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Finding Minnesota: Paddling the Wild And Scenic Mississippi

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CLEARWATER, Minn. (WCCO) – The Mississippi is a powerful river spanning more than 2,000 miles. But there’s one stretch, not far from the metro, that’s shallow and peaceful enough to attract canoeists, paddle boarders and kayakers.

It’s a wide section between St. Cloud and Anoka that’s been designated “wild and scenic” by the DNR.   That means no one can put up new buildings or cut down trees along the shoreline.

It’s where Dan Meer and his family started their company, Clear Waters Outfitting, five years ago.

“Right here, it’s probably only about three, four feet deep,” Meer said. “But you can definitely see to the bottom.”

It’s a lush, green view that Meer appreciates probably more than most because of where he was ten years ago, patrolling parts of Iraq with the National Guard.

“Definitely an eye-opener to see the poverty and the things that go on in some other countries,” he said. “And it really made me realize how good we have it here in the U.S.”

But then he returned from his deployment to a struggling economy and a stressful job in the printing industry.

“After coming back from Iraq, I really started reevaluating what I was doing,” he said. “Plus the recession was in place.”

And that’s how CW Outfitting was born, a chance for the Meer family to get control in their lives, and help others at the same time.

“We just want to send people out to relax and have a good time, and get away from their normal busy lives,” Meer’s wife, Sandra, said.

“We do this for the love of the outdoors,” Meer said. “We’ve been very fortunate to find just a gorgeous stretch of river that we can share with people.”

They set up trips of anywhere from eight to 13 miles, on paddle boards, canoes and kayaks.

This week, Mark Arrington of Maple Grove, Minn. took an afternoon to kayak the Mississippi with his daughter and son.

“There’s some stretches where you see nothing but trees and wilderness, and it’s really pleasant,” Arrington said. “It’s not paddling in the city.”

“One group, I think the biggest count of eagles was 12 eagles in one trip,” said Meer. “People see deer, all sorts of wildlife.”

He could’ve made more money, sticking it out through the stresses of corporate life, but he has a new perspective on what’s important.

“It’s not money, and it’s not fame and all that stuff,” he said. “It’s all about people and just having fun in life.”

Meer said that section of river is also great for fishing. And on September 27th, they’ll host their first small-mouth bass fishing tournament.

Send us your Finding Minnesota ideas here.

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