This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded by the Minnesota Humanities Center for the Stories from Main Street project, an initiative created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service for its traveling exhibition "Water/Ways."
"My whole career came from a river. It started back – I was an inner city kid. I grew up in that south Minneapolis area. Just freshly married and living in Champlain, MN then I met a man Neil Hayford. He said well, his brother had a canoe and so he borrowed the canoe and he and I went down the Rum River and that changed my whole life. You talk about all these epiphanies and all these things they put into religious – well this was an epiphany in another way – this was what tied me to the environment and drove my whole career because going down that river – every time I went around the bend, every meander led me to something new. I have canoed it from its source, from up by Cromwell at Kettle Lake and I have gone all the way down from beginning to end. I have also walked the entire thing – I did that – I did the field work for the Minnesota Wild and Scenic River – I did it as a volunteer.
And at that time and I had talked with Walter Mondale’s office and I had provided them with all the slides and stories and information about the Kettle. And then the state of Minnesota decided it should have its own State Wild and Scenic River System and I thought that was a great idea. And the river in the state that most deserved that category because it was one of the least developed, most scenic and already protected in sections by state forest and state parks, it was an easy addition to a state system. I cannot think of another river in Minnesota that compares to the Kettle River and I have canoed a lot of them.
This river has so much diversity. It has history – the XY Company, the fur companies, it has the milling history, it has the mining history of Banning and Robinson Park, it has railroad, it has the Hinkley Fire – phenomenal rich, layer after layer after layer of history. It has lots and lots of preserved shoreline so there is a pristineness to it. You know, there is something magic about a campfire, but that magic is increased when you have that sound of the rapids or the water running by you and you sit there and it lulls you to sleep. There is reasons why people will make recordings of currents and running water and play it at night next to their beds to help them sleep – it’s so basic."