28 August 2011

The Upper St. Louis, Wild Rice, and coming up short

The origin of the St. Louis River is Seven Beaver Lake, the only way to access Seven Beaver is to paddle up the St. Louis to the lake. It's a meandering ten miles from the closest put in, some parts narrow and quite deep, others wide and very shallow.

Archaeological finds of some projectile points give evidence that the region has been inhabited since at least 7000 B.C. These early seminomadic hunters and gatherers established permanent villages around 1000 B.C. as increasingly stable food supplies like wild rice eliminated the need for a nomadic way of life. When early European explorers arrived in the region in the 1600’s, the area was inhabited by the Dakota (Sioux). By 1776, however, the Dakota had left the region for the plains as the Ojibwa (Chippewa) moved into the western Great Lakes region under pressure from the Iroquois groups in the east. Today the Ojibwa people are the predominant native people in the region.

The European explorers, Radisson and Groseilliers arrived in this area less than 350 years ago, in 1659. Twenty years later Sieur Du Lhut, after whom Duluth is named, established a camp at Fond Du Lac near the end of the readily navigable waters. The region was a major link in the early days of the trading posts. The Hudson Bay Company set up one of their earliest trading posts in 1689 on the Wisconsin side of the bay. This was one of the more important trading posts on the Great Lakes and was used in some capacity until the early 1800’s The St. Louis River watershed consists of 3,634 square miles in northeastern Minnesota. She flows 179 miles from Seven Beaver to Duluth and Superior.

My intent was to paddle up and explore Seven Beaver, so this is my pictorial record of my effort. I got a late start and had a hard stop, I made it just the edge but had to turn back in order to be back in time.

The area is just flat gorgeous, and man o man the wild rice is everywhere! I wasn't even trying to harvest it, it was just falling into the canoe as I paddled through the rice.

I paddled from the bow seat, the canoe technically backwards. I'm not a fan of kneeling and I don't care much for sit an switch paddling. So I use a 280cm double blade, sitting in the bow seat. This gets me closer to center but not quite. With a pack countering some of the weight I still stay even and turning is much easier.

Will definitely be going back, both to finally get into and explore Seven Beaver and to harvest as much wild rice as I can!

About half way up I had to stop for a break, I pulled the canoe up and took a short hike. Lots of mushrooms, found an old cabin at the end of the trail.

The pack is a Kelty Strike, 2800ci pack with internal aluminum stays. I started using it as a day and even an over-nighter pack a few weeks ago. Still in the evaluation stages, so far I'm quite pleased. Will do a field report on the pack in the near future.


  1. I'd go back too if I were you. Couldn't quite figure out a couple of the "appendages" on the cabin.

  2. Were you out ricing at this location on Sunday the 11th?

  3. No, I haven't been able to get back out there yet. At this point with archery season about to open and work travel escalating it's doubtful I'll make it back out there this season. Did you go?