Paddling Through History: People Learn about History While Canoeing on the Red River
The tour was one excursion put on by the Moorhead Park District
MOORHEAD, Minn. — There was a new kind of history class floating alongside the banks of the Red River.
People paddle their way along the Red River in canoes and kayaks while picking up historical lessons about the river with each stroke.
For one local historian, who has done the tour for a handful of years, the opportunity to combine canoeing and history came naturally.
“I love local history, absolutely love local history, I love sharing it with other people, and I love canoeing, canoeing on the Red; it’s a great mix,” said Mark Piehl of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.
For the last few years, Piehl has hopped in a canoe and provides a lesson to some eager students as they fight the current in the Red River.
The waterway separating Minnesota and North Dakota provides a lens to a different time in the two states’ histories.
“In 1890, all the saloons in North Dakota closed, but they could stay open in Minnesota, so by 1900, there were 45 bars operating in Moorhead, and the river was a divide between us,” said Piehl.
The River Keepers and the Moorhead Park District have done their part to make sure more people have the chance to pick up some fun facts about the river.
“It’s really been great to see the interest in recreation on the river in safe ways increasing more and more every year, and so we started these a few years ago, and they’ve come to be more popular every year,” said Christine Holland, the Executive Director of the River Keepers.
The canoe rides go hand–in–hand with Piehl’s passion to bring history to life.
“We believe in local history, we believe that you can learn from the past, and you can enjoy hearing stories about how people lived in the past, and make that personal connection with people who lived here. Their lives aren’t much different from ours today,” said Piehl.
The River Keepers say so many people were interested in paddling along the river they had to turn some away.
The next river excursion will take place on August 15th, where the theme is about animals along the river.