For the first few miles of the canoe trip down the Le Sueur River, Brad Nawrocki was pleasantly surprised by the lack of garbage.
Maybe the worst was covered by the rain-swollen river, but the only large piece of trash he’d found so far was a snowmobile hood marooned on a sandbar.
If that brief walk outside of the canoe was the worst of it, this would be a nearly perfect Saturday morning jaunt down the river. The wind was light, and there was enough sun to send soft-shell turtles up the riverbank to bask.
But by the time his canoe made it to the Red Jacket Trail Park Saturday afternoon, it was piled high with four tires, a wooden pallet, a large metal sign and an old computer. And if he’d had four more canoes, he probably could have found tires to fill them all.
Volunteers with Bent River Outfitter worked on the Blue Earth River while Nawrocki and two other members of the Mankato Paddling and Outings Club worked on the Le Sueur River. The club adopted stretches of the Blue Earth and Le Sueur rivers as part of the Department of Natural Resource’s Adopt-a-River Program.
This was the club’s 20th year of helping to clean up the rivers. Their help is even more needed in Blue Earth County, which has the most river miles of any county in the state, according to the DNR.
The club’s two canoes set out on the Le Sueur River at the County Road 16 (Stoltzman Road) access just after 10 a.m. Nawrocki took the left bank, while a canoe piloted by longtime member Dean Peterson and rookie Becky Heinrich stuck to the right side.
The current was swift, which was a blessing unless you saw trash just as you passed it. Turning the canoe around and paddling upstream is a hassle, but that’s what they did.