MONTEVIDEO — Natalie Warren and Ann Raiho celebrated their graduation from St. Olaf in 2011 by setting out on a 2,000 mile adventure.
They became the first women to follow Eric Sevareid’s route from “Canoeing With the Cree’’ and paddle from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay.
Neither left their studies at St. Olaf behind them thinking that their educations were only to begin, but that proved to be the case. Every day on the Minnesota River provided lessons on the state’s history and cultural heritage, thanks to the people they met and the places they saw. And every day, they learned about and witnessed the many water quality and land-use issues that are central to our discussions today.
Ann Raiho had grown up in Minnesota, but was surprised every day by all that she learned on the 330 miles of upstream paddling on the river, said Warren.
Now Warren, originally of Miami, Florida, and two partners are planning to make the Minnesota River a summer classroom for other young people.
Warren, Nick Ryan and Anna Johnson have created Wild River Academy. The three met in Washington D.C., but are opening their venture in Minnesota with plans to lead high school age students on trips on the Minnesota River. Lessons on science and history will be woven into the trips. They will have a focus on agriculture.
Warren said they hope to visit farms along the way to educate young people about the importance and challenges of agriculture.
Since the 2011 trip, Warren has been (and continues) to offer presentations on the adventure. Her story inspires people of all ages to explore and enjoy our outdoors.
There is no matching the real thing. Warren said the “experiential learning’’ opportunities possible on the Minnesota River can be life changing.
Warren and her partners were in Montevideo on Thursday to start laying the groundwork for their summer plans. They are especially interested in contacting teachers and others throughout the region interested in helping young people experience the outdoors.
They are looking for people who can help them introduce young people to the science, history and cultural heritage that can be learned along the way. They also welcome sponsors and other support.
To learn about the Wild River Academy, or contact Warren for a presentation, check out the website: www.wildriveracademy.com
– Tom Cherveny