Monthly Archives - January 2016

fall colors

Fall Colors on the St. Louis River: Whitewater Rafting Duluth, MN

fall colorsSure, summer is over but that doesn’t mean enjoying time on the water has to end just yet. Mid to late September and early October are great times for whitewater rafting near Duluth, Minnesota on the St. Louis River to view the changing colors of the forest. Also, there are a lot of species of birds migrating along the St. Louis River as well. Some twenty-six species of warblers, colorful little songbirds, hop and flutter along in the day light hunting insects. Autumn along the Louis offers up plenty of beauty to be enjoyed

The other bonus is that September and October are usually wetter than late July and August. Fall rains supply more bang for the buck as the trees and plants are no longer soaking up as much water. Fall rains usually raise the St. Louis to some fun rafting levels.

Although the water can be chillier, as is the air, you just have to dress for it. If you wear poly long under wear with fleece or wool over that as an insulating layer you will be toasty. Cover those layers with a Gore-tex rain suit and some wool socks then you are all geared up for some fall rafting. We also supply wetsuits to those in need of more warmth. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. Dress for it and you will be loving life.

For those that like smaller groups, with the cooler weather, school having started and the tourism season winding down, trip sizes are typically smaller. This can afford you and your group a slightly more intimate adventure experience. Although, regardless of trip size our guides goal (besides safety and fun) is to create a fun and personable experience…and fall colors help that.

The backdrop of fall against the dark rock and rootbeer colored waters offers up incredible scenery—and great photo opportunities too! The river produces yellow and oranges in the silver and sugar maples along the river banks, radiant yellow and white of paper birches, fiery reds of forest understory plants such as red osier dogwood, and so many more varieties of plants and colors.

All of our trips employ a professional photographer whom kayaks along to take pictures of your group. Besides photos of your group paddling rapids, our trip photographer also throws in a few great autumn landscape shots. This allows for you to capture your autumn memories for a long time after—need proof for Facebook or Instagram, right?

So this fall if you want to go whitewater rafting in Duluth, Minnesota and see some fall colors too, give us a call!

Fun Fact: Why Leaves Change Color

As autumn settles in, cooler nights and shorter days prompts trees to shut down their production of plant materials. Trees stop producing chlorophyll, a green pigment in the chloroplasts of the leaf that absorbs incoming sunlight and gives leaves their color.

As Chlorophyll trapped in the leaves begins to breakdown, other pigments that are present in the leaf begin to show their true colors: From the carotenoids we get brilliant yellows and blazing oranges seen in poplars, birches and maples, from the anthocyanins we see fiery reds in certain maples and oaks. And from the tannins we see rich browns. The varying amounts of chlorophyll and other pigments mixing in the leaf determine the leaf’s autumnal display.

For whitewater rafting near Duluth, Minnesota the Louis and her colors are a must see!

whitewater rafting Duluth Minnesota

Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking Duluth, Minnesota: An Intro to the World of Whitewater Paddling

whitewater rafting Duluth MinnesotaSome people think that whitewater kayaking or whitewater rafting is this extreme sport suited only for adrenaline junkies but nothing could be farther from the truth. Sure, there are professional paddlers that push the limits of paddling whitewater each day all over the world, running huge rapids and massive waterfalls, but there is more to whitewater paddling than just the extreme. Whitewater paddling can be a lifetime sport for people of all ages and skill levels. This is something we strive to show people if they come whitewater rafting and kayaking in Duluth, Minnesota with Swiftwater Adventures.

Many whitewater paddlers, be it kayakers or rafters, are content with paddling class II and III rapids (which are rapids with standing waves and a few obstacles, such as boulders, that require maneuvering). Class IV and above rapids require more technical skills, a solid roll ( if in a kayak), and the ability to negotiate large holes and waves. Swimming in class IV and V whitewater can be very dangerous and hazardous to life. For these reasons class IV and V isn’t for everyone and also why we don’t commercially raft class V.

At Swiftwater Adventures we hope to get more people out on the water, whether they aspire to be the next ‘hair boater’ or just like to surf a wave in a kayak or a fun float in a raft. Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone is a newbie at some point. One of the main benefits of the St. Louis River is that there are two fantastic sections of river that can appease both the newbie and the experienced paddler looking to go whitewater rafting and kayaking in Duluth, Minnesota.whitewater kayaking

The ‘Upper’ St. Louis River is our typical run for whitewater rafting and whitewater kayak trips near Duluth, Minnesota. This section typically sports class II and III rapids, although in high water the ‘Electric Ledge’ rapid is considered by some to be a big water class IV rapid. This section is where many kayakers build their skills. With this section being pool drop, a rapid then a pool of water, kayakers can wipe out and pick up the pieces below as they learn.

The ‘Lower’ St. Louis River sports class III to V rapids. This section is where advanced kayakers test their skills, where some rapids are long and unforgiving class IV and V, such as the Octopus Rapid or Fin Falls. Although the Lower does boast class V the first couple fo miles is class II, III, and one class IV. We raft the first few miles of the Lower when the Upper section is too low for fun paddling. The Louis provides us with fun all summer long!

For our professionally guided raft and kayak trips on the St. Louis River no experience is necessary. We supply you with a professional in-raft guide and all the outfitting for raft trips. For whitewater kayaks or sit on-top whitewater kayaks, we outfit you, teach you the basic strokes, and employ a challenge by choice philosophy where you can decide if and what rapids you want to paddle. On these kayak trips you are also guided along by one of our experienced kayak guides.

Whitewater rafting and kayaking in Duluth, Minnesota can not only be a fun and safe experience with Swiftwater Adventures but a memorable one too! Give us a call and put some adventure in your life!

Whitewater rafting Duluth Minnesota

Whitewater Rafting Duluth, Minnesota: Cultural History of the St. Louis River

Whitewater rafting Duluth MinnesotaThe St. Louis River is the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, coursing some 180 miles from its headwaters in the Superior National Forest before to its confluence with the big lake. The Louis is rich in cultural history, so much so that volumes of work exist on the topic from historians to logging outfits to the oral history of the Ojibwe that this blog only attempts to serve as a brief introduction. It is something that can be experienced when whitewater rafting in Duluth, Minnesota.

It is likely that the St. Louis River received its name from the vigorous French explorer Sir de La Verendrye, whom explored much of the region in the early 18th century. For his exploits the King of France awarded La Verendrye the Cross of St. Louis, from which the river received its name.

The river already had a name long before Europeans arrived. The Ojibwe called the river Gichigami-ziibi, which means Great Lake-River, likely because it is the largest river in the United States that flows into Lake Superior, which the Ojibwe call Gitchi-Gami. Sometimes it is easy to imagine what the river looked like centuries ago as the section we raft is not developed, so whitewater rafting while in Duluth, Minnesota you can have a wilderness adventure for the day.

The Ojibwe, whom call themselves Anishinaabeg, live in a rich and bountiful land. Within the St. Louis River watershed are all the resources needed for survival. In the past and in the present, paper birch, ash, and basswood supplied materials for wigwams and lodges, baskets, and canoes. From the sugar maple comes precious sap to flavor foods. From the forests and waters fish and game, and from the river and lakes wild rice, a staple of the Ojibwe people.

The Ojibwe would migrate to seasonal camps with in the St. Louis River watershed. March, the Crusted Snowmoon, was time to head to the sugar bush camps to tap maple trees for their sweet sap. Summer camps were often along bodies of water, such as the St. Louis River and neighboring lakes, where the fishing was good.

When the French came to the north woods seeking furs to meet the demand of high fashion in Europe they entered a business agreement with the Ojibwe. The fur trade thrived in this area for almost two centuries. The Ojibwe trapped beavers and other fur bearing animals and traded their pelts for goods. The Voyageurs, typically French Canadians, transported the pelts through a system of trading posts throughout the North Woods. The St. Louis River played a crucial role in linking Lake Superior to trading posts on the Mississippi River and Lake Vermilion.

As always, fashion is fickle and the days of the beaver hat were over as silk took its place, ending the fur trade.

In the Late 1880s to early 1900s logging was at its apex in northeastern Minnesota. In 1898 a paper mill was built on the banks of the St. Louis River, it would eventually become Potlach then SAPPI, the current paper mill upstream of where we raft. Today, SAPPI works with Western Lake Sanitary District to meet and exceed water quality standards for the St. Louis River.

Today, the Minnesota-Department of Natural Resources, Fond du Lac Reservation, and other organizations, such as the St. Louis River-River Watch, are actively involved in the conservation and management of natural resources within the St. Louis River watershed.

So if you feel like whitewater rafting while in Duluth, Minnesota and want to experience history and adventure give us a call. Let’s go rafting!