Root River - Minnesota

Date: June 18-19, 2020; Length: 26.4 miles; Duration: 7 hours (over 2-day span)

Put In: Moen's Bridge

Parking lot just off the road, with a restroom and a map. A path leads down to the ramp and put in with easy access.

Takeout: Mill St Bridge (Peterson)

Parking lot just off the road, with a restroom and map. Easy takeout at the ramp on river right just before the bridge.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

Paddling 26 miles over two days was a great experience alone. A solid current and a nice in-between sized river only made that paddling experience even better. The only thing that would send this experience over the top would be some rapids.

Natural Scenery = 5/5

The banks of this section of the Root are densely filled with deciduous trees, with bluffs off in the distance. Even with a handful of small towns along a scenic highway, there is still much more of a natural feel to this river and its surroundings.

Solitude = 4/5

Camping off the river (about 9 miles in) with no one around makes for a strong boost in solitude. But paddling on the river gave that feel as well, with the bluffs of deciduous trees surrounding you and small towns and highways mostly out of sight and sound.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: Unknown. Good current with occasional riffles.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: Paddling at this water level was great. The river had a consistently solid current and occasional riffles. It also was wide and deep enough that there weren't any serious hazards or concern of scraping bottom.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Houston gauge, located about 20 miles downriver of the takeout of this section):

  • USGS Number = 05385000
  • Discharge Rate = 1800 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 4.35 ft

Overall Experience

I was eager to get an overnight river trip in while coming back from a trip out to Colorado, and that’s where I found the Root River in southeastern Minnesota. The Root River is one of many Minnesota rivers that are labeled as water trails. They subsequently are well mapped out from river miles paddled to more specific access points, dams, and even campsites. This is where I started configuring my overnight trip on the Root and came up with the intention to paddle from Moen’s Bridge to Petersen. It was a 26.4 mile section that has two pairs of on the river campsite options in the first nine miles.
It also meant hiking 19 miles from my takeout to my put in beforehand. The Root River actually has a paved trail that runs parallel to it from part of the South branch to much of the main Root, miles beyond my takeout. So I parked in a parking lot connected to the Petersen landing, packed everything I’d need for a normal trip plus the night of camping now (tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food, liquids, headlamp, etc.) and headed west on the Root River State Trail. I was on this for about 12 miles and then had 7 miles of other roads heading north. And as the miles started to add up, the extra weight I was carrying was definitely felt. Six hours of hiking and I reached Moen’s Bridge Landing and just sat and relaxed and refueled before starting the process of getting on the river. A couple cars were at the parking lot and one with a group of three kayakers working on unloading and putting in too. While two of them worked out their logistics, parking one car at their takeout and coming back, I set my packraft up and strapped my more full than usual backpack to the top and front of it.
Moen’s Bridge had a big landing that made for an easy put in. Once on the water, I started just floating down a ways before I cared to paddle yet. It was only early afternoon, so I could surely make it no problem to the second pair of campsites, called Power Plant, about nine miles in. The Root had a good current and occasional riffles, while being open and free of downed trees or hazards. It was surrounded by deciduous trees and bluffs beyond that, while also lacking much signs of human development. I spotted hawks, bald eagles, a large group of geese, and a deer coming out of the water and also came across a couple other kayakers and two boats being rowed and fished out of. And earlier on those three kayakers from the put in caught up to me, with one saying that Power Plant was his favorite campsite to the Root. Eventually I spotted a sign for Power Plant campsite on river left and pulled up to the bank and onto the grass. The campsite had an open grass area with a fire ring and a picnic table to it. I set my tent up next to my still inflated packraft and sat back and relaxed again, seeing those small groups of kayakers and couple boats going by shortly later. I must of had another four hours of daylight left but I figured I could take an early start the next morning.
Following some questionable sounds in the middle of the night in the river, morning came and I quickly got everything packed and ready to go for some more paddling. I still had about 17 miles left, but based on how the day before felt, I figured it would be a breeze of that distance. And it was, paddling in some light rain, with no other paddlers or boats this day. But I did spot some tents around some private campground areas and more cars on the scenic byway of Hwy 16 that goes along the Root River and it’s state trail, which is also where some small towns start up, like Petersen and Rushford before it. As for wildlife, it was less eventful but I still spotted some geese and eagles. Otherwise, it was more of the same from the day before: nice current, occasional riffles, decent water clarity, clear of downed trees for the most part, and the beautiful bluffs surrounding the river.
After less than five hours I was at the takeout on river right. Like Moen’s Bridge, Petersen had a nice and labeled landing with a big parking lot, map, and restroom. With some deflating and packing away, this overnight river trip was complete and a very satisfying one at that. I would recommend paddling any of this section or farther up or down river of the Root whether you intend to do a day trip or camp like I did.