By Trent Jonas
With so many immaculate, shimmering lakes in Minnesota, the popularity of stand-up paddleboarding in the state has soared. The most challenging part just might be picking your favorite spot to explore. Once you’ve learned the basics and safely secured your lifejacket, you’ll be well on your way! Experience scenic Minnesota from atop a paddleboard with these five excellent spots.
The notion of paddleboarding Lake Superior may seem intimidating, but fortunately there are a lot of protected places with relatively flat water where you can explore and get a feel for the Big Lake. The Harbor, on the south side of Minnesota point is well-protected, and relatively out of the shipping lanes—you can see the big lakeboats without worrying whether they see you. If you put in across from Barker’s Island, the paddle from Park Point to the island and back is about a two-mile round trip. If you don’t have a board, SUPerior Paddle Boarding offers rentals, delivery, and even guided paddleboarding tours when you’re ready for more adventure on Lake Superior.
Although it’s smaller than nearby Lake Minnetonka, Medicine Lake still has plenty of sea room and a number of excellent places to launch your board, including Clifton French Regional Park on the north shore of the lake, as well as two city parks on the southeast and southwest shores. The lake does get weedy in places and can be susceptible to chop in the big, open northern half. But two bays in the southern part, as well as hills along the western shore ensure that you’ll find some decent flat water to paddle and plenty of space to do so.
The St. Croix River is a federally-designated Wild & Scenic Waterway. Strict regulations and a relatively slack current north of Stillwater also make it a gorgeous place to paddle your board. There are several put-in sites as you go north from Stillwater, including the St. Croix Boom Site, William O’Brien State Park, and the two Interstate State Park sections. The channels, islands, and meanders offshore of William O’Brien make it particularly sweet for paddling. While the whole river is pretty slow-moving, it widens considerably and opens to much more boat traffic once it gets to Stillwater. If you need a board in the area, St. Croix Standup Paddleboard Co. will deliver anywhere writhin 10 miles of Stillwater.
Gull Lake is the heart of the Brainerd Lakes Area. It’s by far the busiest and most popular lake in the region, but it’s also big enough to absorb the traffic and scenic enough to make for a pleasant paddle. Plenty of public access, as well as resort beaches allow for a lot of put-in spots. Hugging the north or west shores is a good way to stay away from the bulk of the boats that zip skiers and wakeboarders across the water. You may encounter the occasional anchored fishing boat, but as long as you don’t paddle over their lines, they’ll likely just give you a friendly wave. The Minnesota Surf Co. in Nisswa offers board rentals and lessons.
Paddlers in the South Metro will enjoy the ease of access and natural beauty of the Bryant Lake shoreline. Much of the north side of the lake is occupied by Bryant Lake Regional Park—which also offers board rentals—and its 170 wooded acres. Waterfowl and other birds frequent the lake and make for an awesome urban nature experience. A highway runs near the southeast part of the lake, so if you’re looking for a moment of Zen, stick to the northern and western parts of Bryant Lake.