MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For 12 zig-zagging miles it flows from the west metro, under Minneapolis and into the Mississippi River. It’s Bassett Creek, and you can canoe and kayak much of that 12 miles.

“It’s kind of an undiscovered gem for many,” said Shep Harris. “Especially getting out early in the morning. The amount of nature you encounter, it’s just very peaceful.”

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Through the hustle and bustle of the busy city, it’s possible to drive, run or bike by Bassett Creek and never know it’s there. But if you’re on a kayak like Harris, then it’s a different story.

“Otters, eagles, geese, and deer. There’s always a surprise or two. But not close encounters,” said Harris.

Going with the flow of Bassett Creek means you can go from wildlife at one turn, to buildings and houses the next. The creek meanders through neighborhoods and golf courses but disappears from sight as it gets closer to downtown.

“And then it actually goes into a tunnel near the Minneapolis impound lot and it goes under Minneapolis,” said Laura Jester of Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission. “There’s a 30-foot waterfall in that tunnel. A 30-foot drop structure in there.”

(credit: CBS)

That part is not accessible for kayakers, but you should know that if you’re at Target Field, the creek runs right under second base.

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Eventually, it makes its way to the mighty Mississippi where an old stone arch marks the spot where the creek used to come out, before being relocated for flood mitigation.

As an experienced Bassett Creek kayaker, Shep has noticed more company on his waterway over the past year, and he welcomes it. But for every scenic stretch, there’s a challenge just around the corner.

“You have to sometimes get down in your kayak like an Olympic sport. Like you are doing the bobsled. Just to make sure you can go through that tunnel safely,” said Shep. “It’s a little more challenging than Minnehaha Creek but it’s worth it.”

Worth it, and right in his own backyard. For some urban adventurers, Bassett Creek isn’t just scenic; it’s therapeutic.

“In this time of COVID, this is a great way to get out of the house. Blow off some of that COVID stress. Blow off some of the steam. Just relax and have a really great day. You’re out in the water and surrounded by nature,” said Shep.

The Bassett Creek watershed says because the creek is in an urban setting, it takes more work to keep it clean. And because it’s getting used more for recreational purposes, they are hoping people do their best to keep it from becoming polluted.

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Adopt-a-Drain is one program they are encouraging people to sign up for.

John Lauritsen