Otter Tail River outing

By Jason Sannes Venhuizen
Trip organizer

Members of the Lakes Area Bike Club of Otter Tail County abandoned their bikes last week for canoes and kayaks to travel the Otter Tail River near Phelps Mill during the Phelps Mill Art Festival. This is Jason Sannes Venhuizen’s journey story.

Blue sky, slight wind and temps in the upper 80's.  The river in this section was gentle, crystal clear, sandy bottom sprinkled with shells and occasional boulders.  The water seemed to have this Siren like effect begging us to dive into the cool deep sections and relax on the sandbars.  

This was a "lazy river" section with many people outside the club playing at the access and floating on tubes.  Also met five or more additional kayaks and a few fishing boats who were catching sunfish. Much more populated stretch with houses and docks scattered along the banks.

Crossed two small lakes, the first, Deer Lake, we kept course crossing directly to the west into East Lost Lake where we veered right to the East shore and crossed almost due North to find the outlet.

There is not an official portage area at Phelps Mill but kayaks outside our group were using the rocks just before the walking bridge and dam.

Our club received permission from landowner Ron Thom, located on left just before dam, who had mowed an area close to the river and allowed us to park in his yard.  

He asked for nothing but together we gave him a thank you note, DNR water trail map and $40. Majority of us portaged up the 30 foot steep incline using a rope, grass and saplings to assist in pulling up vessels and paddlers.

There was a more gradual grade prior to this spot on same property but water was shallow and somewhat difficult to access due to congestion of lily pads.

It was a lot of fun to meet, visit and work together in shuttling, paddling and portaging as a club.  Thank you to all!  From comments I can say that we all seemed to have a great time.  Many took the opportunity to enjoy the history, food, arts and entertainment of`Phelps Mill Art Festival.


- 9 Canoes
- 9 Kayaks
- 35 People
- 1 Dog (First ever, sorry I did not get a good picture as it even had a little doggie life vest.  

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