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Kayaking the Safe Way with Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply

Jun 24, 2019 07:25AM ● By Editor

A Boreal Community Media Exclusive - June 24, 2019

Boreal Community Media sat down with Kris Barber, one of the many talented emplyees/guides at Stone Harbor in Grand Marais.  Kris, along with his wife Jill, moved to Grand Marais last summer from the Twin Cities. After they settled in, Kris stopped by Stone Harbor to introduce himself to the owner and general manager and was hired to become part of their team.  Kris brings an extensive history in recreation, as he worked for the United States military for 7 years in Europe at the Armed Forces Recreation Center. During his time there, he was a ski instructor over the winter months and during the summer he was a whitewater rafting and kayak instructor.   Kris said that he was on the water 5 days a week for 40 hours with guests and clients.

At Stone Harbor, they offer trips on Lake Superior and inland lakes.   Kris said that if the water is too choppy or it’s too cold, they load up the trailer and head to inland lakes.  A lot more wild life can be seen on the inland lakes, but Lake Superior brings it’s own unique charm. The water is crystal clear and it’s so big.

According to Kris, “Lake Superior has challenges that no other inland lake has. First of all, it’s cold year round.  We provide wetsuits for customers to wear. We don’t allow anyone out on the water without a wetsuit. It’s that cold.  There are waves on Lake Superior that get very big. Fog can also be an issue. For these safety reasons, we don’t allow customers to rent our equipment out on the big lake without a guide”.  Every guide at Stone Harbor is certified through the American Canoe Association. (Stand up paddle boards and kayaks fall under this as well.) The guides at Stone Harbor undergo multiple yearly trainings, practicing open water rescue techniques.

The guides carry a lot of safety gear when they take groups out, including radios to get in touch with the Coast Guard and Stone Harbor, if needed.  If threatening weather approaches, they get everyone to shore instantly and have someone from the store come and pick them up. Customer safety always comes first.

When asked his thoughts on the heart wrenching situation last year when a father and 3 children drowned in a kayaking accident near the Apostle Islands, Kris said that unfortunate decisions were made in that tragic situation.  The family was far from shore, nobody was in a wetsuit, and they were all five in an open top kayak. He added that people don’t always understand the challenges and danger that Lake Superior presents. That tragic story was the impetus for Stone Harbor to implement the Basic Kayak and Rescue class that they do with the YMCA. The outcome could have been so different if that family was better prepared, which is why Stone Harbor is working diligently to provide training.

One single guide can take up to six clients on the water.  If there is a larger group, additional guides will go out. The season roughly starts at the beginning of May until October.  Kris’s favorite time to take guests out on the water is September, when they can experience the beauty of the leaves changing and the days are still warm.  Kris said that the water is “shockingly clear” and that when the sun is at the right angle, he can sometimes see 50-60 feet below the surface of the water.

Some of the other guided adventures at Stone Harbor include ice climbing, ice fishing, showshoeing, winter river skiing, BWCA day trips, fly fishing, overnight tours to Isle Royale or Lake Saganaga, rock climbing, hiking, and stand up paddleboarding.  They also sell and rent everything you will need for your outdoor adventures. 

Jacob, 31 years old, from Farmington, Minnesota shares his kayak trip experience that he booked with Stone Harbor in 2018:

"I was in Grand Marais last August visiting family and decided that I wanted to give myself a kayaking experience for my 31st birthday.  I stopped into Stone Harbor to learn more about their tours. From the moment I walked in and talked with their staff, I felt completely at ease.  I have never kayaked before, so I was unsure if going out on Lake Superior for my first trip would be the smartest thing to do. Kris patiently answered all of my questions and talked about water safety.  I booked the trip for that afternoon and gave myself a birthday gift that I will never forget. The three hours on the water with Kris and the rest of the group were amazing. I will definitely be doing this again this summer with my friends."

To learn more about Stone Harbor and the fun opportunities that are waiting, please visit their website:

Thanks for all that you do to keep our community and visitors safe!




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