Swiftwater Adventures: Staying afloat amid drought conditions

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Despite recent rainfall across the Northland, the Twin Ports is still dealing with severe drought conditions. Forcing businesses from lawncare to outdoor recreation to adapt.

Swiftwater Adventures offers guided rafting tours and whitewater kayaking lessons. They’ve been dealing with dry conditions since they first opened in 2015, and they’re no strangers to finding unique ways to stay afloat.

“Our first year rafting on the St. Louis,” said Brian Pfeifer, co-owner of Swiftwater Adventures. “The water got low and we developed a trip on the lower St Louis. The first time it’s ever been done. We spent a lot of time developing a trip down there so that we could still stay in business, but also offer a really cool experience. So that’s what’s really cool, is we can offer an experience any day of the summer.”

Pfeifer said the decision to develop that new trip all those years ago is still paying off today under current conditions.

“We’re using the lower trip,” said Pfeifer. “The nice thing about that is the dam that’s right behind us regulates that flow. So as long as there’s enough incoming water, which there almost always is, that maintains at the same minimum flow every day of the summer. So it’s really predictable and we can just keep going and we don’t have to call people and say, sorry, you can’t go rafting.”

If you’re looking to feed your sense of adventure on land, you should stop by Swiftwater’s sister company, High Ropes Minnesota, an aerial adventure course in Scanlon.

“it’s challenge by choice,” said Pfeifer. “Some people go up and they’ll spend 30 minutes and make it around some of the bottom obstacles and that’s enough for them. A lot of times it’s a family where the parents might be a little nervous, but the 12 or 13 year old kid flies up to the top and then the parents are like, oh, I have to go now, too. So it’s really fun to see people challenge themselves and overcome, you know, fears that they have.”

And there’s more to it than rafting and kayaking, Swiftwater offers all kinds of wilderness experiences.

“Right now, being on the section of river that we’re on,” said Pfeifer. “We raft some really good rapids, but there’s also opportunity for some other adventures going on, some hikes. Getting to get in the water and swim and to feel with that’s the current feels like.”

In the future, Swiftwater Adventures hopes to offer longer, more in-depth options for people who want to unplug and fully immerse themselves in the outdoors.

“We’re working right now on a long weekend or week of adventures trip where it would be like kind of an adventure tour through northeastern Minnesota,” said Pfeifer. “It might include some canoeing in the boundary waters, maybe some fishing, a few different rivers. You get the opportunity to paddle kind of depending on flows and things like that. We deal with a lot of youth groups and sometimes there specifically youth groups that have a troubled history. They’re going through a lot of stuff. And if I can take them out on the river for a couple of hours, make them forget that and just like see them smile, like to be okay for a few minutes, That’s pretty awesome. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job.”