Best Places to Paddle in Three Rivers

By: Alyssa Schauer

July 15, 2019

Category: Recreation

Summer is in full swing with these hot and hazy July days. Everything and everyone seems to move at a slower pace in the heat, and sometimes the only reprieve is a tall glass of ice-cold sweet tea or a day at the lake.

Thankfully I live in Minnesota — the land of 10,000+ lakes — and options to cool off are abundant! One of my favorite ways to enjoy summer and beat the heat is to hop in a kayak or canoe and paddle along shore, dipping my feet over the edge in the cool, refreshing water.

In the six years I’ve had my kayak, I’ve found some pretty spectacular spots for paddling and I’m here to give away a few of those secrets. 

1. Lake Rebecca — Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, Rockford

A man in a life jacket paddles in the back of a canoe on a lake.
Photo by Alyssa Schauer.

Hands down this is one of my favorite lakes to paddle. I’m probably biased because I live about a mile away from Lake Rebecca Park Reserve and frequent it the most, but it’s truly a perfect place for paddling.

The lake is quiet, serene and delightful — surrounded by lush forests and abundant wildlife. My husband and I like to canoe around the whole lake on Sunday mornings, which takes maybe an hour or so on a calm day.

There’s a resident loon on the lake that makes you feel like you’re way up north, and we’ve also seen owls, eagles and hawks soaring above. Sometimes there are dozens and dozens of trumpeter swans swimming and honking along shore, too. If you have binoculars, bring them!

If you don’t have your own watercraft, you can rent one! Canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and rowboats are available at hourly rates.

2. Murphy Lake — Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, Savage

The tip of a red kayak on a lake with a wooded shoreline.
Photo by Alyssa Schauer.

This is the absolute best place to be for solitude. Located in Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, Murphy Lake is surrounded by secluded wilderness and big, rolling hills.

As I paddled along the undeveloped shoreline, I felt like I had the whole park to myself. The stillness of the lake and wild forest around it made me feel as if I was in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota — hundreds of miles away from anyone. It was marvelous.

This lake has a couple of islands and some great bays to explore and see wildlife up close. I enjoyed watching dragonflies buzz and hover around the water lilies and wildflowers as I paddled along. I was even lucky to have a few of them sit atop my kayak and ride along with me.

Lake highlight: There’s a beaver dam located in the middle of the lake, south of the boat launch. Be respectful and keep your distance as you explore the lake.

3. Cleary Lake — Cleary Lake Regional Park, Prior Lake

A lake covered in large lily pads. The shoreline is wooded.
Photo by Alyssa Schauer.

Cleary Lake in Clearly Lake Regional Park is my favorite lake to see wildlife! 

As soon as I launched my kayak into the water and started paddling, a great blue heron soared alongside me, squawking loudly as it flew toward the opposite side of the lake.

After that, I saw an egret standing tall on a large rock near Cleary Point, dozens of mallards sunning themselves on an island shore, two muskrats swimming earnestly, and fields of the largest lily pads I have ever seen in my life.

While this park is much busier than the others I’ve mentioned, it is an incredible place to explore nature up close. Stick to the southwestern shore of the lake, toward Cleary Point — it felt much more peaceful here away from the excitement of the swimming beach.

Watercraft rentals are also available here.

4. Whaletail Lake — Gale Woods Farm, Minnetrista

Reeds and trees along the shore of a lake are lit in a soft orange glow at golden hour.
Photo by Alyssa Schauer.

It can take a little bit of work to get here but it’s worth it! Whaletail Lake can be accessed from Gale Woods Farm, where you can enjoy a half-mile hike around the pastures to get to the non-motorized boat access.

Fortunately, canoe rentals are available during farm store hours, so you don’t have to portage your own watercraft if you don’t want to! There is also DNR boat access further west on Highland Road.

This lake is larger than the others I’ve mentioned, but still offers a gorgeous and peaceful place to paddle. The secluded bay near the farm makes you feel like you are in your own lagoon, with thickets of tall cattails, wild brush and gnarly trees surrounding you.

Whaletail is also a great spot to be right before sunset when the gorgeous pinks and purples of the sky are reflected on the glassy lake and you can’t help but take a hundred photos of the beautiful scene. Don’t forget your camera!

A sunset over a lake. Lily pads and a kayak paddle are in the foreground.
Photo by Alyssa Schauer.

Tip: Bring your fishing equipment! The lake is known for its crappie and panfish. I met a few boaters having terrific luck on the lake. 

These are just a few of the many wonderful places to paddle in Three Rivers. See the full list of options and find your favorite! Want to learn more about paddling and try it with a guide? Sign up for an upcoming program

About the Author

Alyssa wearing a hat and flannel.

Alyssa Schauer is part of the marketing team at Three Rivers. She formerly worked as a journalist at a small-town newspaper and volunteered with the Minnesota Conservation Corps to clear and maintain trails in Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters. Outside of work, she spends time in the woods looking at everything up close (especially ferns and spiders!) and enjoys canoeing with her husband, playing Nintendo and raising a pride of four naughty, darling cats.


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