Kayaking the mighty Wilmes Lake
Even after spending all of last Friday morning on Wilmes Lake, I’m continuing to learn about a little piece of lake country next to our bustling city.
I knew Woodbury’s Wilmes Lake is actually two lakes — north and south — and I read that it’s shallow and it’s main use is canoeing. When I set out with my adventurous brother-in-law, Darrin Geier, our plan was to spend quite a while on the water and to use lake kayaks for getting around.
More simply our plan was: a) transport, use, and return in one piece two borrowed kayaks; b) see if we could even find the canoe launch; c) explore.
Our adventure was made possible by the generosity of kayak owners Mark and Rachel Obermoller of Woodbury. They trusted us with their paddles, life jackets and kayaks, and the fun didn’t let us down. We crammed their stuff into my Dodge Journey, lashing a water-ski rope around them and leaving the back door wide open. (We’re probably lucky the police car that casually tailed us just nodded at our absurd packaging as he passed.)
When Geier and I arrived at a small parking lot in the vicinity of Interlachen Parkway and Tamarack Road, a parks employee was in his truck in the lot, which is surrounded by trees. I approached him, and he said he’d never heard of the canoe launch.
Not easily deterred, and in fact inspired to try to learn what some city employees might not even recall, Geier and I paced the paved trail toward the north lake. The canoe launch was right there!
It was a minimal portage to a rocky gully, shallow enough to wade in. In just a few moments, we were off.
The short, winding gully was a great start to our kayaking trip.
We hit the water after an in-and-out thunderstorm and downpour hours earlier, and by 9 a.m. the after-the-storm sunshine pounded us. The wind picked up, causing us to paddle into a little current — a good workout if a guy wanted one.
Wilmes Lake is heavily wooded with willows, oaks and more. In a few places, there were downed trees, which made fine subjects for photographs.
Private property surrounds part of each lake. But Geier said he felt like we were out in nature, not among the neighborhoods. Only a few mowed backyards were visible. There are no docks on the north or south lakes and we didn’t see any anglers on the lake, but we passed by many walkers and there was a small boat ready to launch in nearly every yard we could see from the water.
Nature abounds on Wilmes Lake, and in the adjacent park by the same name. Many residents take in the sounds by trail. It’s a haven for walkers and birds alike. An abundance of birds live in the area and tend to make themselves known in the mornings.
Seeing the birds by water was a different experience than walking on the trails, which I’ve enjoyed in the past.
Last week, we saw egrets and ducks but also a small flock of other birds. I made sure to take some photos of the birds we couldn’t identify, and I contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to find out what we had been looking at. I thought they might be woodducks; they were not.
Turns out it was a flock of double-breasted cormorants. They often sit in dead trees, and they dive and stretch their wings to dry them, according to the DNR.
Geier and I had watched as they dived to fish.
One white egret led us to the south lake.
We portaged over the trail between the north and south lakes, tiptoeing out onto what was effectively a manmade bridge of rocks, then over a culvert connecting the lakes.
The south lake is shallow, with a maximum depth of 7 feet. The north lake maxes out at 18 feet.
Both are weedy, in a pretty sort of way. But in my estimation, it’s no swimming lake.
Wilmes Lake, north and south sections combined, is 30 acres. Not a long day’s journey by any means. And a fun and educational outing for a weekday out of the office.