Wednesday, April 27, 2011


WATERWORKS an outdoor column by Gordon Prickett 5/4/2011 Aitkin Independent Age

A nesting pair of Mallards swam by at sunrise on Easter Monday. Loons and Canada Geese call across the lake, as we prepare the dock, the canoe, and fishing boat for launch. There are chores to be done after our three-week Amtrak excursion, but my focus is on the water. I phoned a neighbor long distance from Texas to confirm Ice Out on April 19th. The first loon had landed. But that was just for the folks on the North and East Shores.

There were still ice floes drifting around the South Shore. For our official lake records (since 1976) the date should be April 20. This is at least one week later than the average. Our gravel access roads were graded last Tuesday to fill up the pot holes. Moisture was still boiling up on the road from deep winter frost, but Mud Season is now over. All the posted road restrictions should be gone in a few weeks.


Recently the son of a family that used to have a summer cabin on our lake, read news on-line about the effects of the recession in Aitkin County. He searched on the internet for more local news and got in touch with me. His message told about the long ago Nord Lake Store and the farms that bordered the northeast shore. He described how my neighbors had gotten together some fifty years ago to build the access that became Nordland Township Road 304. The familiar family names have come down through the years, as properties have been subdivided and sold off, and given to children.

More than fifty of our many county lakes have DNR public access and have become the site of vacation cabins, resorts, and early farm homes. About two dozen lake associations have been organized in recent years. The earliest peoples chose the best lake sites with good fishing, available game and timber, and sandy beaches. Then Europeans “discovered” these occupants and began trapping and logging. Shortly after Minnesota became a state we had a railroad crossing the county, and the river boat town of Aitkin was founded.

Some of our lake associations have been collecting the stories of settlement around their individual lakes. Sewing more of them together could make a “patchwork quilt” to tell an important piece of Aitkin County’s history.

At the Rivers and Lakes Fair on Saturday, June 18th, the Aitkin County Lakes And Rivers Association will have a booth where you can learn about how lake people have been organizing. You are welcome to drop by and share some of your lake stories.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


WATERWORKS is a Sports & Outdoor column by Gordon Prickett for the 4/6/2011 Aitkin Independent Age.

Maybe there won’t be much more snow this Spring. I had just gotten sight of a few inches of open water at the edges of our lake ice when the latest snowstorm and blizzard blew in. Cold Winter has spilled into "Spring" and forced us to order a third delivery of propane for this heating season. Rapid melting of new snow under a warm sun is backing up puddles of melt water before the ground can soak it up.

Aitkin’s diversion ditch for the Mississippi River will pay off again this year. It looks like some heavy flooding in other parts of the state.
My prediction for "Ice Out" this year is April 15th, for most county lakes no deeper than 40 feet and no larger than 500 acres. Road restrictions will probably last a good while on the muddy back roads.

Minnesota has new Commissioners to lead the Pollution Control Agency and the Natural Resources and Agriculture Departments. Also Aitkin County has elected two brand new commissioners in Districts Three and Five. With shifting control of state and local governments this could be a time for changes in water policy. Both Commissioners Paul Aasen (MPCA) and Tom Landwehr (DNR) will address the Minnesota Waters Lakes and Rivers Conference in St. Cloud on April 29th. Aitkin County Commissioners Don Niemi and Anne Marcotte are on hand for county board meetings on the first and second Tuesday mornings of every month in the court house.

Those of us who believe that more can be done, to limit aquatic invasive species and to curtail over-development around our shores, can let these public servants hear from the people they were appointed and elected to serve.

The Annual Rivers and Lakes Fair is coming to the Rippleside Elementary School in Aitkin on Saturday, June 18, from 9 am to 2 pm. Featured this year will be reptiles from the Long Lake Conservation Center and the threat to our lakes posed by spreading aquatic invasive species. The popular minnow races will be back. Admission is free. An inexpensive lunch and snacks are available.