By Tim Lesmeister
When attending the 2010 OWAA conference, allow some time before or after this event to do some rambling around Rochester. While Minnesota is thought of as the land of lakes, Rochester is also blessed with some of the finest fishing and canoeing rivers in the country. Bicycle trails weave through the river bluffs and the hiking through the hills is spectacular. Here are some details.
♦ The Zumbro River
The Zumbro River is a relatively easy canoe trip, although there are rapids and boils that will get the heart pumping a bit faster. The fishery is phenomenal with smallmouth bass, walleyes, saugers and the mighty muskellunge providing five-star fishing to those that venture down the winding waterway.
Each year I make at least one trip down the Zumbro with Bill Plantan. Plantan builds the River Ridge Custom Canoe and has been guiding on this river for so many years he deserves the title of grizzled veteran. I take it for granted that we will land more than 40 smallmouth bass, a few walleyes or saugers and will see at least one huge muskie. You’ll need two memory cards for the camera on a trip down the Zumbro. For more information, Plantan can be reached at 507-288-2750.
♦ The Whitewater State Park
Winding through the Whitewater State Park, the Whitewater River is loaded with rainbow, brown and brook trout. In fact, some of the biggest brown trout caught in Minnesota come from the Whitewater River. The hiking trails in the park provide difficult climbing in some spots because they are in the river bluff country. But when you get to the top of one of those bluffs, you discover a view worth the effort. For more information check out www.dnr.state.mn.us.
♦ The Root River Trail System
The 60-mile Root River Trail System is a paved bicycle path that winds through the most scenic part of Minnesota, with the town of Lanesboro as the hub of this system. Lanesboro has a vibrant downtown and many of its buildings are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. While this quaint town’s claim to fame might be having Buffalo Bill Cody as a resident in the mid-1800s, there is also an active arts community complete with professional theatre, art galleries, and entertainment. For those riding the trail, the Aroma Pie Shop in Whalan is just five miles from Lanesboro and is guaranteed to put a dent in that sweet tooth. For more information check out www.rootrivertrail.org.
♦ Silver Lake Park
Remember when some thought the giant Canada goose was believed to be extinct? Then they were discovered in Rochester in the winter of 1948. It all began in the 1920s when a few wild geese began to return each autumn to Mayowood Lake, attracted by a captive flock of Canada geese retained by the Mayo family. Now home to 30,000-35,000 geese at the peak of the fall season, Silver Lake is the world’s largest winter concentration of Canada goose. Silver Lake is a pretty little man-made lake, set in the middle of Rochester and worth a visit to see where the giant Canadas were resurrected. ◊
Photo: Bill Plantan from River Ridge Custom Canoes shows off one of the scrappy smallmouth bass that can be caught while drifting down the Zumbro River. Image by Tim Lesmeister.
Tim Lesmeister is a full-time freelance outdoor communicator and photographer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.