I’ve been dreaming of canoeing the chain of crystal clear mining and natural lakes at Cuyuna Country Recreation Area ever since I rode their paved bike trail in 2006. The old Cuyuna mine was abandoned some 30 years ago and became a 5,000-acre recreation area in 1993.
The pits filled with spring water and the undeveloped shoreline grew aspen and pine trees perfect for a sunny day paddle.
This summer my friend Jim and I put in at the landing between Huntington Feigh Mine and Pennington Mine Lakes for a nice day of paddling. Jim was surprised at how the landing isn’t much more than a half-mile out of the town of Crosby.
Most of the lakes are long and narrow offering protection from the wind with lots of nice little bays for fishing.
We came upon a fishing boat with a father, son and dog near the connection between Pennington and Mahnomen Mine Lakes, which the dad said was a good spot for pan fish.
On a point in Alstead Mine Lake we came across two sets of scuba divers. One was training commercial divers 40 feet deep and the other was an instructor and two recreational students learning to dive in 10 feet of water.
These clear mining lakes are as deep as 500 feet offer the clearest waters in the Midwest and have such interesting structure as old mining rigs, trucks, playground equipment and old trees.
The instructor told us she came across a ball of young bass protected by adults attacked by loons.
We pulled onto an island in Arco Mine Lake. A family of loons entertained us while we ate our gorp. While we were only two hours from home, it felt like we were 200 miles from home.
Reluctantly we turned our canoe around and headed for home but not before a jump in the lake for a swim at the landing. Ahhhhhh, the swimming is cool and refreshing on a hot summer day.
The chain of lakes wraps around a tall peak with an incredible overlook of the region that we drove to before leaving the park. While on the peak we saw a portion of what will be a 22-mile mountain bike trail yet under construction expected to be partially complete in late fall.
This young park also has 15 electric and two rustic campsites, a paved bike trail and a historic mining site.
Cuyuna is certainly a nice place to paddle, close to home.