EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave Lind is writing a monthly series of articles on good placaes to canoe or kayak in southeastern Minnesota.

By Dave Lind

For the Post-Bulletin

Looking for nice paddling routes close to Rochester for family outings, fishing, or overnight camping? The routes on the Zumbro River from Zumbro Falls to Kruger’s Park should fit the bill.

From Zumbro Falls downstream the Zumbro winds through a wooded valley with limestone bluffs, a mix of gravel and sand bottom, and small ripples and rapids to make a float trip interesting. If you like to fish, this section holds smallmouth bass and there are three trout streams that empty into the river along the way. Sightings of eagles and deer are common along this section. This section of the Zumbro is maintained by the Department of Natural Resources.

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The total river miles from Zumbro Falls to Kruger Park is 34 1/2 miles with four nice routes for day trips:

  • Zumbro Falls to Hammond (7.0 miles; great for all skill levels). This is the most popular route on the Zumbro because it has a nice easy flow that beginners can feel comfortable paddling. The put-in access is at Sportsman Park just downstream from the highway 63 bridge which has camping facilities, rentals, and shuttle service for routes on the Zumbro. The take-out access at Hammond is at the County Road 11 bridge on the left bank. The river bottom on this section is mostly sand and gravel mixed with limestone rock in places. There are some small rapids or ripples that are easy to navigate through. Sportsman Park also has camping facilities.

  • Hammond to Millville (5.0 miles; great for all skill levels). The river continues to wind through the wooded valley with moderate current and some ripples to keep it interesting. This is a favorite of mine for smallmouth bass fishing. The river banks are laden with rock and there is a series of pools and ripples that favor the smallmouth bass. There is a DNR campsite located in a state forest area about 2.5 miles downstream from Hammond on the right bank. Midway between Hammond and Millville, near the small village of Jarret, there is a shallow area and if the water level is low you may need to get out and float your canoe or kayak through the rocks and gravel.

The access at Hammond is at the County Road 11 bridge. At Millville the take-out access is at Read’s Park on the left bank and is marked by a DNR access sign. If you see the bridge at Millville then you have missed the take-out access! Read’s Park is just west of Millville on County Road 11 and has camping facilities.

  • Millville to Theilman (10.2 miles; intermediate skill level). The first part of this route flows through a narrow valley, but after a few miles the valley widens giving a panoramic view of the surrounding forested hills. The current remains swift and there are tree snags that pose as hazards and must be avoided. The French fur traders aptly described the lower section of the Zumbro as "Revere des Embarras,’’ meaning the river of difficulties. For the trout fishermen there are two small trout streams that enter along this route. Long Creek and Middle Creek are onlya half-mile apart about midway through the route on the right. These creeks are too small to paddle so you need to walk upstream to fish them. A word of caution, the river under the bridge at Millville has some large boulders, some barely submerged, that you need to avoid. The access at Millville is at Read’s Park just West of Millville on county road 11. The DNR access upstream of Theilman is just before the County Road 4 bridge.

  • Theilman to Kruger Park (12.5 miles; intermediate skill level). This route usually has good current and flows through a backdrop of forested hills. This is a beautiful trip in the fall when the hardwood trees are in full color. West Indian Creek, a DNR trout stream flows into the Zumbro near Theilman on the right. About two miles downstream from Theilman the route begins to wind through what is called the Zumbro Bottoms State Forest area.

This route can be shortened to 6 1/2 miles by taking out at the DNR access called Funk’s Ford located on the Zumbro Bottoms road south of highway 60. There is one DNR primitive campsite located on the right bank about 4 1/2 miles downstream from Theilman. There are two DNR campsites midway between the Funk’s Ford access and Kruger Park. Kruger Park is located on County Road 81 and has a campground.

Paddling guides

  • Use the guidebook "Canoeing the Driftless" that details over 50 kayak/canoe routes in southeastern Minnesota. It contains river maps, shuttle routes, difficulty ratings, river miles and other information. Available at Tyrol Sport & Ski and online bookstores.

  • Go to www.RiverPaddling.com for river levels and weather forecasts.

  • For a DNR map of the Zumbro River go to: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/canoeing/rootriver/index.html

  • DNR Trails & Waterways Regional Unit in Rochester. 2300 Sliver Creek Road N. E. Phone: 507-285-7176. Maps of DNR paddling routes and river paddling information