RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- When Paige Olson opened Kinni Creek Lodge and Outfitters in 2000, she had a three-room, bed-and-breakfast inn and two canoe rentals. There were few fishermen, but she seldom saw anyone floating on the river. Things have changed, and her business as an outfitter has exploded.
“Suddenly fly fishermen started coming to stay,” Olson said, “and then they wanted fishing guides. Then the guides wanted a fly shop, so I turned my two-car garage into a fly shop.”
People wanted to rent rooms, but more often, they wanted to rent the entire cabin for a family or several couples, so the bed-and-breakfast became mostly a cabin rental.
However, it was the boats that really caught on.
“I started out with two canoes, and now I have 250 kayaks to rent,” Olson said. “The kayak rentals are phenomenal. They go all over the place. I’ve created a monster.”
Olson offers six kayaking trip options through her lodge at 545 Main St.
Four of the trips are for beginners and are on the upper Kinnickinnic River. She shuttles guests and kayaks upriver depending on how long they want to paddle. She has dropoffs for 45-minute, hour-and-a-half, three-hour, and six-hour trips. Kayakers travel at their own pace and paddle down the Kinni back to her lodge where they return the equipment and check out.
“They are on flat water and Class 1 rapids, so it is a nice place to learn to kayak. You get familiar with the equipment and the obstacles such as trees, rocks, rapids, fishermen, and other kayakers. Those are our most popular trips," Olson said.
She also has two trips leaving from Glen Park for intermediate and advanced kayakers. One is a three-hour trip that ends in Kinnickinnic State Park, and the other takes six hours, covers 13 miles and is the most challenging trip that she offers.
“The six-hour trip covers three rivers,” she said. “You go on the Kinnickinnic and the St. Croix and it ends on the Mississippi at Prescott, Wisconsin, with the reward of having a complimentary beverage at the Muddy Waters Bar and Grill.”
Olson said the Kinni is a good place to learn to kayak. The river is gentle and in most places just 2 or 3 feet deep. Anyone who tips a kayak can just stand up and get back in the boat. She said the water level and flow remain constant year round except for times following heavy rain or sudden snowmelt.
“The river is open year-round, and we are open year-round,” she said. “It tends to be seasonal, but we are having more and more people coming out in the winter time.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kinni Creek Lodge and Outfitters stayed open, because outdoor recreation and lodging were both termed essential.
“This is the busiest season we’ve had in 21 years,” Olson said. “We’ve had a lot of staycations and a lot of graduation parties. This is a perfect social-distancing thing to do. It’s outside and on the river.”
Olson said that reservations for fishing or kayaking are required by phone. She said she recommends calling a day or two in advance for weekdays, and a week in advance for Friday through Sunday.
“I highly recommend that you go Monday through Thursday to avoid the crowds and have a more peaceful time on the river,” she said. “It’s fun for everybody to come out and enjoy and play, especially on hot days. You can get in the water and cool off and have splashing wars.”
If you go …
Name: Kinni Creek Lodge and Outfitters
Address: 545 N. Main Street, River Falls, WI 54022
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Cost: $30-$75 depending on the distance of the trip. Price includes kayak, paddle, life jacket, and shuttle service. See the website for all the options for kayaking and fishing and cabin rental.