17 Jul Mississippi River Paddle Share Program: Kayaking the Mississippi River in Minneapolis
It was a warm, sunny day with a slight breeze and the perfect day to have a nature adventure in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our morning started out with a bike ride through the city with e-bikes from Nice Ride, and it continued with kayaking the Mississippi River in kayaks from the Mississippi River Paddle Share program. Minneapolis is certainly a wonderful place to soak up nature, even when you are right in the middle of the city!
The Mississippi River Paddle Share is a kayak share program where you can rent a kayak at one location and return it at another point downriver. We partnered with Mississippi River Paddle Share and Meet Minneapolis to experience the kayaks, and they graciously provided us with rentals for the day. I’m so glad we finally had a chance to check this program out. We loved that we could pair the paddling with a bike ride to have a full circle, unguided adventure all at our own pace. Plus, this year, it’s a wonderful social distancing option for getting outside and enjoying summer.
The kayak share program is very easy to use. All you have to do is make a reservation online, and head to the kayak lockers to retrieve your kayak, paddle, and PFD. When you arrive, you type in your code to open your locker and you are free to paddle to your kayak drop off point. Once you are finished, you take your kayak out and lock it back up at the return station.
To get to and from your starting point, you have a couple options depending on the route you take. For the shorter routes, you can check out a bike from Nice Ride and ride to the starting point either before or after your paddle. Another option is to use a ride share service.
We decided to book the City Plus Route for our paddling adventure. This route gave us 4 miles of paddling on the river and around 4.5 miles of a bike ride. We parked our car at the finishing point, at Boom Island Regional Park, and rode the bikes to the starting point North Mississippi Regional Park. The balanced mix of bike riding and kayaking was what made us pick this route, but there are both shorter and longer routes available depending on your interests. One paddling site is even located on a lake if you don’t want to paddle on a river.
Once we got to Boom Island Regional Park, we spotted a couple of e-bikes which are relatively new on the Nice Ride bike roster. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add a bit of power to our pedals, so we checked out a couple of bikes and set our sights north. There are several trail options to get you from one park to another, and all of the trails offer bike lanes. It’s nice that Minneapolis is a super bike friendly city! Some of the trails are dedicated lanes on the road and others are completely separate bike paths through lush, green parks. The ride between the parks was easy and convenient, and it was a fun adventure to add to our day of paddling down the river.
When we made it to North Mississippi Regional Park, we locked up our bikes and made our way towards the river. Along the way, we spotted several signs throughout the park that take you on a forest bathing walk. We stopped and read a few of the signs on our way to the river. A couple of my favorites were the gratitude sign and the one that asked you to give yourself “deer ears” so you could hear your surroundings better!
Soon, we were at the start of our objective for the day: paddling down the river. We found our lockers and pulled out our kayaks, paddles, and PFDs before making our way to the water. The launch point isn’t far from the lockers, but the kayaks are on the heavy side. If you have a partner to paddle with, it will make hauling the kayaks in and out of the water a bit easier.
We made it to the river’s edge and got all set up for the main attraction. As we floated away from the riverbank, the current calmly swept us up and started to push us downstream. Paddling on a river is always interesting—you have to be aware of which way the current is pulling you and keep an eye out for any debris you may encounter. It’s nice that you have a current helping you paddle downriver, but you do have to pay attention to what you are doing.
The stretch of river we paddled was calm but definitely had an interesting current going on the day of our paddle. It kept turning our kayaks to the left and backwards any time we took a quick break from paddling. Since the water was calm, we felt totally in control though, and the currents just added a bit of fun to the paddling. Thankfully, we have had plenty of river paddling experience in the past, like the times we went paddling down the Blue Earth River in Mankato, white water kayaking in Slovenia, and white water canoeing in Iceland, to name a few!
It was such a beautiful day out on the water. We had just enough cloud cover to keep us from getting sunburned, but it was still warm and sunny to keep us nice and warm.
Along our paddling route, we found beautiful treelined riverbanks, which made us feel like we were miles away from the city. Then, as the city skyline came into view, we started to paddle under more and more bridges and past industry and developments that have been created along the shore.
We also loved seeing the heron rookery with all the chirping birds and giant bird nests in the trees.
As we paddled closer to the Minneapolis skyline, we were on the lookout for Boom Island Park. We wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the pull-out spot because there’s a waterfall not far downriver! Thankfully, Boom Island park was easy to spot, and we made it back in one piece.
Normally, when you are finished, you would carry your kayak back to the docking station and lock it up. But when we arrived there was an employee on site to greet us. He helped us take the kayaks out of the water and loaded them right up onto the truck so they could be sanitized and loaded into another locker for the next paddler the following day.
Speaking of which, due to the current pandemic, the Mississippi River Paddle Share program has changed their booking procedures a bit. Kayaks are now only checked out to one person each day and opening hours are reduced. As of now, each kayak can be picked up any time after 11:00 a.m. and has to be returned by 5:00 p.m. Also, this seems to go without saying these days, but the equipment is sanitized and cleaned after each use. It’s nice to see they are taking proper precautions to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy.
One important piece of information to note is that they ask that you have prior river kayaking experience before setting out on an unguided trip down the river. If you’ve never paddled on a river before, one option is to rent a tandem kayak with an experienced kayaker. Another option is to sign up for a guided tour or kayaking lesson. Their partner company, Paddle Bridge Guide Collective, is still offering tours this summer, so that is a great option to check out, as well. We did a tour with them a few years back and had a wonderful time. If you do have river paddling experience, you need to watch a safety video before departure, and remember to always wear your life jacket!
The whole experience took us around 3 hours in total, and we definitely rode and paddled at a leisurely pace. We spent lots of time taking photos and soaked up being outside in nature. Kayaking the Mississippi River was a wonderful adventure and we really enjoyed being able to rent a boat and go at our own pace! Now, we’d love to try one of their other routes someday!
Have you ever tried kayaking the Mississippi River?
Special thanks to Mississippi River Paddle Share, Paddle Bridge Guide Collective, and Meet Minneapolis for partnering with us and providing us with kayak rentals for this adventure. As always, all opinions are my own.
Pin it to save this adventure for later!