MASON CITY — The new canoe and kayak launching area on the Winnebago River just off of 12th Street Northeast in Mason City is scheduled to open next month. The city council last year approved work on the low-head dam project to help that make stretch of the river north of East Park safer and to improve it for recreational use.

The city’s operations and maintenance manager Bill Stangler says the area is designed to allow a fish passage in one area while allowing kayaks and canoe to navigate through another area. “You kayak on the west side of the structure, on the bigger side of the structure, but the east side is designed for fish passage so it improves the fishing and allows fish to move up and down the river and spawn. This also hugely eliminates the great safety hazard that we used to have on the river underneath that low-head dam.”

Stangler says the dam previously had been a safety risk, leading to the deaths of a few boaters over the last several years.  “Unfortunately we had a few accidents over a period of years at this site. Those should for the most part be eliminated now. Obviously you can have an accident at any point and time anywhere, but the main focus on this was to eliminate that and to allow kayak and boat passage from a long stretch of the Winnebago River, and also to improve the the fish passage up and down the river.”

Stangler says there are two points where someone can either get into or out of the river.  “This is a portage on the bottom side. It’s made out of large boulders, it’s put together very tightly. You can either portage around or get in or out at this point. We have the same opportunity on the top side of the dam, the ability to get in at that point or get out, whatever an individual so choose to do.”

There will be an asphalt parking lot that people will be able to use at the launching area. Stangler says the asphalt for that parking lot will be done next week with the hopes of having the project completed by the end of next week.

Stangler made his comments during a social media update of the project by Mayor Bill Schickel earlier this week which you can view below.