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Exploring the Upper River: Paddle Share

Article by Kathleen Boe, Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership

Exploring the Upper River

 A look at hidden gems along the Minneapolis Riverfront

This monthly series has been about areas along the river – places to visit alongside the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. But it’s also possible to take that one step further.

People ask, can I swim in the Mississippi River, can I fish in it, can I touch it with my toe. And the reality is, yes, you can fish. You can swim in the mighty Mississippi – given, of course, the appropriate level of care and caution. 

But there’s another easy way to get on the river as well, and that’s with the Mississippi River Paddle Share program.  

This is one of the new cool things you can do on the river: renting a kayak. It was originated by the National Park Service and it’s overseen by the Mississippi Parks Connection. It’s everyone’s opportunity to get out on the river.

Photo: the National Park Service

There are two options now, and there’s a third on the way.

You can start at North Mississippi Regional Park, at the north end of the Minneapolis riverfront and rent a single-person or two-person kayak for a three-hour span. The return station is at Boom Island Park, just under four miles down the river. The paddling itself should take around half that time, so there is plenty of time to relax and observe.

The other option is to start at the Lowry Avenue Bridge, at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization building, and paddle a little less than two miles down to Boom Island. This station has only single-person kayaks, but the price is a little lower. It’s under an hour to get to Boom Island, so there’s plenty of time to actually go upstream a little bit and see the heron rookery before heading downstream.

Each rental location has everything you need – the kayak, a life jacket for each person and a paddle. You reserve your kayak online at

If you don’t have your own kayak and you want to get out on the river, this is a cool way to do that. Soon there will be a third option as well, to start at Hidden Falls Regional Park and continue down to Harriet Island in St. Paul.

The history of our river is really about the pathway, where the river was the centerpiece around how you would get somewhere. You would start by going along the river, then fan out from there.

Over time we’ve changed that. Instead, we approach the river from our neighborhoods and now perhaps we see the river as a border we can’t go across.

One of the things that’s great about this program is that it’s an opportunity to get people actually on the river. This is your chance to be in it.

This area is pretty neat because the water isn’t very deep. Depending on the day, it’s a nice current as well. If you’re going from point A to point B, you are going downstream the whole way.

With the lock closed, there’s no commercial traffic on this part of the river, either. It’s a very peaceful way to see the Mississippi. You see the river and the shoreline from an entirely different viewpoint. You can see into people’s yards and into the industrial area. There’s something about the character of the river up here that’s unique in its own way and you get that sense when you’re on the river, in a kayak.

Photo: the National Park Service

Given the leisurely time frames – a three-hour rental for a ride that takes less than half that – you have plenty of time to stop somewhere along the way. Or, after you take the kayak out at Boom Island, hop on a Nice Ride bike and stop somewhere on the way back to your car. There are many options, not the least of which would be the Northeast Yacht Club, 1029 Bar, Elsie’s or The Draft Horse.

Kathleen Boe is Executive Director of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership. She can be reached at via email, or online at

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