Monday, April 11, 2011

Southwestern Minnesota Boating

Ramsey Falls nicknamed Little Yellowstone

Located on the edge of the great plains, Redwood Falls, Minnesota is a Midwest whitewater destination during early spring runoff. Granite rock riverbeds and steep topography from the Minnesota River Valley create whitewater.  It's 2 hours west of the Minneapolis and 1.5 hours from Mankato. Rivers in this area start running about 3 weeks before the more popular Minnesota whitewater destinations. They run about the same time as the Vermilion in Hastings usually around March 15th. And there is free camping at Beaver Creek Park. Camping is 5 miles north of Redwood Falls on county road 71, then go east on county road 2 for three miles and you see it after you cross the river on your right.

There are 3 primary whitewater rivers in the Redwood Falls area. The Redwood River, Ramsey Creek, and Beaver Creek. Plus a few other unexplored runs.

Here is a short video of Beaver Creek on April 2, 2011. Paddlers are Brian, Jade, Chris Baer, Scott White, and Justin Japs.

There is lots of information about the Redwood river and Beaver creek that can be found on However, Ramsey Creek and particularly Ramsey Falls (nicknamed Little Yellowstone), is fairly new to the whitewater world. The river consists of canyon wall class II whitewater and one big waterfall, Ramsey Falls. 

Video 1 shows the visual water level on the first descent.

On March 19, 2011, Justin went back for another look at Little Yellostone.  It was approximately double the flow of the first descent.  A small rock outcrop was visual in the middle and two separate waterfalls on river right and left. It looked good to run.

On March 27, 2011, Scott White and Justin Japs returned to the falls with intentions to run it if water levels were the same or a little higher than the week before.  The level was good and they both ran the falls.  Video 2 shows Scott White's awesome descent.

On April 2, 2011, Scott White, Chris Baer, and Justin Japs returned to see the water level had risen higher than the previous week.  Video 3 shows Chris and Justin's rides

So far what we have learned is this. This falls was measured with a throw rope on the 1st D at 32 vertical feet with an 60 degree 8 foot lead in. With higher flows, the cauldrom fills up a few more feet. There is no online gauge for Ramsey creek which makes it difficult to predict when it's running. At the base of the falls there is a small cave behind the river left that locals frequently swim into. One paddler has swam after running the falls. He flushed away from the base, and flushed out of the couldron with the rest of his gear. It was a non eventful swim and a typical yardsale of gear.The best safety is set up by repel from the river left cliff with throw ropes and with paddlers in the water within the cauldron at the base. The first descent of Ramsey Falls occured during the fall of the year after a major rain event. The ground was pretty dry prior. Redwood Falls got approximately 5 inches of rain over a 2 day period of time. The online gauge for the redwood maxed out somewhere around 7000cfs on or about September 27th, 2010. A week later, the Redwood gauge dropped to 2000cfs. This is when Ramsey Falls was run for the first time October 6th.

Ramsey falls is a high quality waterfall. It ran at good levels for 5 straight weeks during this years spring runoff.  It's a straight forward waterfall and a relatively safe waterfall to run. The first picture above shows low water Ramsey falls and the exposed rock ledge throughout base of the falls except river left. This ledge is what made people afraid to run it for all these years, when in reality, when the flows are at runnable levels you so far out from any underwater ledges.  To compare it to other Midwestern waterfalls, the cauldron setting and rolling lip is similar to Gorge falls, it's size is similar to Illgen falls, and the boof is like second drop on the east fork of the north shore Beaver river.  Big soft aerated boils at the bottom provide great landing pads for flat landings. Ramsey Falls has been run 8 times to date, since it's discovery to kayakers in 2010. There is much more to learn.

Here is the Redwood River C.F.S. levels and dates from this spring.