Posted
Apr. 13, 2020

River Voices: Stephanie Pinkalla

I grew up building an appreciation for nature, and especially water, through brisk early mornings waterfowl hunting with my dad and hot summer afternoons with our family of four piled into the fishing boat to catch fish for our traditional fish taco nights. Spending time outside on the water with my family helped me come to understand the great power and life there was in the water and helped me reflect on how the water’s health was tied to our health.

Stephanie paddling a canoe on the Mississippi

As I ventured out on my own, I began to find a great solace in paddling canoes and kayaks on streams and rivers across Minnesota, further enhancing my love for and connection to water.

The ducks and geese and fish that we’d rely on for food relied on the waters. As I ventured out on my own, I began to find a great solace in paddling canoes and kayaks on streams and rivers across Minnesota, further enhancing my love for and connection to water. Now as I float bobbling back and forth in a kayak, close to the waters’ surface, I get mad anytime I see an empty soda bottle drifting on a current or a drainpipe funneling some awful-looking brown drip into the river. When I see that stuff, I wonder if others see it too, and whether they think about how these small acts against our water build up and threaten its health, beauty and life.

I was at a state park recently hiking over and around a stream, and as we crunched twigs on the trail and made our way, we’d look for the small footbridges and when we found one, would drop sticks on one side of the bridge and race to see whose crossed under the bridge first. Every time we wandered near water, we came across signs telling us to keep a safe distance from the stream, and to wash your hands after being in the area due to a high level of unsafe nutrients in the water. No fishing, no swimming, no playing. Not a safe home for any critters, including us. I’m afraid there will be more streams, rivers, and lakes that start to bear this sign. Do others see it as a home, a food source, my drinking water? That’s why I’m so invested in this work. Water is such an important source for good things in my life, and I don’t want more of it to meet the same fate.

Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi River
Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi River

Got a Story to Tell?

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How has your connection to water shaped your life path? Do you have a favorite Minnesota lake or river? How are you sharing your love of Minnesota waters with others? Whatever motivates you to take action for Our Mississippi, we want to hear about it!