In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Minnesota’s State Water Trails system, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is participating in Clean Up the River Environment’s (CURE’s) annual Minnesota River History weekend, May 17-19 in Granite Falls.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Minnesota’s State Water Trails system, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is participating in Clean Up the River Environment’s (CURE’s) annual Minnesota River History weekend, May 17-19 in Granite Falls.
This year’s event will feature two different paddling routes on the Minnesota River on Saturday, May 18.
On the guided “Paddling Theater” route, no paddling experience is required.  The paddling audience will engage with actors on land and from their ten-person voyageur canoes. Characters from throughout history will emerge on the river banks, islands and other watercraft, to lead the audience on an interactive journey into the past and future of the Minnesota River Valley.
“We haven’t heard of anything else like it that exists,” said Ashley Hanson, executive director of the Minnesota Theater Alliance.

As of Tuesday this week, space on the voyageur canoes was sold out. Anyone still interested in following along will need their own canoe. Tickets are set at $10.
On the “Historic Rapids” route, experienced paddlers will shoot Class I and Class II rapids that have emerged after the recent removal of the 107 year old Minnesota Falls dam.   Shuttle transportation will be provided for both routes.
“With the unique mix of theater, historic rapids and paddlers with spring fever, this anniversary celebration is sure to be full of characters,” said Erik Wrede, state water trails program coordinator for the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails.
Minnesota has the first and largest water trail system in the nation. State water trails are recreational routes on waterways that are managed by the DNR and local partners for canoeing, kayaking, boating and camping. There is a network of over 1,400 public water accesses, campsites and rest areas on state water trails, which thrive on the support of local units of government, paddling clubs, outfitters and nonprofits like CURE.  Over the years, the system has expanded to include more than 4,500 miles of mapped routes on 32 rivers and Lake Superior. The Minnesota, St. Croix, Big Fork and Little Fork Rivers were designated in 1963 as the first water trails in the nation.
On Friday evening, there will be a Minnesota River History exhibit, a showing of the film “River Revival: Working Together to Save the Minnesota River,” and presentations about the Minnesota State Water Trails system, the Hudson Bay Bound expedition from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, and the removal of the Minnesota Falls dam.  On Saturday evening, there will be bluegrass music from Hey Lonesome and Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade, and food from Bootleggers Supper Club.  On Sunday, people with their own watercraft and transportation will organize additional paddling opportunities in the area.
For more information and to register for the Minnesota River History Weekend, visit or call the CURE office at (877) 269-2873.  For more information about the Minnesota State Water Trails system, visit


Minnesota River History Exhibit Reception and Artist Talk with Dakota Author Gwen Westerman, K.K. Berge building (6:30 - 9:00 PM).
Film: River Revival: Working Together to Save the Minnesota River with producers John Hickman and Jon Carlson (7:00 p.m.). This film tells the story of people from all walks of life - academics, farmers, natural resource professionals, anglers, homeowners, students, paddlers, politicians, and citizen activists - who are working together to solve the problems facing the Minnesota River.  

Presentation:  Minnesota State Water Trails: Making History for 50 Years with Erik Wrede, MN DNR Water Trails Coordinator and special guest Paul Ryberg (8:00 p.m.). Minnesota has the first and largest Water Trails system in the nation. Come learn about the early years of the system, and the trip planning resources and paddling opportunities that are now available.  Plus, special guest Paul Ryberg will tell stories about growing up on the Minnesota River with his family that will be honored for their efforts to "unleash the recreational giant of canoeing."  

Presentation: Paddling from Minneapolis to the Hudson Bay with Natalie Warren (8:45 PM). Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren are the first women to paddle from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay.

Presentation: Reconnecting the Minnesota River  by Luther Aadland, River Scientist, MN DNR (9:30 p.m.). His work, research, and publications have included a wide variety of topics that integrate physical and biological processes of rivers and the design of river restoration, nature-like fish passage, dam removal, erosion control, and flood damage reduction projects. Read more about Luther here.


Paddling Theater. Saturday, May 18th, 1st Scene (11:15 a.m.), then theater goers board shuttles to board canoes to experience the remaining Paddling Theater scenes (approx. 3 hours), final scene at Memorial Park at 7:30 p.m.
Voyaguer canoe spots are sold out. Individuals without a reservation will need to supply own watercraft to see paddling theater. Shuttle service is provided. Drop your watercraft (security volunteers will be on site) at Kinney Access and your vehicle at Upper Sioux Agency State Park. Stop in the state park office for a courtesy pass and parking directions. Catch the 8:30 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. shuttle from the state park to downtown Granite Falls.   

Saturday evening food and musical entertainment at Memorial Park. Food and beverage catered by Bootlegger’s on sale at 5:00 p.m. Music begins at 6:00 p.m. and runs til’ 10:30 p.m. Blue Grass bands include “Hey Lonesome” and “Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade.”


Self-organized paddle.