At a time when many Iowans are preparing for battle with flooding waterways, a Newton man is planning for a kayak trip across the state. Sixty-two-year-old John Craun plans to paddle the Des Moines River from the Minnesota border in northwest Iowa , more than 400 miles, to the Missouri line in southeast Iowa. The retired Maytag worker plans to leave in late April and camp along the way.
“Normally, they say it’s going to take a good two weeks,” Craun says. “I think it’s going to take me a lot less than that. I’m an avid paddler and I don’t mind paddling long hours. A lot of that will have to do with weather conditions and water levels.” Craun will be in a craft he built himself from cedar and redwood.
“I have three kayaks and the one I’ll probably use is my longer, skinny one,” Craun says. “It’s only 20 and a half inches wide and about 20 feet long. It weighs about 38 pounds and it’s fast.” Craun has competed in several kayaking competitions, including the Water Tribe Everglades Challenge, a 300-mile endurance race in Florida, in less than seven days.
Craun says this trip across Iowa is to raise awareness about the proposed Hickory Ridge Wilderness Camp, a 47-acre area on the south shore of Lake Red Rock. “It’s a hardwood forested area on the water,” Craun says. “They’re going to have it be a primitive campground where paddlers can stay overnight when they’re traveling around Lake Red Rock or down the whole Des Moines River system. Also, it can be used by people who backpack in and Boy Scout troops.”
A fundraising effort is underway by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Red Rock Lake Association to buy the land and clean it up. The plan is to transfer its care to the Army Corps of Engineers and open it to the public. For details, see the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation website at: “www.inhf.org” and click on the Hickory Ridge link.