Date: July 3, 2021; Length: 16.8 miles; Duration: 5 hours 15 min
Parking lot with a steep path down to the upstream left side of the water where there is a landing making for a manageable put in.
Parking lot with bathrooms nearby and a landing on the downstream left side of the water making for an easy takeout.
The river itself makes this a five star paddling experience with its strong current, deep and clear water, lack of downed trees, and fun riffles and light rapids here and there. What brought it down for me was the endless amount of company, largely in part due to the timing being 4th of July weekend.
This long stretch of river is fairly undeveloped outside of a campground early on and the town of Zumbro Falls with its couple bridges. Houses were otherwise uncommon. Banks were typically lined with trees, with bluffs often in the distance. And the water itself was super clear with boulders, vegetation, and plenty of fish in sight.
It was Saturday and pre-4th of July so I expected to run into other people on the water, but not in the magnitude that I did. This section of Zumbro must be the local river to float because I passed by hundreds doing so in the 5 hours I was out there. All making for very little solitude.
Gradient: ~3 feet per mile. It had a solid current throughout with riffles and light rapids in the mix as well.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: The water level was solid. It was clear and very deep at times, while some shallow rock bed riffle sections occurred, but could be avoided by choosing the deeper channel to pass by with.
Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: located in Zumbro Falls, MN, in the middle of this trip's section.):
Planning: The Zumbro River is located in southeastern Minnesota and flows east into the Mississippi River. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has information and maps to several rivers including about 60 miles of the Zumbro. I chose a big bend of about a 17 mile section from highway 7 bridge to the town of Hammond, which passed through the town of Zumbro Falls and only a few bridges.
Paddling: The river was wide and plenty deep enough, with riffles intermittently occurring throughout this section. The current was solid, helping me make good time paddling. The real paddling drag for me had nothing to do with the river itself. This section of the Zumbro is a prime floating river for fourth of July in particular, as I passed by at least a few hundred floaters, making the wide river feel congested. But I get why they float that section of river. Even just floating it, they made decent time, so it’s an ideal choice for paddlers on less popular dates of course.
Observations: The river was very clear, with sand and rock bottoms and boulders common, along with vegetation and islands occurring. Trees typically lined both sides of the river, with bluffs in the distance or right off the bank. Houses were uncommon, while one campground spanned a solid mile of continuous river bank. The only few bridges aside from the put in and takeout occurred around Zumbro Falls. The super clear water showed off endless trout, while the rest of wildlife spotting consisted of a bald eagle, group of geese, and four deer. There was sure an abundance of other people out on the water though, with it being fourth of July weekend.
Reflecting: Take away the endless floaters to maneuver and navigate around and this would have been a favorite of a flat water river trip. The current is amazing and water is super clear, with cool fish spotted all around, while the surroundings remain fairly natural. It makes me want to check out another section of the Zumbro to see if similar experiences are in store. I would also recommend this Zumbro river section to other paddlers, as clearly the word is out on its floating fun alone.