First paddle in Lake Calhoun and Cedar Lake

Minnesota has really come alive in the last two weeks.  Birds are chirping, trees are blooming, and the weather is consistently warmer.  Although Saturday blew away the recent rain clouds, it also brought some chilly air from the north.  Luckily Sunday kept the beautiful, cloudless skies and managed to get above 60 degrees.  Trying to not wake my wife (who had just come home from a 12-hour night shift at the hospital), I quietly gathered my kayaking gear and loaded up the Subaru for a early afternoon paddle in the familar, but beautiful, Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis.

I launched from the same dock as my maiden voyage.  Despite the fabulous weather, there were not many boats on the water.  I was initially concerned the wind might be a bit too much, but it was quite variable and never exceeded short bursts of 10-15 mph.  I immediately headed towards Lake Calhoun through the connecting waterway from Lake of the Isles.  Despite only a few boats on the water, casual fisherman were out in force on the shore.  I tried to disturb them as little as I could, but there were a lot of bobbers to paddle around.

Passage to Lake Calhoun from Lake of the Isles

Almost to Lake Calhoun

The waterway connecting Lake of the Isles to Lake Calhoun is very still and has a number of trees extending over the water.  Not being in any sort of a hurry, I enjoyed some silent floating while I took in the warmth of the sun and the sounds of the birds.  I was trying out my new Pelican 1010 camera dry box with my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S90  camera.  The dry box worked well, but my photography skills did not.  Unfortunately it was incredibly bright out and I hadn’t properly set up the camera (as can be seen in these few photos).  Quite a few shots were way too bright, but luckily I fixed it later.  I would have noticed earlier if I hadn’t been slowly drifting into trees as I took pictures.

Tree overhanging the water in the connecting waterway to Lake Calhoun

Shortly after moving to Minneapolis, we eventually stumbled upon Lake Calhoun.  The lake is large (3.1 mile around) and essentially circular.  Ever since I saw Lake Calhoun and decided that I wanted to get into kayaking, I’ve wanted to float in the middle of the lake.  During the few times I rented kayak/canoes on Lake Calhoun, the weather was always too windy to get out there.  Today I made it with no trouble.  Normally filled with sailboats, we only had a couple today (although I did have to dodge one of them).

Lake Calhoun

Skyline from Lake Calhoun

Lake Calhoun

More skyline from Lake Calhoun

Deciding to postpone a few laps around Lake Calhoun for another day, I wanted to make my way north and west to Cedar Lake.  I’ve never actually make it out to Cedar Lake, so I wanted to hit the highlights today.  I headed back to Lake of the Isles in order to take the western connecting waterway to Cedar Lake.  This waterway is always nice and quiet – not to mention filled with nesting geese and goslings, heron, sunning turtles and fish in its clear, shallow water.  I could lean back in the comfortable Expedition kayak and drift the afternoon away there with little disappointment.

Returning to Lake of the Isles from Lake Calhoun

Turtle sunning itself in Lake of Isles

There are a couple bridges to go under, including one shady wooden bridge.  You’ll want to aim for the middle of the bridge, as we’ve bottomed out on the sand whenever we’ve taken the side paths in rented canoes.  I’m very happy to say that the trees have fully returned from their winter bareness.

Connecting waterway to Cedar Lake

Connecting waterway to Cedar Lake

Connecting waterway to Cedar Lake

Connecting waterway to Cedar Lake

I finally made it to Cedar Lake.  Perhaps because the narrow connecting waterway bunches up traffic, there always seems to be a lot of boats coming or going from Cedar Lake.  I saw a number of people in the connecting waterway, but the lakes look deserted for such pleasant weather.

Entering Cedar Lake

Cedar Lake

Cedar Lake

Entering Cedar Lake with a tree branch

Cedar Lake is not too large, but apparently has a number of beaches.  There were quite a few occupied picnic tables just to the north of the entrance to Cedar Lake.

Cedar Lake beach

Kayak on Cedar Lake

As with all of these smaller lakes, the water is quite shallow and filled with dead trees and plants.

Cedar Lake Flora

Cedar Lake Flora

There was quite a bit of grass along the northern shores of Cedar Lake along with some lilypads.  I didn’t see a single fish while paddling through the lilypads and grass, despite fairly clear water.

Cedar Lake lilypads

Cedar Lake lilypads

The grass was filled with Red-winged Blackbirds (with loud males having bright red parts of the wings).  There were a ton of turtles sunning themselves on logs and grass.  There was something splashing around in the grass that was definitely larger than a turtle, but I never did figure out what it was.

Cedar Lake grass

Cedar Lake grass

There were quite a few birds flying about, but they were hard to photograph.  I did manage to snap a shot of one long-winged white bird, but I have no idea what it was.  Perhaps I should become more familiar with the flora and fauna of Minnesota before going out to see it.

Cedar Lake grass

Cedar Lake bird

Having not brought a watch, I wondered how long I had been out.  The clock on the camera said I had been out 4 hours, which told me to head back for the dock (later I found out the camera hadn’t switched for daylight-savings time and I’d been out for only 3 hours).  I wanted to get home before my wife woke up and headed out for her next night shift.  I feel a bit bad for enjoying the sunshine while she tries to sleep in our darkened bedroom, but she does only work 2-3 days a week.

Back to Lake of the Isles from Cedar Lake

I headed back through the connecting waterway to Lake of the Isles.  This waterway is lined with a number of homes.  I shudder to think how expensive these homes are along the lakes.

Connecting waterway to Lake of the Isles from Cedar Lake

Connecting waterway to Lake of the Isles from Cedar Lake

After a quick paddle back to the dock and launch point, I hauled my boat out of the water and began the deflation process.  Luckily, there were quite a few people coming into the water now.  As I toweled off my kayak, I even got to watch a line of canoes queue up at the dock.  Perhaps people were waiting for the warmer, late-afternoon sun…

Lake of the Isles launch place

Lake of the Isles launch point

After checking a real clock, I noticed I probably had a bit more time before needing to head home.  I let the boat dry in the sun while I relaxed lying on the shore next to the lake.  After about half an hour, the moistened top fabric was dry, and I folded up the kayak and packed up for home.

Lake of the Isles deflation and drying in the sun

Yet another enjoyable paddle on lakes within the largest city in Minnesota.  We’re continuing to plan our Boundary Water Canoe Area trip, but sadly that is off in mid-July.  That gives me plenty of weekends to get in some paddling practice, although June and July will be very busy with visitors and out-of-town trips.

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