Paddling the Brainerd Lakes Area

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While we’re well-known for our boating culture, paddling a kayak might not be top-of-mind. Kayaking is growing in popularity with people who want to slow down and really connect with nature. We caught up with Jim Bergquist from Wind, Water, and Wheels in Crosslake and Jennifer Smith from Cycle Path & Paddle in Crosby to learn more about the paddling around the Lakes Area.


Wind, Water, & Wheels


Cycle Path & Paddle


Wind, Water, and Wheels

How does someone get started kayaking?
The best way to start kayaking is to find a friend or a group who either wants to learn or has some experience. There are many paddling clubs who are always looking for new participants. In this area Crow Wing Paddlers is a good group to join if you’re just starting out. We are a laid-back group who are looking for a relaxing time out on the water and like sharing it with others. We plan about a dozen paddles each year.

Is kayaking for all ages?
Absolutely! I’ve seen kids as young as 3 or 4 years old catch on quite naturally. I also have personally witnessed people much older. Most of the kayaks we sell are to people over age 60. Our most senior member of our paddling club is 91 years old!

What do people love about kayaking?
The solitude it provides. It is something you can either do in numbers or all alone. It’s a light weight craft so it’s easy to transport and maneuver on your own. You get to experience everything from the lowest possible viewpoint other than swimming. You also have access to areas that other watercraft simply cannot reach.

How are the area rivers for kayaking?
Most of the rivers in our area are gentle. If you want to see what level of rapids a river has, the universally accepted Whitewater Classification Chart is something that a map of the river should reveal. You are not going to find any rivers in our immediate area that contain anything except level 1 or 2 rapids. The most extreme rapid conditions are considered a level 6.

Are there a lot of places to kayak in the area?
This is the best kept secret. YES. The Pine River is a state recreational trail and runs right through the middle of our county. It offers over 60 miles of paddling! The only reason we have the Whitefish Chain of Lakes is the Pine River Dam in Crosslake. The Pine River is a tame river that anyone can enjoy. We also have a nice section of the mighty Mississippi that makes its way through Crow Wing County. Other rivers close by are the Gull, Daggett Brook, Crooked Creek, and the Little Pine.

What kind of wildlife can you see?
On the Pine River for instance, I’ve seen turtles, eagles, swans, geese, ducks, pelicans, hawks, numerous other birds, otters, beavers, muskrats, deer, many kinds of fish and believe it or not a wolverine last summer!

Do you offer guided tours?
At Wind, Water & Wheels have regularly scheduled kayak tours. These can be guided, or we can provide shuttle service to any lake or stream in the area. We can put together a trip to fit into any schedule or situation.

Do you rent kayaks?
We rent kayaks by the hour, day, multiple days or week. You can take them with you to your favorite spot or we have access on Crosslake that you can use. We can shuttle to any other destination, too.

Can you recommend day trips?
We have trips we can suggest from 2 hours to an all-day paddle. We have 13 trips on the Pine River and 10 others close by. We can suggest an overnight trip with camp sites either on nearby lakes or rivers.




Cycle Path & Paddle  

What kayaking opportunities are in the Cuyuna area?
We get a lot of people that kayak in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. The old mine pits have been repurposed into some of the deepest and clearest lakes in the area. We also have customers who rent kayaks and paddleboards and bring them to enjoy while at their cabins. If you would like to do a short paddle, we can easily get boats over to Serpent Lake. With a few weeks’ notice, we can drop off and pick up kayaks and canoes for a paddle trip on the Pine River.

What makes kayaking so special?
What’s so great about kayaking is it’s for all ages and all skill level. Whether you’re a beginner or want to take lessons to become an expert, anyone can kayak. Kayaking is something that you can do in a group or by yourself. It’s relaxing, easy, and you can go at your own pace. There’s something special about an early morning kayak with the fog on top of the water—so peaceful to see nature in a whole new way.

Can you fish from a kayak?
Yes! Fishing from a kayak is very popular. Kayaks are very stable and are stealthy (to sneak up on fish). If you’ve never fished from a kayak before, find a club or a guide who can help you with things like rigging, paddling, and safety.

What kind of rental options do you offer?
We offer kayak, canoe, and paddle board rentals. You can purchase equipment here, too. Another popular option is if you have a hitch on your vehicle, you can rent a trailer to haul your rental. And, if our schedule allows, we may be able to drop-off and pick up your rented boats and boards.

What are some other clubs I could join?
Paddle Folk Kayak Club and Paddle Pushers are two great local kayak clubs for people who have an interest in paddling the Brainerd Lakes Area.