I have to say, living next to one of the country’s most beautiful waterways has a few perks. For starters, it’s beautiful, and there is likely no one who has ever passed this way who doesn’t recall the crystalline blue water that hugs Winona. If you haven’t seen it for yourself, trust me, it’s spectacular.
But this river is not just eye candy. It’s like a whole microcosm of things to do, one of those ‘something for everyone’ places, and I really mean everyone. If you doubt – let me tell you what I saw on the river Saturday:
Weathered old men and chattering families and boats full of buddies drifted in the gentle backwaters casting for the day’s catch, but with so many nooks and crannies to explore, each seemed as if they’d found their own perfect spot. Kayakers were out too, silently gliding through the full bloom of water lilies to create a scene that would make most postcards jealous.
Faster boats stuck to the broader channels, hauling squealing kids on tubes and flashy wakeboarders doing tricks. I was on a fast boat with a flashy wakeboarder, but doing neither of these things myself because, well, I’m terrible at it. Someday perhaps I’ll post a photo of me trying to barefoot water ski, which basically consists of me clinging with total panic to a boom off of the boat. So yeah, anyway, it’s fun to watch, but I’ll be the one with the camera.
And speaking of cameras, there is no shortage of wonder to capture out there on the Mississippi River. Besides the blooms of water lilies and plumes of wild rice and desolate swatches of uninhabited beach, blue herons dotted the shallows, eagles and flocks of pelicans soared overhead, and shy turtles on sunny logs slipped into the water by the hundreds as we cruised by.
If you want it, there is plenty of socializing to be had on the river, with popular sandbars lined with cruisers and houseboats rented for the weekend. And I’m not saying we did or didn’t go there, but there are a few watering holes along this stretch that you can dock a boat at for a cold one if you’re in the mood.
And if you get a wild hair, some helpful souls have installed a rope swing or two on some of the islands you’ll pass by. If you decide to stop for a jump, my advice is that you are NOT holding onto the knot second from the bottom when you jump out of the tree, or you will find your body being dragged across the ground before you flop face first into the water. I may or may not have done this. And it may or may not be on videotape.
But even with knees plastered with Band-Aides, the river is an awful lot of fun, and it’s big enough to share with all comers. What are you waiting for? I think everyone deserves a river day, and you can make it into whatever you want. But bring Band-Aides, just in case.