LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Missouri River Reverie

My sister and I slipped away Thursday for a Missouri River kayak trip, on a perfect blue sky, windless day.

We launched at Washburn, N.D., with her son and his girlfriend, their first kayak trip on the big river. The current at the Washburn boat landing seemed a wee bit intimidating, but as soon as we were under way, it was clearly going to be a smooth float.

Because of the high water, there are not as many sandbars as in previous years, however, we did find a nice, little sandy beach for a break.

Although I’ve canoed and kayaked many lakes, including several trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, rivers are where my heart is happiest, and we are blessed to live on one of the finest rivers in the world, with clean water that runs in our section of the river mostly through prairie, thus does not suffer the severe effects of agricultural run-off. Right now, the water is very cold and we could only keep our feet in the water for short stretches.

Near the north border of Cross Ranch State Park, on the Nature Conservancy land, we spotted two adult bald eagles with two juveniles, right on the water’s edge, in the big cottonwoods. They just watched us float on by.

My kayak mascot, Baldy (which perches on my desk when I’m not on the water) was happy to see her kin.

Yellow warblers, spotted sandpipers, and swallows were all about. We spied on mama ducks (mallard, wood, and mergansers) with ducklings and a few Canada geese gathered with 14 goslings hugging the bank as we floated by.

We disembarked at the Sanger boat ramp, closed to boats because of the high water, thus all to ourselves (other than an extremely chatty camper at the adjacent campsite), and enjoyed cold libations. All in all, a perfect river day.

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — Island Lake Retreat

Island Lake, located in Mahnomen County near Lengby, Minn., is a popular destination for many in northwest Minnesota. The lake offers trophy-class walleye fishing, and and panfish are also plentiful. Island Lake also boasts diverse outdoor recreational opportunitiess such as miles of snowmobiling, four-wheeler and walking trails through the woods. Grand Forks photographer Russ Hons had the opportunity to visit Island Lake recently, and here are some of the sights he saw. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)