Canoe Day at Kiwanis Park kicks off Crow Wing State Park events

Jim Cummings

History will come alive at Crow Wing State Park with free activities such as a canoe launch from Brainerd and an authentic fur trade-era encampment at the park where the canoe trip ends.

The Mississippi Headwaters Board Canoe Day starts with a 9 a.m. social Aug. 3 at Kiwanis Park that will include booths including environmental, recreational and civic themes.

“Enjoy a paddle down the peaceful and beautiful Mississippi River. A free shuttle service is provided to return those participating back to Kiwanis Park to retrieve vehicles,” organizers stated on the event flyer.

“Canoe Day was started about 25 years ago … to bring attention to the importance of the canoe history of the Crow Wing and the Mississippi rivers, and the site of Old Crow Wing that was a very historic fur trade post area,” said Ray Nelson, president of the Friends of Old Crow Wing.

According to the state park’s website, the fur trade-era brought the Voyageurs of the Northwest and American Fur companies. Not long after, traders established posts along the Mississippi and Crow Wing rivers and a branch of the Red River Trail brought ox carts through the area.


“Allen Morrison, the first citizen of Crow Wing, established a post below the southern mouth of the Crow Wing River in 1823. Missionaries came to teach the Indians and build mission churches. The cemeteries remind us of the once-thriving community,” park officials stated.

The fur trade encampment occurring 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be set up by the Crow Wing County Muzzle Loaders. Crafts of the era will be demonstrated, such as birch bark canoe-making, woodworking, historic firearms and artifacts, early tools, leatherwork and furs.

Archaeologist Jim Cummings will give a presentation at 1:30 p.m. near the historic Beaulieu House at the park. Cummings, a Deerwood resident, has a Master of Arts in archeology and cultural resource management from St. Cloud State University.

“The historic Beaulieu House is the oldest standing structure known north of Upper St. Anthony,” organizers stated.

Clement Beaulieu took over operations of the American Fur Co. in 1847 in what is now Crow Wing State Park and built a stately mansion in the former frontier village. The Greek Revival structure was returned to its original location and is being restored, according to officials.

As part of his presentation, Cummings will share stories about Hole-in-the-Day the Younger and Crow Wing’s once-leading citizen Beaulieu, who influenced Brainerd’s birth. Cummings retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, parks and trails division.

Hole-in-the-Day the Younger was born in 1825. A prominent chief of the Ojibwe, he was shot and killed in 1868 by about a dozen men while on his way to argue against the planned removal of the Ojibwe to a reservation at White Earth, according to author Andrew Stone.


Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger (Bagone-giizhiig in Ojibwe) poses for an undated photo. Reputed as both a formidable negotiator and polarizing leader of the Objibwe, Hole-in-the-Day's life and death played a large part in shaping the Brainerd lakes area. Submitted photo / Crow Wing County Historical Society

“Last year’s program was a tremendous success, and there have been many requests for a second program from those unable to attend last year,” Nelson said. “Last year’s heat and smoke, air quality alert issues prevented many from attending that particular day.”

Cummings, a former high school history teacher and museum director, taught anthropology classes and field schools at Central Lakes College and SCSU, respectively. He is the consulting archaeologist for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and archaeologist for McFarlane Consulting, a St. Paul-based cultural resource management company.

For more information about the state park activities, call Crow Wing State Park at 218-825-3075. Call the Mississippi Headwaters Board at 218-824-1189 for more information about Canoe Day and the social at Kiwanis Park in Brainerd.

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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