Brainerd is full of history. The area was inhabited by Ojibwa Indians when it was visited in 1805 by explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike. Founded in 1870 as a Mississippi River crossing by the Northern Pacific Railway, the city was given the maiden name of the wife of the railroad owner, John G. Smith. It grew as a lumbering and railroad centre.

The Mississippi River flows directly through the cities of Brainerd and Baxter and is often thought of as the dividing line between the two cities.

The drought of 2021 produced the lowest Mississippi River water level on the Brainerd stretch in recent memory. Because of the low water, local historian Carl W. Faust was having a blast exploring the river bottom by foot in places that he had not been able to access before. Things were being exposed that were unknown and he could walk to places that would normally need a boat to access.

One day, Dispatch photographer Steve Kohls asked Carl to join him and drone pilot and video editor Jim Stafford on a drone video shoot. This was done in mid-August at the lowest level of the summer, starting at the Brainerd Dam and ending at the southern end of the city at First Island. The drone flight captured enough video to be edited into a half-hour video.

Paddling the River

If you are a river paddler, or just have a general curiosity about the river, here is your take a very up-close and personal look at the river when it is very low.

A side benefit of the video is the ability of paddlers of this stretch to find navigational hazards before they encounter them on their journey. The video is a valuable tool for casual paddlers as well as Source-to-Sea travelers.