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A 'floating classroom': Wilderness Inquiry's Canoemobile brings paddling opportunities to East Grand Forks

Often described as a “floating classroom,” Canoemobile provides educational outdoor experiences for thousands of young people annually across the country.

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Matt Przeslicke, left, of Wilderness Inquiry, guides guests upstream on the Red Lake River in East Grand Forks on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in a 24-foot canoe as part of an all-day stop by the Minnesota-based nonprofit group in partnership with the International Water Institute.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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EAST GRAND FORKS – People with a penchant for paddling got a chance to try their hand at paddling 24-foot “North Canoes” on Wednesday afternoon on the Red Lake River in East Grand Forks.

Under a partnership with the Fargo-based International Water Institute, staff from Wilderness Inquiry in St. Paul brought their “Canoemobile” to the Red River Basin for events Oct. 4 in Moorhead, Oct. 5 in East Grand Forks and Oct. 6-7 in Thief River Falls.

In East Grand Forks, fourth-graders from East Grand Forks Sacred Heart, along with students from Schroeder Middle School, Fisher, Minto, Larimore, Cavalier and Valley-Edinburg schools had a chance to paddle the 10-person canoes as part of Canoemobile programming during the first part of the day.

The annual event at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is the unofficial kickoff to ice fishing season.

Later that afternoon, members of the public had a chance to try out the massive fiberglass canoes for short excursions on the Red Lake River with Wilderness Inquiry staff.

While the public canoeing opportunity was something new, Wilderness Inquiry has brought its Canoemobile to students in the Red River Basin on at least four different occasions, said Asher Kingery, project specialist for the International Water Institute.


Middle and high school students who participated in East Grand Forks Canoemobile activities are part of the IWI’s River Watch watershed education program. The fourth-graders, meanwhile, will soon launch hand-painted miniature canoes into the Red River as participants in “River of Dreams,” an IWI program inspired by the 1941 children’s novel “Paddle to the Sea,” which follows the journey of a wooden canoe — and a boy’s dream for that journey — through the Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence Seaway and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Often described as a “floating classroom,” Canoemobile provides educational outdoor experiences for thousands of young people annually across the country. Students participate in near-nature learning from the seat of a 10-person canoe while paddling on waterways close to where they live. Since 2010, Canoemobile has provided more than 150,000 participants across the U.S. with hands-on water recreation and the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive outside, Wilderness Inquiry said.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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