Getting out-of-doors with kids of the creek [video]
Social distancing? Check.
Staying close to home? Check.
Getting kids outdoors? Check.
My kids have been doing a good job lately doing all of those things the past few days of warm weather, distance learning and quarantine conditions.
Plenty of critters swimming through the local stream certainly have helped keep them sane and provided some valuable lessons about hydrology and biology.
Not only that, but it’s just good fun.
We live near a small stream that flows through the north metro before linking up with the Rum River just a few miles upstream from the confluence with the Mississippi River in Anoka.
It’s always been cool that we could portage our canoes from the house, to the creek, paddle downstream, up and around a few culverts, maneuver through a few locks and dams, safely avoid barges, and eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just the other day, as the kids were checking crayfish traps, a father and daughter put in a few small kayaks with plans to pedal downstream until the next big culvert. With twists and turns that’s about a three-mile paddle one way. They’ve done it before, the daughter said, and it’s a pretty stretch of stream that flows through undeveloped wetlands amidst the sprawling exurbs.
They were putting in by one of my kid’s favorite creek haunts, the downstream side of a culvert that goes underneath a neighborhood road.
Local roads are all we have to traverse to access the creek that meanders through our neighborhood. Signs for the Mississippi River Trail were installed along the roads a few years ago by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
We didn’t think much of it until various travels across the state from the area around the headwaters to the trails by Winona revealed that our local adventures could expand farther should we desire.
Minnesota’s MRT winds roughly 620 miles downriver from Itasca State Park to the Iowa border mostly along shoulders of paved roads and low-traffic roads like ours. The route also includes long segments of state and regional trails and hooks up with central Minnesota’s Paul Bunyan Trail and the Heartland Trail.
In the heart of the metro, bicyclists can pedal both sides of the river through the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. That’s 72-miles along the river from the northwest suburbs to the southeast, making for a 144 mile loop.
The main point here is that there’s plenty of adventures to be had right outside your front door if you do a little exploring, pay attention to those places you normally drive right by, and research your local and state trail websites.
As much as I’d like to take the kids up to fish for giant walleye and sturgeon in the Rainy River near Baudette, or turkey hunt Whitewater Wildlife Management Area near Elba, we’re sticking close to home this spring to abide by Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order.
There will be plenty of turkeys in my favorite places to hunt and plenty of giants swimming the international border next spring. Here’s hoping everything we are going through right now is even farther away than those amazing destinations.
In the meantime, there’s plenty to catch and harvest much closer to home and the quarry can be just as elusive and diverse. So far this spring’s catch has brought brook stickleback, creek chub, northern pike, and rusty crayfish.
Softshell, painted and snapping turtles have been spotted and the wood ducks are back but never stick around very long. Geese, swans, sandhill cranes and plenty of songbirds fill the air with the sounds of spring. The local flock of turkeys leave plenty of footprints as do the well fed urban deer, racoons, skunks and coyotes, but they aren’t out during the day very much.
Those rusty crayfish were not released, by the way, as they are an invasive species. My son is an avid outdoorsman and that includes careful reading of the fishing regulations.
My next blog will most likely be something about proper cooking techniques for invasive shellfish.
I just hope we have plenty of butter.