portfolio > gone on the river

day 13
day 13
June 11, 2022

June 11
Measurements: turbidity at Aitkin 42cm
Miles today: only 21

Much of today was a pretty brutal slog. The same dynamic - the Aitkin Flood Control Channel - that led the last ten miles of yesterday's journey to be so unpleasant also applied to the first 15 miles today, or the majority of the time on the water today.

It rained on me, off and on, most of the morning. The stillness of the air stuck around until well after noon, which meant more mosquitoes coming after me, even on the water. I spent a fair amount of the morning's paddle with my raingear and headnet both on.

Splitting the Mississippi into two pieces like this just seems like a bad idea. It makes the remnant of the river that flows south to Aitkin and then back north again (all while generally trending westwards) into a sluggish, almost immobile pool of pretty squalid water. It doesn't help that the Aitkin wastewater treatment facility dumps into the river at about the halfway point, leaving everything until the confluence with the "rest" of the river - the part siphoned off by the bizarre straight-west channel - smelling vaguely like sewage, mile after mile. It may have worked to "control flooding," allowing some pretty ramshackle development downstream of Aitkin (a fair number of informal looking trailer parks, a number of cabins, none of which seem particularly well cared for), but it just doesn't seem at all worth the cost to the river.

After it was reunited with itself, the river flowed much more normally, at a good solid clip. The last six miles of today's trip were much faster and more pleasant than the first fifteen.

This morning, before I left Aitkin, I walked back into town on the surprisingly lonely road from the campsite, got a cup of coffee in downtown, and stopped in at the farmers market where Shanai had a booth set up. It was fun to run into her again, and the farmers market seems pretty great. I'm still not at all sold on Aitkin, but this morning had some nice bits anyway.

I've noticed a relatively dramatic change in landform. The banks on both sides since the confluence seem much higher, the surrounding landscape for the first time something other than marsh, broken up by little bits of higher ground.

I'm also noticing a lot less pine, and a lot more deciduous. Some cedar, which feels new. But the big stands of pine that were normal upriver are basically absent here.

Also noticing a lot fewer ticks, for whatever reason. Same deluge of mosquitoes at all times on shore, though.

I listened to the entirety of "In the Dark" season 1 today. I've never been particularly into podcasts, preferring live radio, but they're absolutely perfect for this.