By Wesley Herried, Jackson In Action Communications Coordinator
As someone who has called western Wisconsin home my entire life, the beauty of this area never ceases to amaze me. Recently, a couple of buddies and I explored the Black River and surrounding creeks by kayaks. Kayaking and canoeing in Jackson County has seen an increase in popularity over the years and offers an alternative to running and biking for those seeking outdoor physical activity. What’s even greater is that local groups like Friends of the Black River provide classes and trainings to those interested in this growing hobby. Whether you are someone looking for fun physical activities or someone that wants to explore the beauty that we have right here in Jackson County, this article will give insight for options to paddle the Black River.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Dr. Jeffrey Polzin, a local outdoor sports expert and member of Friends of the Black River. Dr. Polzin has been a community health provider for the Black River Falls area since 1981 and also teaches inexperienced kayakers techniques to take on some of the more challenging routes the Black River offers. As well as teaching classes, Dr. Polzin gives his time and efforts to bettering the river for those to enjoy it.
During my interview, I was given a small tour of Jackson County and shown each of the three great creeking options: Morrison, Halls and Robinson Creeks. Paddling in easy class I creeks, like Morrison, Halls and Robinson, provide a great and fun workout for kayakers and canoers alike. The health benefits received from paddling include improved cardiovascular fitness and increased muscle and core strength. In particular, paddling increases back, arm, shoulder, and chest strength.
As I continued to listen to Dr. Polzin, I really started to get the sense of how lucky Jackson County really is. “The Black River and surrounding creeks alone provide options for highly experienced kayakers to first time learners,” explained Dr. Polzin, “Even more important is the unique scenic beauty that each route contains, such as open rock cliffs or over hanging trees.” Lake Wazee, just East of Black River Falls, presents its own advantages. In contrast to river kayaking, lake kayaking allows freedom to the paddler because of the lack of current and the ability to go wherever you want on the lake. Lake Wazee is the site used for a class that Friends of the Black River hosts. With many paddling options, I am personally excited to continue to explore what Jackson County has to offer.
As with any water sport, safety precautions must be taken before each and every trip. Friends of the Black River members advise to bring a life jacket for each person (it’s the law), sun protection, snacks, drinkable water, water shoes, first aid kit, a cell phone in a dry bag and a helmet for rivers classified as class II and higher. Be alert to hazardous weather and always tell someone about your paddling trip and where it will be taking place. Dr. Polzin also warned of the safety risks that fallen trees and certain rocks can pose on the river.
Jackson County is lucky enough to hold kayak and canoe rental shops up and down the Black River. Many of the shops also include a shuttle service that drops you off and picks you up for your convenience. Businesses in Jackson County that provide paddle renting include the Melrose Express, Lost Falls Campground, the Hatfield Sports Shop and Black River Canoe Rental.
Friends of the Black River is a citizen-led organization that works to foster a greater community appreciation and understanding of the Black River. They also promote wise decision making when issues affect the health of the river and its watershed. Members of the group participate in various activities and programs such as stream monitoring, river and land-based cleanups and community education outreach.
Classes are offered by Friends of the Black River including their next session on July 19th at Lake Wazee from 10:30am-12:30pm. They also provide open paddles every second Saturday of each month in which they provide everything. For more information on both the class and open paddle email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ultimately, Friends of the Black River is a great contributor for the betterment of the Black River. For more information about becoming a member, check out their website at www.friendsoftheblackriver.org
For additional paddling events and healthy lifestyle activities, be sure to visit the Jackson in Action website (www.jacksoninaction.org.)
Jackson in Action - is a Jackson County-based healthy living community coalition. For more information and to learn about upcoming active lifestyle events, visit www.jacksoninaction.org