A Mystery in Brownsville, MN

We awoke in the dark and chilly morning 3 hours pass the midnight stroke. With the sound of the beaver splashing into the river, we packed up camp and headed out into the unknown fueled by coffee and energy bars. The moon and stars lit the way as we paddled. Silhouettes of the land mass surrounded us as we were guided by the red and green markers of the channel. What do the red and green markers represent (for barges and boaters)? Why is it important for barges and boats to follow the channel?

As we were approaching the Lock and Dam No. 5, the colors of red, pink, violet and blue filled the sky.  With the sun rising to our left, we were thrilled that the wind was finally at our backs. The day before, we battled with headwinds and accepted defeat (paddling only 12 miles that day compared to the usual 30 miles a day). The tailwind provided us with the momentum to reach Winona, MN for lunch. When we passed the Lock and Dam No. 5A, we met a kayaker who had heard about Paddle Forward via Big River Magazine. Bert, our new river friend, insisted to show us something interesting. We came upon houseboats along the river, each with their individual characteristics. What are houseboats? Do they pay property taxes? Where else in Minnesota can you find houseboats communities?

As we continued paddling, we observed that certain areas of the river create more ripples than the main river current. At times, our canoes scraped over shallow areas. We realized that the map was marked with short lines representing Wing Dams. What are wing dams? What purpose do they currently serve? What is the history of wing dams? How do they affect the channel flow?

Cautious of the wing dams, we made our way to Perrot State Park where some of our parents met up with us. Liz’s parents (Jim and Mary) and Martha’s dad (Bud) and uncle (Bewerd) welcomed us at the boat landing. They surprised us with a delicious dinner and we shared stories of our adventure.

The Next Day:
The sun rose. We slept on. The gunshots of hunting season rang loud. We slept on. We were snuggled in our sleeping bags and tents as Jim, Mary, Bud, and Bewerd prepared breakfast for us that morning. The smell of fresh scrambled eggs, sausage, and apple cider stirred us from our bed. It was an exceptionally relaxing morning and we departed from the boat launch around noon. We went through Lock and Dam No. 6 & 7 and stretched our paddle into the late night. The temperatures dropped rapidly and we found comfort in songs and laughter. Our destination for the night was Brownsville, MN, which was a few miles from La Crosse, WI. As we were nearing Brownsville, we noticed flashing lights of yellow, red, and green. They looked like Christmas lights -- we were intrigued. Unsure of what awaited us, we continued paddling towards the lights. The closer we got, we saw that it was a pipe extending from the water. We set up camp in freezing temperatures and went to bed with a deep curiosity concerning the large, loud machine outside of our tents. It was a mystery we were looking forward to uncovering in the morning.

Watch this video to find our about "the mystery" 

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