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BEST PLACE TO CANOE Minneapolis 2004 - Banning Rapids of the Kettle River

It's safe to say that canoeing on Minnesota rivers is about as popular nationally as visiting the library at Daytona Beach. In the world of paddling, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area may be Minnesota's claim to greatness, but there are a lot of folks in the state who know the BWCA best as an endless series of newspaper articles about motorized access blood feuds. Fact is, most Minnesotans have never portaged in the Boundary Waters with or without a motor. But you don't need to reserve a campsite in April and block off a week from work to take advantage of some wild stretches of Minnesota water. Close to the cities, the upper stretches of the St. Croix offer true isolation and handsome bluffs, free from all motorized traffic. (A number of outfitters will rent you a boat, or shuttle you back to your car with your own vessel.) A little farther away--and still not requiring an overnight--you can canoe daylong stretches of the St. Louis River west of Duluth without seeing a soul. (That is, unless you believe deer, muskrat, beavers, and walleye have souls, but that's a metaphysical question better suited to some other forum). And if you like the Class II or III rapids of the St. Louis (in high water), you're going to love the Banning Rapids of the Kettle River. This is some technical, whitewater paddling over chutes with appropriately daunting names such as Dragon's Tooth, Hell's Gate, and, um, Mother's Delight.

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