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Kayaking the river

Kayakers paddle the Beaver Dam River July 28. A new group, Beaver Paddlers, has scheduled a handful of Saturday excursions this summer and welcomes others to join them.

A new group in town is hoping to make a big splash Saturday by hosting a movie on the water.

Beaver Paddlers welcome people in kayaks, canoes, boats or anything that floats to Waterworks Park for a showing of “Jaws” on an inflatable movie screen that will tower over Beaver Dam Lake. A section will be roped off for paddlers and power boats can anchor behind the rope.

The giant screen will be positioned on land near the kayak launch facing the water. For those who wish to stay out of the water, there is a seating area on a peninsula in the park from where the movie can be viewed.

Beaver Paddlers organizer Jason Loppnow said the free family event is a way to have fun and make the community aware of the new paddling group.

Loppnow is the owner of Annabelle’s Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Beaver Dam. He said the group’s origins came about when he noticed people putting kayaks in the Beaver Dam River across the street from his business.

He decided to take the plunge for the first time in 2018 and kayaked down the river with Mark Mitchell. He said that one run got him hooked on paddling.

The group is open to anyone and started scheduling regular paddling dates on Saturdays this summer. Loppnow makes the public aware of the dates on the Facebook page “The Beaver Paddlers” and through meetup.com.

“Beaver Dam is a great hub — we’re centrally located. We’ve had people from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, the Fox Valley, even Wausau join us,” he said.

Mitchell is employed with Iconic Energy, a Midwest solar installation company based in Rockford, Illinois. The company is adding operations in Beaver Dam on the corner of Madison and Haskell Streets, across from Annabelle’s.

“Teague Dickey (president of Iconic Energy) bought the building and the house behind it,” said Loppnow. “They’re going to put in an access point for people to get down the river and they’re going to put in a state-of-the-art kayak launch on the river. They’re really stepping up to the plate here for us.”

The group is working toward becoming a nonprofit organization. They have five main goals: educating the public about kayaking; creating events so people engage with the water; promoting Beaver Dam Lake and River to the community and beyond; reporting the conditions of the lake; and having fun.

The paddling group has grown with each excursion, the last scheduled event saw 40 people head down the river to a take-out point at County Highway J, near Leipsic.

“It’s a little more than five miles. I’m in the front and somebody is positioned at the end to look-out for everyone,” said Loppnow.

Loppnow does a “Beaver Paddle Report” every Friday on the group’s Facebook page that consists of measuring the water temperature, the depth of the lake and the amount of water flowing through the dam.

“Conditions vary widely, it could be a lot of walking or life-threatening, and you don’t want to be kayaking when it’s not safe,” he said.

Mayor Becky Glewen said it’s exciting to see the growth of this recreational activity in the community.

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“This is all citizen-driven. It has come about from a group of people who are really excited about what they want and the city worked with them to create a great opportunity for them and people outside the area,” she said.

Loppnow said the Beaver Paddlers had several events cancelled because of weather or water conditions. On several occasions the city has opened the dam to increase the flow of water so the river could be paddled.

“The director of water management keeps a close eye on the water levels and follows DNR regulations,” said Glewen. “If the city is provided with certain dates that the paddlers want the dam opened it may work. Other communities do this and kayak enthusiasts know it might work and it might not.”

Loppnow said Joe Schroeder has been paddling the Beaver Dam River for years. Glewen called Schroeder a champion.

“He’s worked to get the river ready and helped us to understand it better. He was the one to connect with the adopt-a-river group to do clean-up on the river earlier this year,” she said.

The city is hoping to replace two walls near the water tower that are crumbling. Glewen said a re-submission of a stewardship grant through the DNR would help fix-up the area and create a walkway down to the river where kayaks could be put in.

Loppnow said efforts are being made to possibly add a kayak take-out point at County Highway J when the bridge is replaced in 2022.

“The county has to spend money to re-construct the banks. We’re trying to come up with about $5,000 to pay for some extra concrete there,” he said. “That’s where the movie comes into play.”

The movie is free through the support of Life Herb, OOGA Brewing Company, Active Outfitters, Rogers Cinema Beaver Dam, Hammes Fire & Safety, Michelle De La Torre from Preferred Realty Group, Riverfront Wine Bar & Cedar Crest Ice Cream.

“I’m going to start a Go Fund Me page and at the movie we will advertise it saying ‘If you’ve enjoyed the show, please think about giving,’” said Loppnow.

Annabelle’s will sell hot dogs and ice cream during the movie and Jack Rhodes will be there with his antique popcorn wagon. Glow-sticks will also be sold.

Because it is so late in the season, if the movie is rained out it will not be re-scheduled until next year.

Saturday is the last date set this year for the Beaver Paddlers to kayak in a group. Those interested should meet in Annabelle’s parking lot, 301 Front St., at 9:30 a.m.

“The idea is that we’ll have people kayaking down the river who will stay through the day and then come to the movie. We’ve got people inquiring about where to go camping or where to book a hotel,” said Loppnow. “We’re going to have a great time and can’t wait.”

Follow Kelly Simon on Twitter @KSchmidSimon or contact her at 920-356-6757.

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