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Paddling The Cedar (2)

Mitchell County had potential to be a destination for serious paddlers, Walk believed, and he organized a committee of local volunteers who planned a grand event complete with riverside food stands and nightly entertainment.

Over 100 canoes navigated the Cedar during each of the first two annual floats in 1988 and 1989. Walk wasn’t among those early participants, however.

He had no desire to join the armada himself and little interest in managing the affair for the long term. “I was hoping to get this thing started and that others would pick up on it.”

Flooding prompted a high-water alert just four days prior to the third float. Conditions proved manageable, but only about 20 vessels made the voyage.

Although a handful of enthusiasts continued the float in subsequent years, it never again achieved the scale Walk, now a Mitchell County supervisor, had envisioned.

One of those devoted paddlers was Jim Hughes, for whom flowing water has been a lifelong theme. He grew up along the Little Cedar north of Charles City, an area he still calls home. “Except for a few years in college, I’ve never lived more than three miles from a river.”

Jim, then a competent if not accomplished paddler, was president of the Floyd County Izaak Walton League when the first Cedar float took place. He saw an ad for the event and, as a local conservation leader, felt “almost obligated” to take part.

Somewhere along the journey, paddling the route year after year, his perspective changed. “On about the third day, all of a sudden you start mellowing out, and you didn’t even realize you were wound up.”

On June 11, 1994, a now-mellower Jim married a pretty young widow with an infectious laugh and a well-developed sense of adventure.

(Read more about Paddling The Cedar)

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