CLEARWATER -- Recently I did something I had never done before, I took a canoe ride on the Mississippi River.

Having lived in St. Cloud for 14 years now I have driven over the iconic river too many times to count.  I've also enjoyed looking at the river from the banks of several of our parks like Wilson Park and the Munsinger Gardens.  I have even enjoyed a few pontoon rides on the river near downtown St. Cloud.

Mississippi River, photo by's Jim Maurice

It's easy to take the Mississippi River for granted, after all, it's just always been there.  But, after actually getting down on the water and taking a leisurely trip paddling down the river I have a new found appreciation for this natural wonder.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available from CW Outfitting in Clearwater, which offers several different trip options.  The option we chose was to get on the water in Clearwater and travel down to Snuffy's Landing just outside of Becker.  It is about an eight-mile trip.  While we were on the water we were joined by six other folks who each had their own kayak.

Mississippi River, photo by's Jim Maurice

The experience was very scenic with beautiful trees all along the river bank on both sides and peaceful with basically just the sounds of birds chirping and water flowing.

I've had the opportunity to walk in the Mississippi River at the headwaters at Itasca State Park.  I've also been to the other end of the great river in New Orleans. It's pretty cool to think for the water to get from point A to point B it has to travel right through our area.

The Mississippi River is 2,320 miles long starting in northern Minnesota and flowing all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  When you think about how expansive it really is, and how many people are dependant on the river, we really are blessed to have this natural wonder available to us literally right here in our own backyard.