PEPIN COUNTY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Charming river towns are superb gateways to beautiful Lake Pepin, home to exceptional outdoor and cultural activities. FOX2548’s Phoebe Murray and photojournalist Duane Wolter spent an afternoon on the water with Captain Rob Buntz to show us why Lake Pepin is one of the two best lakes in the upper Midwest to sail.
Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake along the Mississippi River that straddles both the Minnesota and Wisconsin state border.
Captain Rob Buntz said, “As you go over on the Wisconsin side, it’ s a gradual up of the bottom into a sandy kind of beach mostly, over here on the Minnesota side what you see in the bluffs right there is exactly how it looks down below the water, it just goes straight down.”
Meet Captain Rob Buntz, long-time sailor, but now full-time captain after moving to Pepin County six years ago with his wife.
Buntz said, “The Misssissippi River and Pepin are pretty benign waters so there’s generally not much of a problem out here even when we’re sailing.”
Buntz’s knowledge of the lake he calls home runs deep.
“We call it Lake Pepin because there’s virtually no current here, so it takes 19 days for the water to move 23 miles from the top of the lake up by redwing to the foot of the lake down here. That last bluff you see and then the flat area you see is the Chippewa River Delta and that’s how Lake Pepin was formed.”
Centrally located operating out of the Pepin Marina, Buntz says the closest town, appropriately named “Lake City”.
“If you look straight that way, is Lake City, you see that tall grain tower there, that’s six miles from Pepin as the crow flies,” said Buntz.
Buntz says Pepin is one of the two best lakes in the upper Midwest to sail, the other being Lake Superior, which he calls far less forgiving.
“It’s 23 miles long so you get you get a really long run on sailing if the winds are favorable to you,” said Buntz.
Captain Buntz stays busy operating both river cruises and sailing trips with hundreds of destination weddings in Pepin County during the summer season.
Buntz said, “Saturday we start at 10 A.M. and we don’t stop until 8:30 P.M.”
He says they draw in a diverse group of passengers not only from across the state, but the world.
“We’ve had people from Switzerland from France, from Belgium, who come halfway across the world to go to a wedding,” said Buntz.
Though with COVID-19, this season has looked a little different on the water.
Buntz said, “Cancellation after cancellation because people were canceling weddings, but now it seems to be coming back really well. So, we’ll be a little down this year but not like I was thinking.”
“When it started off, I was thinking boy this is going to be a tough year but not so bad. We’ve been a bit unable to meet all those needs this year but next year we’ll hopefully be back in business in full swing but, we’ll see what COVID-19 does.”
He finds sailing to be a therapeutic outlet with views you couldn’t find anywhere else. Even the 55 trains a day that Pepin sees, he says are a welcomed addition to the lake experience.
“So, we got a quiet zone and so now they just rumble on by so it’s really kind of fun we get the romantic part of trains but not the crazy noisy part of trains,” said Buntz.
Sailing in Pepin County, Phoebe Murray, First News at Nine.