grasses dumped out into an azure blue body of water where dozens of canoes meandered between the U.S. and Canada. Scouts, ascetics and honeymooners - all congregated in this motorless paddling paradise. And we were able to visit each of these naturally formed yet nonetheless themed attractions all this within a three hour paddle of one river and two lakes!


Are there too many people, too many rules, and too many canoes at the height of the BWCA season? For my taste, yes. I'd prefer to paddle a kayak I can actually control in big open waters, away from crowds. But, do I see the attraction of the BWCA? Absolutely. This is the northwoods experience of lore and legend. The place of Sigurd Olson books that inspired a love of nature for thousands. The place where a teenage boy saw the Northern Lights with his Dad and brother, and made a lifetime commitment to see and enjoy nature whenever he could.



Middle River Water Trail Dedication on October 1st

The Adair County Conservation Board, Madison County Conservation Board and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Rivers Program would like to invite the public to the Middle River Water-Trail dedication on Saturday, October 1.


The Middle River Water Trail, covering nearly 49 river miles, beginning at Middle River Forest County Park in east-central Adair County and ending at Holliwell Covered Bridge just southeast of Winterset is now fully completed.


The activities will be centered out of the Lodge at Pammel State Park. We kick off the day at 10:30 a.m. with former Des Moines Register Outdoor writer, Larry Stone, providing a unique program about Iowa Rivers entitled, "Floating Through History". (Larry's program is funded from a grant from Humanities Iowa, a private, non-profit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities). That will be followed by the formal dedication ceremony near the Pammel Park ford. A water trail dedication wouldn't be complete without an actual float on the river. Immediately following the dedication we will paddle from the new access at Roseman Covered Bridge back down to the Pammel Ford. These events are free and open to the public.


For those folks participating in the dedication and river float, the Madison County River Alliance will be providing a Shrimp Jambalaya meal at the Pammel Lodge. We will then end the evening with an outdoor concert featuring the lively blues group, "Hot Tamale & the Red Hots".


Everyone is encouraged to attend the various events surrounding the dedication. We are asking that those of you who plan to paddle the river and participate in the meal afterwards, please register in advance with the Conservation Board (515-462-3536) so that we can prepare for the proper number of people who will be attending those two events. Also, all paddlers need to provide their own canoes/kayaks and be able to transport those vessels to Roseman Bridge. We will provide a shuttle to retrieve your vehicles.


The concert is open to the general public and folks are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and their choice of beverage for a fun evening of entertainment.



-Pammel Park Lodge-


10:30am to 12:00pmLarry Stone - "Floating Through History" (sponsored by Humanities Iowa)
12:00pm to 1:00pmWater-Trail Dedication (near the ford area)
1:00pm to 4:30pmWater-Trail paddle from Roseman Bridge to Pammel
5:30pmMeal for Paddlers & Event Participants (Shrimp Jambalaya)
6:30pm to 9:30pmConcert - "Hot Tamale & the Red Hots"


Air & Water Temperature - What to Wear Paddling

by Piper Wall

Piper Wall

Life jacket (Personal Floatation Device) - Wear it no matter what the air and water temperature. If your life jacket isn't comfortable, get one that is.


Aside from the life jacket, how should paddlers think about the air and water temperatures when deciding what to wear? Well, presuming one wants to survive a paddling outing, let's start the discussion with a quick look at a prioritized list of items relevant to survival.

  1. positive mental attitude (Panic can always make a bad situation worse.)
  2. breathable O2 (mouth and nose above water during inhalations)
  3. shelter (clothes included as shelter)
  4. drinkable water
  5. food

What to wear paddling falls into the shelter category. Clothes provide protection against air effects, water effects, and sun effects.


Live humans are continual internal heat generators with cells that only function well in a limited temperature range; therefore, we need to continually lose heat to the environment in a regulated fashion. Our heat production is fueled by food (calories - see list item #5) and distributed throughout the body by blood flow (hydration matters - see list item #4). Body heat production is increased by muscle activity (voluntary activity or shivering), and body heat loss regulation generally involves skin and extremity blood flow regulation.


Paddlers regularly encounter conditions in which skin protection from sunlight is a good idea. The adverse consequences of sunlight on skin occur independent of air and water temperature. Sunscreen and clothes are both useful for skin protection from sunlight.


When air temperatures are warm, paddlers may encounter conditions in which maintaining an adequate rate of heat loss to the environment is challenging. With no wind (convective heat movement) and no radiant heat gain from direct sunlight, an air temperature of 80.6F is thermoneutral for a resting, naked human (thermoneutral means the rate of internal heat production = the rate of heat loss to the environment without needing to sweat). Clearly, paddlers often have radiant heat gain from direct sunlight, the air temperatures encountered when paddling frequently exceed 80.6°F, paddling is not resting (although it may be restful), and paddlers aren't generally naked. Fortunately paddlers can increase their rates of heat loss in several ways: 1) hydrated paddlers will sweat to use evaporative cooling (the success of which is impacted by humidity), 2) paddlers can splash water on themselves for conductive, convective, and evaporative cooling, and 3) paddlers can immerse themselves in water for conductive and convective cooling. Additionally, paddlers can sometimes decrease their rates of radiant heat gain by finding or making shade and can sometimes decrease their rates of heat production by exerting less paddling effort.


OK, what do the terms radiant, evaporative, conductive, and convective mean with regards to paddler heat gain or loss. Radiant heat gain is what we experience when we move from shade into sunlight; it is also how the interior air temperature of a closed vehicle parked in the sun rapidly exceeds the outside air temperature. Evaporative cooling is the removal of heat energy that occurs when liquid water on a surface evaporates, meaning becomes water vapor via the energy requiring process of breaking hydrogen bonds between individual water molecules. Conductive heat exchange is the movement of heat from a warmer object to a cooler object by direct contact. A paddling example would be the skin cooling effect of contact with the bottom of an aluminum canoe when paddling on cool water (metal is a very good heat conductor, water is a pretty good heat conductor, air is a relatively poor heat conductor). Convective heat exchange can be thought of as conductive heat transfer to a continually new volume of air or water and is responsible for wind chill and the greater cooling effects of moving water as compared to still water. Conductive and convective heat transfers occur at greater rates with greater heat gradients (your skin temperature will decrease more rapidly when immersed in 60°F water than 80°F water).


Now that we have touched on survival items, sun protection, and conditions that may require intentional cooling strategies, let's take a look at issues related to conditions in which slowing heat loss to the environment gains comfort and even survival importance.


A sprinkling of numbers:

  1. human thermoneutral air temperature 80.6°F
  2. human thermoneutral water temperature 93°F (rate of heat loss equals rate of heat production for resting, naked, immersed human)
  3. water conducts heat at least 25x faster than does air
  4. moving water or moving in water adds convective heat transfer to conductive heat transfer (think wind chill 25x more effective)
  5. our ability to do desirable things (coordinated muscle activities) decreases rapidly with skin cooling (which occurs rapidly with skin exposure to cold water)
    • optimal manual skills skin temperatures 89.6 to 96.8°F
    • skin exposure to 50°F water immediately results in 25% less muscle force generation ability
    • skin exposure to 32°F water results in muscle incapacitation in 5 to 15 minutes
  6. our respiratory activity (breathing) is highly affected by skin contact with cold water
    • immersion (with skin exposure) in water only as cold as 82.4°F increases the desire to "take a breath"
    • definite "cold shock" related gasping occurs with immersion in water only as cold as 68°F
    • breath volume (gasp volume) goes from 2 liters in 82°F water to 3 liters in 50°F water (immersion or shower)
    • breathing rate is increased in cold water (from 16 breaths per minute to 75 breaths per minute in 20 seconds in volunteers showering in 50°F water and still fast at 40 breaths per minute after 2 minutes showering in 50°F water)
    • breath holding capability decreases in colder water (from an average of 45 seconds in a set of volunteers to an average of 9.5 seconds when immersed in 41°F water)
  7. even trained swimmers have better physical performance at maximal intensity in water at 90°F compared to water at 79°F
  8. suggested timeline "rules of thumb" regarding cold water immersion: 1 minute to get breathing issues managed, 10 minutes to get any coordinated muscle activities accomplished (such as swimming to shore, fine motor skills are gone well before 10 minutes), 1 hour of consciousness, 2 hours before death from hypothermia (decreased core body temperature to the point of spontaneous cardiac arrhythmias)

What all the numbers add up to is that skin exposure to cold water rapidly impairs swimming ability (and other self rescue capability such as getting back in a kayak) by impairing coordinated muscle activity, ability to breath hold (important for not sucking in water during capsize and rolling activities and when in waves), and timing of breathing (see survival list item #2). It can also impair swimming and other self rescue activities by causing shivering (a body mechanism for increasing heat generation). And just to make things worse, it can readily impair maintenance of a "positive mental attitude" (see survival list item #1 - don't panic) via the increased respiratory rate and respiratory volume related effects on blood pH that promote feelings of anxiety and panic.


Besides respiratory, muscle, and mental effects, immersion with skin exposure to cold water also results in increases in blood pressure and can cause impairments in heart function (even cardiac arrest). Additionally, having cold water enter the ear canal can cause disorientation and even nausea, neither of which promotes a "positive mental attitude" and neither of which is helpful for swimming or other self rescue activities.


So, air temperature, water temperature and what to wear...


For me, the pertinent questions are:

  1. How long might I be wet or in the water?
  2. How much function (swimming, walking) will I need for how long (what distance and obstacles) to get out of the water?
  3. How cold is the water (cool on my hand, cold on my hand, very cold on my hand)?
  4. What opportunities will I have to re-warm?

I generally consider my physical comfort regarding what to wear paddling (and what to carry as options). I always consider survival regarding what to wear paddling.


Flat water with or without current (river or lake)

When I am solo canoeing or kayaking on flat water, I assume I am not likely to be very wet unless it rains. If I am stand up paddling on flat water, I assume I may swim. If I am canoeing with my dogs, I assume I may swim. If I am working on certain skills, I assume I may swim. If I am tandem canoeing, I consider my partner's skills and desires relative to the chance of swimming. When I am teaching and depending on what I am teaching, I may spend time standing in the water.


The rivers I paddle in Iowa don't involve swimming (or walking) times of 5 minutes or distances over 50 feet to get to shore. Lakes in Iowa can often involve swimming times greater than 5 minutes and distances over 50 feet to get to shore. Additionally, some Iowa river shores and lake shores may require climbing or scrambling activities to get out of the water.


For swimming times of less than 5 minutes/distances less than 50 feet with water temperatures greater than 75°F and sunshine (radiant heat for re-warming), I generally dress in clothes suitable for swimming and comfortable for the air temperature when worn under my lifejacket (water temperatures cool on my hand to somewhat cold on my hand). For the same time/distance with water temperatures less than 75°F (definitely cold on my hand), I move toward a warmer top (fleece, polypropylene, merino wool) and/or a splash top (over a lightweight paddling shirt or a warmer paddling shirt according to air temperature, forecast, and re-warming opportunities). What I wear on the lower half is highly affected by what craft I will be paddling (kayak, canoe, stand up paddle board) and what type of paddling companions and activities I expect. I will definitely carry some add on options if I choose to dress light relative to swimming. (Any add on options would be for putting on after a swim, not needed to survive a swim.)


For swimming times of greater than 5 minutes/distances greater than 50 feet, I dress to remain fully muscle functional in the water. If the water is cold on my hand or very cold on my hand (getting into the various ranges below 75°F), it is going to be cold enough to warrant skin thermal protection to maintain good swimming function. That thermal protection needs to already be in place before immersion. I wear some combination of fleece (top and bottom, neoprene would be an alternative) covered by a dry top with splash pants or a full dry suit. If I might have to assist other people or dogs in the water, I'll gear even more to the warm side.


Wind and rain

Wind turns flat water into a wet ride and increases convective cooling. Rain leads to cooling even without immersion, and cloud cover precludes radiant re-warming.



When I am paddling whitewater, I assume I will be very wet repeatedly (splashing, rolling, swimming). If I am kayaking, I know my lower body will be thermally protected by my kayak most of the time. If I am canoeing or stand up paddling, I know my lower body will not be thermally protected from splashing water or during rolling, and swimming is likely.


The whitewater I paddle in and out of Iowa does not involve times greater than 5 minutes for me to get out of the water if swimming. My whitewater re-warming opportunities depend on the air temperature, the presence or absence of sunshine, and if I'm teaching (zero re-warming time), park and playing with friends (re-warming time and car access possible, but would cut into playing time), or covering river distance (re-warming may be possible by vigorous paddling between rapids).


Since I will spend my time wet while whitewater paddling, I dress to stay warm while actively paddling and to not chill while resting. I make sure I have quickly consumable calories and plenty of hydration (in addition to plain water, boxed fruit juices provide water and calories with the addition of taste to promote drinking and an easily crushed container for packing out after drinking). 




Cold Shock versus Hypothermia

Cold shock, when referred to regarding water related activities, is a phrase generally indicating the respiratory (immediate, referred to as "cold shock response"), muscle performance (rapid), and possible cardiac effects (rapid) of immersion in cold water. Cold shock effects are relatively rapid killers (seconds to minutes) in cold water immersed individuals. Even strong, skilled swimmers drown within apparent swimming distance of shore because of cold shock effects when dumped in cold water without adequate thermal protection. A life jacket alone does not constitute adequate thermal protection for avoiding cold shock, but it should keep the wearer floating even with cold water induced loss of muscle function. If the wearer has managed to avoid inhaling a bunch of water and hasn't suffered an immediate adverse cardiac event, a properly worn life jacket can give the wearer considerable additional in water time to be rescued rather than body recovered.


Hypothermia refers to an actual and significant decrease in core body temperature. Medically concerning decreases in core body temperature take more than a few minutes to occur, even with immersion in ice cold water. Hypothermia occurs when the rate of heat loss exceeds the rate of heat production by heat generating mechanisms (general metabolism, voluntary muscle activity, shivering). Heat loss rates can be altered by clothing choices and clothing conditions (some materials do a better job of slowing heat loss when wet than do others and dry garments slow heat loss better than do wet garments). Chilling is uncomfortable and adversely affects attitude and thinking. Shivering, the body's involuntary mechanism of increasing heat production, requires calories and adversely affects skilled, coordination requiring activities. A progressively declining body temperature will eventually lead to mental impairment, unconsciousness, and then death. In the event of cold water immersion, however, one must avoid drowning from the rapid adverse effects of the cold water on the skin in order to make death from hypothermia become a possibility. Fortunately, the same types of garments that protect paddlers' skin from rapidly chilling in cold water also help paddlers retain their core body temperatures.


Summary Points

  1. Wear your life jacket.
  2. Colder water temperatures rapidly impair muscle performance; so wear what you need for maintaining muscle function during immersion if immersion is possible.
  3. Consider your physical comfort for the expected and possible conditions.
  4. Actually wear anything important for your survival (account for water temperature, in water possible time/distance, swimming versus wading to exit water, and re-warming opportunities)



Trip Report: Paddling & Portaging Isle Royale

by Tom Sabotta, Joe Trumm, & Gregg Stark

Joe Trumm (left) Gregg Stark (right)

From Idea to Adventure. John Pearson and John Craun had just completed their presentations at the January 2011 Indian Creek Nature Center Paddle Day, sharing beautiful photos and interesting stories from their adventures on Isle Royale. Tom remained in his seat as the crowd filtered out. I sat down next to him and asked whether he had enjoyed the presentations. He replied that he had, paused a moment, then suggested that perhaps we should visit Isle Royale "before we get any older . . . while we still can." Thus began the adventure of helping Tom buy his first kayak, recruiting Joe as our third crew member (helping reduce the average age of the crew), improving our paddling skills, and planning our route, gear, and food.


We realized that our skills and kayaks (14-15 ft) were not adequate for paddling Lake Superior around the perimeter of Isle Royale, as exhibited by Pearson and Craun, but we were intrigued by a north-south paddling and portaging route described in an IR guidebook and discussed on the IR web forum. Plans developed, gear lists were exchanged, reservations were secured, and the days flew by as we progressed toward the last week of July.


Saturday afternoon, we loaded our kayaks on Tom's pickup truck, loaded most of our gear under the topper, and then enjoyed a "last meal" with all of our spouses.


Sunday morning at 6:00 AM, after a final check of roof racks, gear on board, and a couple of photos, we were headed north, through the Twin Cities, through Duluth, and on along the North Shore to Grand Portage. We checked in at the Grand Portage Lodge & Casino around 5:00 PM, then confirmed our route to the marina and Voyageur II dock, as well as the travel time to Ryden's Café just below the Canadian border.


Day 1. Grand Portage to Chickenbone West Campground.

Departure went as planned-up at 5:00 AM, check out of the Casino Lodge, repack a few things, 6:00 breakfast at Rydens (including a toast to our

Voyager II 

success with Dramamine and coffee), 6:45 transferring gear and kayaks to the Voyageur II. By the time the Voyageur II cast off at 7:30, it was carrying our three kayaks plus one canoe and a full load of passengers. The canoe belonged to Tracy and Miranda, a young Missouri couple we had met via the IR forum and met in person during breakfast at Ryden's. They would be paddling and portaging a route very similar to ours, but a day or two behind us, spending about 8 days on the island.


Lake Superior is definitely "big water," but it was relatively calm as we left Grand Portage, with patches of morning fog hugging the shore and some of the islands. We took turns enjoying the view from various point along the rail, visiting over the loud throb of the engines, sipping the complementary coffee, and getting our sea legs. The first couple of hours passed quickly, the mound of IR came into view, and soon we were wending our way between rocky islands covered in dark green conifers.


We arrived at Windigo, on the western end of IR, at 10:00, and received the ranger briefing on "no trace left behind" protocol, along with the latest updates on weather, trail conditions, water quality, & general safety. I proceeded to file our trip plan at the ranger office, while Tom and Joe had time for a quick tour of the general store and wildlife exhibits. For those traveling to IR on the Voyageur II, the $5 per day camping fee is collected when you make your boat reservation (well in advance of your trip), so filing with the ranger only consists of supplying the names of crew members and the campgrounds you plan to utilize on each day of your visit. Having this typed up in advance is helpful, since the Windigo stop only lasts about a half hour.


Lines were cast off, the Voyageur exited Washington Harbor and headed east, affording us an ongoing view of the northwestern shore, where long stretches of vertical cliffs would prevent kayakers from safely coming ashore. Lunch consisted of grazing on ready to eat snacks from our day packs as we viewed scenery of the big island on the starboard side and a string of small, barren islands on the port side.


We arrived at McCargoe Cove, about halfway along the north shore of IR, at 1:30, and quickly unloaded our boats and gear, making room for a couple of Scout groups to load their gear and crews. We watched the Voyageur II head back down the cove, resuming its journey to Rock Harbor, then set about preparing for our first and longest portage-1.2 miles from McCargoe Cove to West Chickenbone Lake.


We were soon learning that a 60 lb. kayak or a 60 lb pack can be a serious challenge on IR's narrow trails, especially the sections of large rocks, slippery mud, wet planks, or steep slopes. Hikers later shared with us that Dramamine suppresses your balance mechanisms, so that may have added to our challenge. We might consider an overnight stop before the first big portage next time.


After completing the two trips to complete the portage, we reloaded our kayaks and launched onto Chickenbone Lake about 4:00. Moments later, we enjoyed a brief downpour which provided a "quick rinse" after the sweating of the portage. The best sites at West Chickenbone Campground were taken, but we were setting up camp by 5:00.


Joe demonstrated the value of beginner's luck, landing a northern pike on

Joe Trumm (left), Tom Sabotta (right) 

his first retrieve, standing next to our beached kayaks. The fried northern went well with our Mountain House dinners. The mosquitos hadn't been bothersome, with an occasional squirt of deet, but by 9:00 we were ready to avoid them altogether and get some well-earned rest.


Day 2. Chickenbone to Lake Richie Canoe Campground.

The excitement of being on IR roused us out of our tents at 5:00 AM, earlier than subsequent mornings when we had adjusted to "island time." Over a breakfast of Mountain House Eggs & Bacon, paired with cups of fresh-brewed coffee, I confessed to my crew mates that I was going to opt for 3-trip portages, and I would apologize in advance for any delays. Following a brief discussion of trip enjoyment, safety, and our planned schedule, the idea was heartily endorsed by all.


We efficiently broke camp, reloaded the kayaks, paddled 1 mile east along the south shore of Chickenbone, avoiding a pair of loons, and were at the .2 mile portage to Lake Livermore by 9:00. This was our shortest portage, but we learned that each portage provided its unique challenges, especially for someone with a kayak on his head. We were beginning to gain experience at transferring gear between kayaks and packs, a process to be repeated many, many times.


We launched onto Lake Livermore, enjoying a brief one-mile paddle to the west before it was time for another portage, .4 mile to Lake LeSage over steep and wet terrain, with an 80 ft elevation change. Our paddle across Lake LeSage was only 1 mile, but it included passing through a picturesque narrows between tree-covered points. Landing at the start of the next portage, we were greeted by a single moose antler. In many locations, such a prize would have been gone in 5 minutes, but many IR visitors have apparently handled and photographed the antler, then left it for the enjoyment of those who follow.


The portage to Lake Richie was .6 mile, longest of the day, again listed as wet and steep, with a 100 ft. elevation change. It did not seem as difficult as the second portage, but we were glad to complete the third and last portage of the day.


We were well aware of legendary mosquitos of the north, but were pleasantly surprised to find the bug situation very manageable during the last week of July. Applying a little bit of "preventative" deet around the head was helpful on the portages, particularly when you had your head in a kayak and were somewhat defenseless.  


A quick .5 mile paddle and we arrived at Lake Richie Canoe Campground. Although we never found an identifying sign for the campground or campsites, we staked out a convenient and scenic spot, and were soon joined by a group of canoe paddlers from Nashville. Our previous campground served both the hiking and portaging trails. We would not be competing with hikers for campsites again until we reached Chippewa Harbor.


Joe and I paddled out on Richie to pump water through our filters. I soon discovered that the input hose and prefilter screen to my Katadyn Hiker Pro had disappeared beneath the waves, teaching me that a "quick-connect" fitting may also be referred to as "quick-disconnect." Since the water in the lakes is already clear of most sludge, the filter still functioned by submersing the inlet port in the lake. We had minimized gear duplication, but did include two water filters, two stoves, and a spare paddle.


Tom and Joe soon each caught a northern, we fried fish and heated Mountain House dinners, recounted the day's experiences, listened to the loons, and turned in tired but certainly not hungry. It had been a great day.


Day 3. Lake Richie to Wood Lake Campground.

We were up at 5:30, enjoyed the sunrise, but then watched it change to overcast. Breakfast was oatmeal or another pack of MH Eggs & Bacon, accompanied by the always-welcome cup of fresh-brewed coffee, and a dessert of peanut butter and jelly smeared on something. Breaking camp was becoming routine, and we were on the water by 8:00 AM.


We covered the 1 mile paddle west on Lake Richie in about 15 minutes; I guess we were anxious to get to the .6 mile portage to Intermediate Lake. This portage includes 120 ft. of elevation change, made more slippery by a light rain. A 3-trip portage means that you hike the trail 5 times (3 forward with gear, 2 empty "backhauls"), so we hiked 3.0 miles, but our kayaks were reloaded and ready to launch on Intermediate by 10:00. The light rain had quit, and we would have overcast for the balance of the day.


We started referring to the short paddling opportunities as "breaks," and enjoyed a 1 mile paddling break before the .4 mile portage to Siskiwit Lake. This turned out to be a relatively easy portage, and we were further pleased to find Siskiwit in a pleasant mood. Siskiwit was the largest lake we would paddle, we were entering the east end, and winds from the west were known to come down its length and create large waves. Such conditions would have caused us to consider options of returning to Intermediate or improvising a campsite (probably frowned upon).


We paddled south on Siskiwit, passing between several islands, each landscaped in its unique combination of rock, moss, conifers, and shrubs. Just through the narrow channel which connects Siskiwit Lake to the much-smaller Wood Lake, we located Wood Lake Campground, highly-praised in guide books and trip reports. Anticipating stiff competition for its campsites, we were surprised and pleased to have first choice for the day. We chose a "primo" spot close to the narrows, smooth rock with a backdrop of trees, open to any possible breeze, with a gentle launch slope into Wood Lake. A few steps and you could view Siskiwit to the north. We quickly converted this little spot of environmental heaven into a gypsy camp, replete with tarp, two tents, small piles of gear, and a clothesline adorned with rinsed and drying nylon.



An afternoon swim was an easy way to cool off and rinse off the residue of hot and humid portages, and was included in almost every day's routine. It was also a convenient opportunity to rinse out clothes, but had to occur fairly early to allow time for the sun and wind to perform the drying. Other than the aforementioned brief or light showers, we had nearly perfect weather, with temperatures around 80 in the day and about 60 at night.


We were soon joined in the campground by a family of four from California (mom & dad, with son & daughter about 10 years old). They had portaged into Wood Lake from the direction we were headed and offered horror stories about the portages they had traversed. Two volunteer naturalists performing loon research were also in camp, and we would run into the "Loon Rangers" again on Ryan Island.


This was the first night that fishing was not productive, but we enjoyed our next flavor of Mountain House freeze-dried cuisine-lasagna, if I remember correctly. We occupied ourselves with fishing, reading, camp chores, and turned in early. Shortly thereafter, we were entertained by a beaver, patrolling in front of our campsite, slapping his tail. Well, it was entertaining for a while, but getting old by 2:00 AM.


One of the few advantages to being an older guy on a camping trip is the increase in opportunities for stargazing throughout the night. We encountered nothing as spectacular as aurora borealis, but the clarity of the star formations and our milky way galaxy was always impressive. We benefitted in this respect by scheduling our trip during a new moon, although I'm sure we would have also enjoyed a full moon rippling across a lake toward our campsite.


Day 4. Layover at Wood Lake CG; Explore Siskiwit Lake.

The stars had been out at 3:00 AM (and so was I), but it was overcast again by our 6:00 wakeup. Tom provided pancake mix, we enhanced it with cinnamon & brown sugar flavor instant oatmeal, and added a squeeze of strawberry jelly for a welcome change of pace at breakfast. The overcast sky diffused the light and lingering fog over the islands provided some nice subjects for photographs from a high rock behind our campsite. Dew-laden spider webs also caught our attention



This was planned as a portage-free day with a second night in the same campsite, with a focus on paddling Siskiwit Lake, weather permitting. If necessary, it could have served as a catch-up day for any delays. With only small waves, and the fog lifting, we packed lunch and essential gear aboard the kayaks and headed west. Our first target was Ryan Island, where we set foot on the "largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest (surface area) freshwater lake in the world."


We had traded "Good morning!" wishes with the loon-watching naturalists as they paddled by during our breakfast. We discovered them on the west end of Ryan Island, binoculars and spotting scopes in use, trying to identify nesting pairs and their nest sites. The loon population is tenuous on IR. Populations on some interior lakes are stable, others have decreasing or no current nesting pairs.


With the wind picking up out of the west, we set a compass course southeast from Ryan, which brought us past Eagle Nest Island to Siskiwit Falls, a small stream through which Siskiwit Lake drains into Lake Superior.


We hiked a short distance over to Superior, sat on the dock at Malone Bay, where we enjoyed lunch and wished we could sing like Otis Redding. Our lunches consisted of a variety of items, including tuna foil packs, slim jims, pilot bread, cheese sticks, snack bars, dried fruit, nuts, and an excess of peanut butter. Four jars of peanut butter, even allowing for a variety of creamy, crunchy, mixed with jelly or mixed with honey, is too much for 3 guys to eat in less than a week. That's definitely one item we can reduce for the next trip.


The wind had increased out of the west on our way from Ryan to Malone, and picked up some more as we headed back toward the east end of Siskiwit. We needed to track northeast to stay clear of the shore, but the wind was coming from due west, meaning that we had to deal with quartering following seas. Maintaining progress, quartering away from the shore, and preventing broaching as the kayaks dropped into the troughs kept us on our toes, and we were happy to complete the 4 miles back to camp.


We still had plenty of daylight, so while Tom took aim at the wily fish, Joe and I paddled to some nearby islands in search of blueberries. We quickly located our quarry, and while they were smaller than usual, they had excellent flavor. An hour or more of climbing around on hands and knees yielded about a quart and we headed back to camp.


Tom and I shared 10 years of experience as adult leaders with Boy Scout Troop 560, so Joe provided a fresh audience for our many stories. Joe was also a quick student of useful knots, including the sheet bend, tautline hitch, two half-hitches, clove hitch, and bowline, but he took a special interest in the daisy chain, a somewhat decorative way to shorten and store a line. After every excess piece of line in camp, including our kayak bow lines, had been daisy-chained, we started referring to ourselves as the Daisy Chain Gang.


Neither Siskiwit nor Wood Lake would give up a fish, so we heated water and sat down to another Mountain House dinner. We may have preferred some flavors more than others, but we thought all of the meals were very good. Does that say more about MH quality, our level of hunger, or our lack of sophisticated palate?


Day 5. Wood Lake to Lake Whittlesey Campground.

We slept in until 6:30, possibly anticipating and recharging for a return to portaging. Breakfast was pancake batter mixed with cinnamon and apple oatmeal, poured in the pan and further enhanced with a handful of fresh blueberries in each pancake. Delicious!


Joe was initially responsible for coffee brewing, but ended up doing most of the cooking for pancakes and fish. Heating water and the preparation of Mountain House meals quickly became an assembly line procedure performed by two of us for the crew-open envelopes, remove drier packets, add prescribed water, stir, reseal, time, reopen, stir and eat. We had two stoves, but did most of the cooking on the quieter of the two. All of our cooking was on gas stoves; we never encountered a fire ring until our last evening on IR. We took over 3 quarts of fuel, but only consumed a little over 1 quart.


A quick 1 mile paddle and by 8:00 AM we were at the .6 mile portage to Lake Whittlesey. It proved to be gently rolling, only one set of planks, certainly didn't live up to the horror story we had heard, but we did see plenty of sawdust, evidence that downed trees had been recently cleared.


Another 1 mile paddle and we were at the Lake Whittlesey Campground midway along the lake's north shore. It had been an easy portage, easy paddle, and we were at our new home by 10:30, so we were slightly surprised when we realized that the couple who had a nearby campsite completely set up, and were already back on the lake fishing, had also spent the previous night at Wood Lake. The campsite was nice, with tents in the shade, a smooth rock outcropping for lounging and viewing the lake both east and west. The launch was decent but a bit steep, which would later cause a premature launch of Joe's kayak . . . without Joe.


After lunch, Tom and Joe were anxious to do some serious fishing up and down the length of this long and narrow lake. Tom was our fishing expert (including cleaning boney northern pike), a veteran of many fishing trips to northern Minnesota and Canada, but Whittlesey challenged his skills. After an afternoon of casting at every promising ledge, dropoff, and underwater structure without results, he switched to a tactic of fishing where the fish were not supposed to be. We enjoyed 2 northern and a walleye for supper.


I spent most of the afternoon paddling the lake, learning about my

Tom Sabotta 

Olympus waterproof camera, getting photos of twisted cedars, bleached driftwood, rock outcroppings, and a couple of frustrated fishermen. I learned as much about the camera during our IR trip as over the previous year. Focus applies to photographers as well as cameras. The Stylus Tough 8010 has plenty of functions, features, and capabilities, but a voracious appetite for batteries. I could have consumed 2 of the rechargeable batteries every day!


We were in the tents by 9:00, sleeping well on the coolest night of our trip, awakened a couple of times by what we believed to be wolves howling in the distance.


Day 6. Lake Whittlesey to Chippewa Harbor Campground.

We were now in an easy routine of reveille by 6:30, breakfast of MH Eggs & Bacon or oatmeal (plus a big spoonful of peanut butter & jelly), break camp, load the kayaks, and paddle to the next portage. In this case it was a 2.5 mile paddle, but we were still at the .6 mile portage to Chippewa Harbor just shortly after 8:00. Our final portage was rated medium in overall challenge, but was unique in that it included no planks over marshy sections, replacing them with logs laid side-by-side perpendicular to the trail.


We quickly reloaded our kayaks and paddled the 2 miles to the dock and Chippewa Campground, anxious to secure a shelter for our last night on IR. Chippewa CG is rated very highly for convenience and scenic views, and is on both the portaging and hiking trails, so we were concerned about competition for the 4 available shelters. We were quite surprised to find ourselves alone at the campground when we arrived . . . all afternoon . . . all evening . . . and still alone when the Voyageur II picked us up.


We picked the shelter with the most spectacular view out over the harbor, carried our gear up and placed it in the shelter. It was a nice change to skip the rigging of a tarp and tents. We enjoyed lunch in the sunshine, sitting at a real picnic table on the dock, sharing our miscellaneous leftovers, each of us trying to give away some peanut butter.


Tom and Joe grabbed their poles and hiked over to Lake Mason to tempt its fish, but learned that it is difficult to fish from the brushy shorelines of the internal lakes. I paddled out the mouth of Chippewa Harbor to take some photos and claim that I had briefly paddled in the swells of Lake Superior, then explored the shoreline of the harbor, including the bleached bones of the "Beaver," a 1930's tourist boat.  




A sailboat raised anchor and sailed into Superior, a couple of powerboats toured the harbor and departed, a cabin cruiser from Michigan docked for the night, and a ranger docked for a couple of hours, checking the campground and providing us with an opportunity for Q & A. In answer to one of his questions, Tom and Joe did possess the proper one-day Michigan fishing licenses for the harbor (license required on water directly connected to Superior, not for inland lakes).


Tom insisted on building a fire in the grill by our shelter "because we can." Shelters, grills, and fire rings are only available at campgrounds along the IR shoreline. Since we had opted to immediately portage out of McCargoe Cove, Chippewa was our only opportunity to enjoy these "luxuries."


Clouds passed over, delivering a few raindrops, and the sky cleared. We had completed our route as planned, survived the portages without injury, and were at the point of rendezvous with the Voyageur II; relaxation was now our focus. An afternoon swim at the dock was particularly refreshing due to the proximity to Lake Superior's always-cold water. We did some preliminary organizing of items to have in our daybags. Our trail clothes were rinsed and drying, clean clothes were ready for the next day's return to close quarters on the Voyageur II. We enjoyed a late afternoon coffee break. We even shaved!


Our last dinner was a sharing of Mountain House flavors and Joe's Mexican entrée, along with a celebratory spoonful of peanut butter and jelly. When Tom and Joe headed to the shelter, I couldn't resist trading a half hour of sleep for sitting on the warm rock, soaking up a final memory as the light faded in the west and the details of the trees blurred to dark shadows.


Day 7. Chippewa Harbor to Grand Portage, & Home to Cedar Rapids.

Our last breakfast was quick and easy (including coffee & Dramamine), packing was simple, and we staged our boats and gear on the dock well before the 9:00 AM pickup time. The Voyageur II did not appear until 9:10, which allowed us time to joke about spending two more days at Chippewa with our few remaining Mountain House packs and a lot of peanut butter.


"The Lady" (Lake Superior) was well-behaved as we cleared Chippewa Harbor and headed west along the south shore of IR, trying to follow along on our map, identifying our lunch dock at Malone Bay, and passing through somewhat-sheltered Siskiwit Bay. The wind and waves raised a bit more spray as we rounded the western end of IR, but were less evident as we passed between several islands back into Washington Harbor to the dock at Windigo.


I hustled up to the ranger office to "log out," pleased to report that all had gone well, and we had camped exactly according to our original plan. Tom, Joe, and I met for a quick cold sandwich lunch on the general store patio. It was apparently not quick enough, as the first mate sternly informed us that we were late returning to the Voyageur II. I chuckled to myself, thinking how much more polite his comments were than what I would have heard for a similar offense while I was a member of our US Navy.


As we cleared Washington Harbor and headed into open Lake Superior, it was evident that the wind had continued to build, the swells were rising, and the Dramamine was probably a good investment. We passed part of the time napping on top of the vibrating engine covers, but it was the last few hours of our adventure, so certainly worth hanging onto the bow rail and absorbing a couple of refreshing waves.


We arrived in Grand Portage Harbor about 3:00 PM. Tom retrieved his truck from the parking lot while Joe and I moved our boats and gear from the dock to a staging point. The gear was quickly loaded and the boats securely strapped to our Malone J Racks.


We had wondered whether we would need showers at this point, or an overnight rest, but neither seemed necessary, so we opted to hit the road and see how things progressed. We enjoyed views of Lake Superior as we drove along the north shore, and stopped for supper in downtown Duluth. All those people and all that activity was quite a change from the solitude of our week on Isle Royale. We fueled up and pushed on, guessing titles, artists, or lyrics to music on the Sirius Radio 60's channel. By the time we hit the Iowa border, it was clear we would not be stopping and would arrive in Cedar Rapids about 2:00 in the morning.


Our adventure ended quietly, in the middle of the night, handshakes all around. The next day, the boats and gear were unloaded, taken home, cleaned and organized, just in case another adventure idea were to strike. A couple of days later, we shared another gathering with our spouses, along with photos, stories, and expressions of appreciation for each other. By all measures, it had been a great adventure.


Summary and Resources:

Tom, Joe, and I would probably each offer some unique perspective and advice, but overall, our visit to Isle Royale was challenging but enjoyable. Our personalities meshed, our kayaks and skills matched our itinerary, 6 days on IR left us satisfied, but still interested. We ate well, had good weather, and suffered no injuries. We would admit to packing too much weight, although we have not been able to identify ways to each eliminate 20 lb. of gear (we could reduce fuel and peanut butter). For anyone considering an adventure on Isle Royale, here are some useful resources:


Guidebook "Isle Royale National Park, Food Trails & Water Routes," 4th edition, Jim DuFresne, excellent resource for understanding the island's history, how to get there, and all the options for adventure on the island; available in many paddling stores, online bookstores, etc; we purchased autographed copies at Canoecopia.


National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map of Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA; # 240, waterproof and tear resistant, gps compatible; available in many paddling stores, online bookstores, etc.


Isle Royale Forums; free registration, very useful exchange of trip reports, info on paddling, campsites, fishing, transportation, trail conditions, gear, food, and real-time weather; please review the postings before asking redundant questions.


"The Greenstone," newspaper-format publication, issued annually, contains updates on IR park rules, trails, portages, campground facilities, fishing restrictions, general safety; available in hard or soft copy.




Spring in the Fall
by Ned McPartland  


Do you ever wonder where all the water went in the fall after the summer heat and low rainfall has made many streams too low to paddle?   If you are up for some excitement and a little adventure, try the Spring River in northern Arkansas.


The Spring River begins as a small stream in Missouri, but its size increases dramatically from Mammoth Springs just over the border in Arkansas. It is the largest spring in Arkansas and the second largest in the Ozarks with an average flow of 9.78 million gallons an hour. This guarantees that you will always have enough water for a good float.


There are several possible trips. The most popular is a nine mile trip from the Dam 3 access off U.S. 63 just south of the town of Mammoth Springs to the Many Islands campground. This could be called the river of ledges with numerous small drops over small ledges that provide plenty of excitement for most of the run. The river is rated only class I in difficulty. There are small breaks in the ledges which reduce the size of the drops. It is very popular in the summer with canoe, kayak, and raft rentals at Many Islands campground and several other campgrounds on the east side of the river. About seven miles downstream, there is a slightly larger series of drops called Saddler Falls. These drops are generally run near the left bank of the stream and can also be portaged on the left side of the river. The water quality is excellent with good trout fishing as well.




For the more adventuresome paddlers, there is an eight mile trip that begins at the Many Islands campground and ends in the town of Hardy, Arkansas at a public beach and park on river right just past the second bridge. The ledges are less frequent in this section, but the drops are larger. There is a three foot drop called Devil's Shoot about six miles downstream. Shortly after this drop is a low water bridge that must be portaged on river right as boats can be trapped and pinned against and under the bridge. About seven miles downstream is a six foot drop imaginatively named High Falls with an horizon line. It is best run on the left side with a portage on river right. Although the drop is relatively large, there is a very large, quiet pool below the drop so there is nothing to hit at the bottom and the quiet water makes boat recovery fairly easy. Many paddlers do get wet at this spot. In the hot Arkansas summer the water feels good, but in cooler months wet suits would be a wise precaution.


Summer weekends are crowded in the upper river with many campers and almost a resort atmosphere. The Many Islands campground is modern with all the camping amenities. April and September are excellent times to paddle there if you want to avoid the crowds. March and October can be good paddling, but river access is quite limited because most of the campgrounds are closed. You might have to run all seventeen miles. The trip could be shortened slightly (four or five miles) by putting in at a primitive public campground and landing on river right several miles south of Mammoth Springs on the west side of the river and taking out at the low water bridge mentioned above.

Middle Raccoon River Paddling Trip

by Ned McPartland


Late July is not always a time for good water levels so our group met at the Redfield dam with the intent to paddle downstream from there. However, some recent rain seemed to have raised the water levels so we decided to try a section of the river further upstream. About ten of us had a caravan driving to a landing west of Linden. We then shuttled most of the vehicles to the Amarillo Ave. take out giving us a six mile trip on a warm day. The temperature was supposed to be in the upper 80's. There was plenty of sun, a nice, cooling breeze, and a water level of 185 cfs.


To my surprise, the water level was quite adequate. There was very little scraping, the water seemed cleaner than usual, and some people took advantage of that to cool off in the water. We stopped twice on shady gravel bars for lunch and snacks. This allowed ample time for people to visit which was great because many of the participants had not paddled together previously. Given all the hot weather in the preceding days, the trip turned out to be more comfortable and pleasant than anticipated.




Gee, Apostle Islands Again??

by Steve Parrish


If you've been a loyal reader of the CIP newsletters, you know that at least annually there's a Trip Report on a member's trip to the Apostle Islands. Located in the far northern tip of Wisconsin, this Lake Superior destination is a favorite among adventurous CIP paddlers. This year, with 10 making the trip and, for most, five nights of camping, the trip was a classic. We had threatening storms, actual storms, peaceful days (meandering through sea caves), wind bound days, and windy crossings. Touching 8 of the 22 islands, we had more variety than a typical trip, and we also had a variety of experience levels among the paddlers. For me this trip was particularly fun because 2 of the paddlers were new to big waters, let alone Lake Superior. With them on the trip I was able to enjoy the whole experience vicariously through a new set of eyes, and they were quite vocal expressing their amazement and awe.



So, what's the big deal with the Apostles? Because this destination is a realistic goal for many CIP kayakers, it's worth laying out the case for a trip to see "The Boss". Why consider a kayaking trip to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands?


IT'S CLOSE I've reported on kayaking trips in the Baja, Florida, the Pacific Northwest, and many other known kayaking haunts. All of these trips have involved expense and time. And typically, I've not been able to use my own equipment; I need to use an outfitter. Not so with the Apostles. Typically, we'll leave central Iowa early in the morning, and put in for our first island sometime that same afternoon. We'll have our own cars, boats, and gear. Often the last day involves paddling in from one of the nearer islands, and driving home that same day.


IT'S VARIED Below are links to different reports on this year's trip.


From John Pearson's blog: 


From Dave Olsen's blog: 


To read these accounts, you'd think we ventured off to different continents. The Apostles offer variety and diversity. I've heard adjectives describing the Apostles as "overwhelming", "awesome", "scary" and "beyond belief". I don't recall words like "predictable", "routine", or "boring"! The deep waters are incredibly clear, the boreal forest primitive, and yet the human history to this area is rich. And the sea caves simply defy description. I've paddled in 6 countries and 18 states, but only in the Apostle Islands have I been able to insert my boat directly into such beauty, experiencing firsthand the glory of this unique interaction between land and water.


IT'S BIG WATER One of this year's participants was comparatively new to big water. He did a good job working on his self rescues, secured the right boat and gear, and was physically up to the task. But I'm not sure there was any way he could be prepared for the windy pounding we took as we paddled west on the second to last day. With no option but paddling forward, he learned how to handle big waters on the fly. When you are forced to angle into 20 knot winds with 2 and 3 foot short chop waves, you learn by paddling. In Iowa, we have challenging waterways, but short of a few large reservoirs, there's really no way to experience big waters. The Apostles are one of the best ways for Iowans to test their technique and apply what they've learned in "real time" conditions.


AND IT'S BIG WATER WITHOUT THE HASSLES OF SOME BIG WATER DESTINATIONS Don't get me wrong. I love paddling in the Everglades and the Pacific Northwest. But both have challenges that don't apply in Lake Superior. In the Everglades, you have to onboard all your fresh water and, if you don't want to get stuck in mud flats, you have to know how tide tables work. In the Pacific Northwest, you have the same challenges with drinking water and tides, PLUS the currents can prove downright deadly. Not so Lake Superior. You can easily filter the lake water, and there are neither tides nor major currents to reckon with. Yes, you have incredibly cold waters and frustratingly unpredictable weather systems. Superior is not an easier prize to obtain than ocean-based kayaking destinations, but it doesn't involve many of the hassles. There's something wonderful about the pure, clear waters of the Big Lake they call Gitchigumi.


Suggestions for CIP Paddlers


In a recent web article from the Wisconsin DNR, I was rattled by this paragraph:


"Days after a kayaker died when a group paddle was ambushed by the unpredictable waves of moody Lake Superior, a concerned paddler called the DNR with this sobering soliloquy: 'It seems like Lake Superior is where kayakers go to die'."


The Apostles in particular have a bad reputation for nasty, even deadly, mishaps. When we arrived this year for our adventure, we were all aware of a 20 year old kayaker's death this June in the popular crossing from Little Sand Bay to Sand Island. But the story became all the more real to us when the Camp Host at Little Sand Bay described the terror of the victim's twin when he came running into shore in search of assistance for his lost brother. A young man, not a statistic, was capsized and swallowed up by wind and waves during a 3 mile crossing. My point is not to scare anyone off from having the Apostle Islands as a paddling goal; rather, I'm encouraging people to take this goal seriously.


How can you make a trip to the Apostle Islands a reality?

  • Attend lectures at Expos, read all you can on the subject, and ask those who have ventured there before.
  • Learn what kind of boat and gear you need, and make sure you have what it takes to deal with the open, cold and often stormy weathers of Lake Superior. This includes availing yourself of lessons and instruction. As a general guide, you'll need a full length sea kayak, be able to execute a self rescue, and know how to handle yourself in windy conditions.
  • Hook in with experienced paddlers . Many CIP events include paddlers who know Lake Superior, and would love to pass on their knowledge. They may also know of planned trips to the area. Further, visiting the Apostles may now come in the form of a guided trip. Jeff Holmes of Canoe Sport Outfitters is in initial planning for a guided trip to the Apostle Islands next summer.
  • Camp. It sounds simple to say this, but the camping conditions on the islands are primitive. You'll want to make sure you know how to set up a tent, run your stove, and get by without creature comforts. This is not the same kind of camping as you might experience at, say, RAGRAI. There's no backup, and you may be island bound because of weather. For example, on our third day out this year, we were pelted at our campsite by a thunderstorm that swamped several tents. The next day we were confined to our campsite because of wind, and we simply had to wait until the following day to venture out. On the day we were able to escape, the winds had subsided to what seemed like mere hurricane level!
  • Practice big water skills. In particular, it's incumbent that you learn and practice rescues ... both self rescues and buddy rescues. In 2008, a group of CIP paddlers in the Apostles learned this for real when there was a double capsize. The other skill to practice is paddling in waves. Go to Red Rock, Big Creek, Rathbun, or some other body of water capable of generating 2 foot waves. While with others, practice heading into the waves, have them follow you, and angle into them as quartering waves. It's fun, and it may save a life!
Middle River: Historic, Scenic & Iowa's Newest Water Trail

by Todd Robertson



Regardless of where you live, you already know about Madison County. You love it, admit it. The historic covered bridges, the movie, John Wayne, the hilltops and limestone bluffs and green grasslands, the friendly folk and of course, its rivers.    


There's North River, a river that is challenging for paddlers and at certain levels, can chew a paddler up and spit them out somewhere downstream if approached with no boat control skills. Then there's Middle River, one of the most scenic streams to paddle in all of central Iowa. A less challenging stream, but riffle and strainer filled and just enough to keep a paddler focused, as any smaller stream does. That's half the fun! Using those river features to do a little playing is a great way to develop your boat control skills and also to keep from getting rusty. There is ample wildlife viewing and you'll see plenty if you decide to do a sunrise or sundown float. I have lost track of how many river otter, coyote and white tails I have seen over the years.


The headwaters to the new water trail actually begin in one of the prettiest sections of Adair County. Located 12 miles upstream from the Schildberg Access at Highway 92 is Middle River Forest Park. Located just south of the Wright Timber Wildlife Area, this beautiful park is where you will find the access and start of the 49 mile water trail.


The headwaters to the new water trail actually begin in one of the prettiest sections of Adair County. Located 12 miles upstream from the Schildberg Access at Highway 92 is Middle River Forest Park. Located just south of the Wright Timber Wildlife Area, this beautiful park is where you will find the access and start of the 49 mile water trail.


I paddled Middle River a few times in late June and can share a few pics with you. I invite you to PLEASE show your support for this water trail and all other water trails in Iowa. Come and celebrate the official opening of the Middle River Water Trail on Saturday, October 1st starting at 10:30am. Follow the link to find out all the information you'll need. Food, live music and a special presentation by Larry Stone is part of the day's schedule. There will also be a paddle from Roseman Covered Bridge to Pammel Park along with the official ceremony near the ford access. See the link for more!


Water Trail Web site 


Middle River Water Trail Overview Map


DNR Press Release 


One of my newest paddling friends is also a reporter and photographer from "Family Living" magazine, a publication put out by Farm Bureau. Joe had contacted me last year about maybe paddling and doing a story on water trails, then the water was too high and we could never seem to get a date set as we were both so busy. Then I got a call from Joe earlier this year and we started making plans. I suggested Middle River as I thought that would be a good choice since it was about to become Iowa's newest Water Trail. Our first meeting was a rain-out and flash flood warnings had been issued upstream so the no-brainer was no wait a few days. The wait was worth it. The river was a little high but manageable. It would be the first river experience for Joe, and he discovered that paddling streams is the way to go! We were joined by Gary Stone and John from that brought a friend and we had an eager group ready to paddle the fast moving Middle River. 


Here are a few pictures from the day we paddled with Joe, and then in part 2 you will find a few pictures from the stretch north of Highway 92:


The Heavily Forested Atmosphere of Middle River

Reporter Joe Murphy Taking Picture of Guy with Camera 

Happy to be on a River!  Joe Murphy on left

CIP'er Gary Stone

Plenty of Water in Middle River This Day

Part II:

A few days later, Gary Stone and I checked out the upper portion of the soon-to-be designated water trail. We left a vehicle at Highway 92 and drove up to Middle River Forest Park. You'll need healthy water levels at the trail head for a comfortable float. The put-in is not too far from the primitive camp location. What a great spot for a base camp!   HAZARDS: Be aware of two electric fences about 7 miles into the trip. And the "Robert's Bridge Riffles" are more like class I rapids and you're sure to get a little water in your canoe!What a great section of Middle River!  Bravo to Madison and Adair Counties!

Lush and green, Middle River is worthy of repeat visits 
Gary Stone paddling into the sunlight
Middle River Rock!
Nice spot for a leg stretch

That second float was especially scenic and challenging. I fell in love with Middle River Forest Area and park and will be camping there often. I feel blessed to live so close to such a beautiful stream. I hope to see you at the Middle River Designation on October 1st!



Des Moines River: an Afternoon Delight!

by John Wenck


Tour of Victorian Home along River
It started on a Tuesday afternoon in May with a birding float at the head of the Des Moines River Water Trail in Polk County.  Nearly 20 paddlers skirted the banks of the overflow ponds and along Rock Creek near Bob Shetler Rec Area as they tried identifying birds in the thickets and trees as the sun was setting.

Then, on one of the hottest days of summer, six die hard paddlers journeyed down the Des Moines on a July afternoon from Sycamore Access to Prospect Park, seeking respite from the lazy, hazy doldrums of summer.

In August, a history tour drew 18 participants one Tuesday afternoon to see an old ice house foundation built near a once popular Victorian recreation spot called Crocker Woods.  The highlight, however, was an intimate tour of the restored Victorian home owned by Curt Sytsma and Ellen King Huntoon located at the intersection of Arlington and 6th Ave on the Des Moines River.  We paddled back in the dark, but there was enough ambient glow from the street light and in the Birdland area for navigating.

Ellen King Huntoon talks about the history of her home 

And just last Tuesday, a group of 12 CIP members paddled from Harriet Street Access to the Pleasant Hill Access.  The temps were comfy, the company superb.  Just as the last paddler lifted her boat from the the river the remaining rays of light faded below the horizon.

Between Harriet St and Pleasant Hill--photo by Gary Stone 

The last leg of the Des Moines River: Pleasant Hill to Yellow Banks County Park is scheduled for Friday, October 21st at 4:00PM.   An announcement will go out early as a reminder.

Thank you for letting us inform you of important announcements.  If you ever have suggestions or comments, please feel free to share them with us at

Board of Directors
Central Iowa Paddlers