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Group paddles Martin County

ABOVE: A group of kayakers are seen on Buffalo Lake in Fairmont Tuesday evening. The group paddles a different lake in Martin County weekly.

FAIRMONT– For several years, a large group of Martin County residents have gotten together weekly during the summer months to kayak on one of Martin County’s lakes. On Tuesday evening, about 25 kayakers got together to go out on Buffalo Lake, north of Fairmont.

Char Kahler, an organizer of the group, said it was loosely formed in 2009. Kahler explained that her friends Ann and Dan Terfehr had just gotten a kayak, as had she and her husband, Wayne.

“We said, ‘you know, we should have a group that goes,'” Kahler said.

Ann been sending out emails to anyone who expressed interest and it grew from there. Now Kahler sends out weekly emails with information on where they’re meeting to a group of people that has accumulated to a large amount over the years. In fact, she estimates she sends out emails to over 150 people.

“People come when they can. I think it works well for most folks because everyone has different schedules,” she said.

While they started going out on local lakes, after a time Kahler wanted to expand it to other lakes in Martin County.

“There’s supposedly 55 over a certain amount of acres. We’ve done 40 or some,” Kahler explained.

The ones they haven’t done are small in size and with the dry years, it hasn’t been possible as they would hit bottom.

Some lakes they’ve done multiple times include Iowa Lake, South Silver, Fox Lake, Big Twin, Cedar Lake and Amber Lake.

“Last week we went to Fox Lake and there were 28 paddlers out. It usually hovers around that amount,” Kahler said.

In addition to lakes, they’ve paddled on several rivers including the Blue Earth River, Watonwan River and Minnesota River. That they’ve done on weekends when they’re able to schedule it.

“Those are fun. It’s easier because of course the current’s carrying you,” she said.

Kahler also noted that it’s nice that a lot of the lakes they go out on have easy access to.

“And thanks to the (Fairmont) Lakes Foundation and the city, we have a kayak launching dock at Gomsrud and the first one was at Amber Lake,” Kahler said.

For lakes that have no access, Kahler has reached out and found private land owners who allow them to launch from their properties.

“If we didn’t have that we’d never be able to do all the lakes because they don’t all have public access. I’m appreciative of people’s generosity,” Kahler said.

The Lakes Foundation also put in a kayak kiosk near Budd Lake in 2018 where people can rent kayaks from through Sommer Outdoors.

While it’s possible to rent a kayak, they’re also now easier to purchase locally. While initially just Dunhams in Fairmont sold kayaks, they’re now available at more places including Tractor Supply Co. and Bomgaars.

“There’s all shapes and sizes of kayaks that people have. Part of the blessing of the group is if you want to you can try out someone else’s kayak,” Kahler said.

She also said that if she knows of someone who wants to try out kayaking, there hasn’t been an issue finding someone willing to lend theirs out.

Some people also come with a canoe, though more and more people have kayaks. Kahler said she thinks this is because kayaks are lighter and easier to handle. Kayaking is also something people can do by themselves.

Kahler said she thinks kayaking has become more popular because with Covid, more people wanted to be outside, rather than inside with their mask on.

She said it’s a great way to meet new people and that once the group gets their kayaks off the lake and loaded into their vehicles, they have a picnic of sorts. She said they’ll spread out food and drinks and just socialize.

People of all different ages participate too. She said children will go and they also have some in their 80s who go.

“It’s quite the gamut,” Kahler said.

Anyone who is interested and going and getting on the email list can check out the Facebook page: Paddle Martin County, MN and Surrounding Area.

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