Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


What is your favorite building to study in?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Free outdoor recreation classes offered at Winona State

A student climbs Sugarloaf as part of the OERC program.
Abby Peschges/Winonan

by Abby Peschges/Winonan

This semester, Winona State University’s Outdoor Education and Resource Center (OERC) offers free rock climbing and open water paddling opportunities for students and community members on various days through the week starting at 4 p.m.

All equipment and instruction is provided and activities are on a first-come, first-served basis.

On Tuesdays, rock climbing on Sugarloaf offers four different courses, all varying in level of difficulty. Thursdays offer a calmer activity of canoeing and kayaking the backwaters of the Mississippi. Each week features a different paddling location, which can be found on the OERC’s Facebook page.

Story continues below advertisement

Faculty director of the paddling and rock climbing are was introduced to the sport students the opportunity at an OERC, Eric Barnard, has spent two-and-a-half years working on providing free courses for students to open the door to many possibilities and activities in the area surrounding Winona.

A survey of students Barnard conducted over the last two years showed a 98.5 percent interest in programs such as rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking, a much higher number than the 70 percent he expected.

“I want people to take more ownership of public lands and view public land as our own,” Barnard said. Barnard wanted Winona State to have a reputation for producing the best outdoor professionals. “We should be leaders,” he said.

He said activities like  paddling and rock climbing are practiced by people of all ages and are a good way to exercise while having fun. Barnard also emphasized a culture of safety and inclusion in the programs.

Approximately forty people attended each session the first week.

Laura Grant, a sophomore at Winona State, said of her experience at Tuesday’s climb, “I got to a certain point, and wanted to stop, but the instructors talked me through my fear and got me to the top.”

Barnard pushes students to get past their fears because as he said, “It’s the worst feeling to go home and know you didn’t put it all out there.”

Winona community member Caylan Larson joined the Winona State students Tuesday. Larson has been climbing for eight years and was introduced to the sport by one of his professors at the University of North Dakota. Larson noted the lack of rock climbing opportunities in the area however, and is glad the university is giving students an opportunity to participate in such a unique activity.

Students who went paddling on Thursday were able to get a glimpse at some wildlife that inhabits the Mississippi’s Blackbird Slough. Turtles, kingfishers and herons were some of the many animals the students saw, along with a bald eagle that swooped above the treetops.

Located in the WELL Resource Center in the Integrated Wellness Complex, the OERC is a resource for students interested in getting involved in outdoor activities in the area and allows students the opportunity at an affordable price. Equipment such as canoes, kayaks, tents, backpacks and snowshoes can all be rented for overnight and day trips for a small fee. Guided overnight trips are offered throughout the year; information can be found on the Activity Board in the WELL.

Along with the rental center, the OERC offers certification in Wilderness Medicine, Leave No Trace, and Professional Climbing Instructor courses. For more information, students and community members can visit the OERC’s Facebook page or

Contact Abby at [email protected]

A student kayaks in the backwaters of the Mississippi near Prairie Island Campground.
Lauren Robertson/Winonan

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Winonan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *