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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blanchard Dam Portage on the Mississippi River

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(looking east)

OK...this post has nothing to do with weather or wildlife. It's simply my PSA to other paddlers who are wondering if the horror stories of the Blanchard portage are justified. Simply...YES. Depending on which publication you read, one will tell you 125 yards right or 300 yards left.

The 125 yard "portage" to the right (west) is not even officially recognized. Bottom line is to use this portage, you will get in close to the dam on the water, cross a soft, sandy, litter infested parking area on the west side, then take your chances going down an unimproved trail which has more litter, unstable rocks, and even a spring seeping water to create a muddy mess. Then to launch back in the river, it will be in a partially submerged boulder field.

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Looking downstream on the west side.

So, the "official" portage is east of the dam (left side).

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Pretty easy to make out the yellow sign.

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This is the landing for the exit area above the dam. These photos were taken on November 27th during freeze up so don't let the ice freak you out. Less garbage on this side...but that is a super soaker of some sort half buried in the mud.

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After a somewhat gentle climb up the first rail grade (a dolly will do well so far, you go down then right back up a second grade which is an access road to the power house and substation for the hydro at the dam. This is considerably steeper than the first climb. Note the third climb coming up in the background.

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This is the third climb which is VERY STEEP up an old rail grade converted into a state recreation trail. Being they constructed steps, it is a pretty good indication of what you will be up against. Good luck pulling a dolly with a yak or canoe full of gear up this!

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Once you cross the rec trail on top of the grade, there is another short set of steps going down the south side then you are on your own side-hilling (with some small loose rocks) until the trail starts to flatten out as it crosses the bridge in the photo. This is where I began to get skeptical of "300 yards" as the trail isn't exactly very straight as you angle to the right and back towards the river downstream of the tail race below the dam.

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This is easily the straightest portion of the portage. It's funny as over time people have made their own trails through the woods to cut off the curves but there is no way you will be able to carry a boat down those narrow corridors through the thick brush.

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Once you come off the curvy, heavily wooded trail, you come to the parking area for the re-entry/carry in access point on the east side of the river. The trail going back down to the river is marked just to the left of the blue sign. It's little muddy but there is enough sand mixed in to keep it from becoming total soup.

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Finally back down to the water "300 yards" later. Remember this is during low water. You can see the rec trail and dam to the right. Look at the elevation of that rec trail. You had to climb up to it, then climb down again. Good news is you are almost back in the water (unless you need to make another trip or two for your stowed gear). If you took your chances on the 125 yard unofficial portage, your re-entry point would be just to the left of the first bridge piling for the rec trail bridge. Good luck.

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Down on the water. Time to get back in the Mississippi and head downstream to Sauk Rapids where another dam (or damn) portage awaits you at the paper mill in the town. I'll do a photo sequence of that portage (as well as the one upstream at Little Falls) sometime in the future as long as the snow stays away.

Happy paddling...

1 comment:

Paul said...

Really like your second image. Congrats as well on the buck from your other post.

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