Published: Dec 05, 2015

Ecoadventure—Adventure and Environmental Education: Whitewater Rafting Duluth, Minnesota

While we were whitewater rafting near Duluth, Minnesota on the St. Louis River, a large dragonfly landed on the side of the raft. A young woman sitting in the middle of the raft amongst her family raised her hand intent on squashing the insect.

“Wait! They eat mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies!” I said.

“What? Really?” she asked looking perplexed. “How do you know that this one does?” she prodded in a fun yet challenging tone as she gripped the paddle once again.

“Well, all dragonflies prey upon insects. This particular species, the Swift River Cruiser, hunts along the river most of the summer. Its emerald green eyes and the observable yellow spot on the 7th abdomen segment is a tell-tale sign of its species. It lives and hunts along large streams or exposed shore lines.”

And, just like that, the trip had become an unintentional ecoadventure trip.

So what is an ecoadventure trip? I have spent many hours thinking about the definition and purpose of an ecoadventure. For starters, it was the subject of my Master’s Thesis—which is a monstrous task itself. Being that there isn’t an exact definition for the term ecoadventure the meaning is open to interpretation—heck, we may have even coined the term. What is for certain is that any adventure experience that allows one to experience and explore the beauty and processes of nature can be an ecoadventure.

From an educational standpoint an ecoadventure trip is a trip that implements aspects of adventure, physical, environmental (and/or outdoor) and experiential education into an adventure trip such as whitewater rafting the St. Louis River while in Duluth, Minnesota. I will shed some light on these aspects and how they are implemented:

Adventure and physical education to learn the skills necessary to participate in the adventure, such as paddling techniques, how to swim a rapid, rescue a swimmer, all while being immersed in a wilderness adventure setting.

Experiential education where you learn from experience: do what you are hoping to learn or improve upon. Participants are engaged in the adventure and learn from an actual experience.

Environmental and outdoor education is presented as a mix of interpretive nature education as the group explores the flora, fauna, or geology of the area (guided discovery). Participants ask questions about what they are interested in which leads to discussions rather than lectures. The trip leader has extensive knowledge of the area to facilitate these discussions. For schools this can be more specific to their curriculum if desired.

Fun this experience is all about having a fun adventure while being physically and mentally engaged in the experience.

Many adventure trips are so focused on getting from point A to B that the guides and trip leaders don’t truly allow their clients to appreciate where they are. An ecoadventure trip provides an adventure experience that encourages people to explore their surroundings, ask questions and want to learn more while having fun, known as guided discovery.

An ecoadventure can suit a multitude of audiences from school groups or camps, to the vacationer that appreciates nature and wants to learn more about the natural history of the area. For example, last July we did a whitewater rafting trip on the St. Louis River for a college Environmental Science class. We discussed common flora and fauna to be seen, the coniferous biome the river flows through, the river ecosystem and its health (such as bioindicator species like stoneflies), and we had fun. We did all this while running rapids and exploring the beautiful St. Louis River.

We work with secondary schools and colleges to adapt their curriculum into the trip. We can present at your school or supply background information relevant to the trip that fits the classroom subjects or education initiatives such as S.T.E.A.M. Feel free to contact us if you would like to learn about how we can implement your curriculum into our trips.

An example of an ecoadventure trip that can happen anytime for anyone is on any of the whitewater rafting or kayaking trips we offer to the average tourist. Most trips I (Cliff) lead employ roving interpretive techniques and discuss whatever peaks the client’s interests, such as a bald eagle flying overhead or a dragonfly landing on someone. If the client shows interest we can talk about what it is, its niche or function in its ecosystem, and more. On these trips we often do a side hike to explore old growth pines, wildflowers, or cool geology.

Whitewater rafting near Duluth, Minnesota can be an ecoadventure for your class, youth group or camp, family or just a bunch of friends. At Swiftwater Adventures we can adjust the experience to your group. If you want to go on an adventure contact us today!

Category(s): Blog Posts