About Us

The Red Wing Environmental Learning Center is a nonprofit organization that provides outdoor programs for Red Wing youth and the community to gain an appreciation for our natural world, develops skills for outdoor recreation, and encourages leadership development. We offer Tiny Trees for 2nd and 3rd grade, Young Explorers for 4th and 5th graders, and our Core Program for 6th to 12th graders. 

Check out the video above for a taste of the ELC experience.

What We Do

Core Programs:

  • Backpacking
  • Biking
  • Canoeing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Rock Climbing
  • Sea Kayaking
  • Whitewater Kayaking
  • Winter Camping


  • Bow Hunting
  • Carp Shooting
  • Explore Belle Creek
  • Fishing Rod Construction
  • Floodwater Canoeing
  • Ice Climbing
  • Knife Construction
  • Log Furniture Building
  • Log Rolling
  • Maple Tapping
  • Mountain Voyageur
  • Outdoor Photography
  • Pheasant Hunting
  • Pioneering
  • Snowshoe Construction
  • Spelunking
  • Taxidermy
  • Trapping
  • Trout Fishing
  • Turkey Hunting
  • Wild Edibles

Young Explorers:

  • Making Dreamcatchers
  • Tubing
  • Kite Building
  • High Ropes Course
  • Spin Fishing
  • Antler Hunt
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Ice Skating
  • Sledding
  • Playboating

Camping on the Mississippi River

Camping on the Mississippi River

Knife Construction

Knife Construction

Winter Camping in the Boundary Waters

Winter Camping in the Boundary Waters

Sea Kayaking in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Sea Kayaking in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Young Women in the Woods: Tubing at Frontenac

Young Women in the Woods: Tubing at Frontenac

Where We Go

Red Wing: 

  • Barn Bluff
  • Cannon Bottoms
  • Cannon Valley Trail
  • ELC Cabin
  • Gatenbiens
  • Hay Creek
  • Lake Pepin
  • Mississippi River
  • Vermillion River



  • Border Route Trail
  • Boundary Waters
  • Lanesboro
  • Itasca
  • North Shore of Lake Superior
  • Shovel Point
  • Superior Hiking Trail
  • Two Harbors Cabin
  • Voyageur National Park

Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan: 

  • Apostle Islands
  • Black River
  • Brule River
  • Chequamegon National Lake Shore
  • Chippewa River
  • Coldwater Cave
  • Devil's Lake
  • Drummond
  • Porcupine Wilderness
  • Rainbow Wilderness Area
  • Red Cedar River
  • Tiffany Wilderness Area

Instructor Expeditions: 

  • Belize
  • Bloodvein River
  • Chattooga River
  • Everglades
  • Gataga River
  • Gila Mountains
  • Grand Canyon
  •  Kenai Fjords
  • Lake Nipigon
  • Missouri River
  • Misty Fjords
  • Mount Rainier
  • Noire River
  • Owyhee River
  • Pioneer Mountains
  • Prince William Sound
  • Rio Grande
  • Salmon River
  • Seal River
  • Virgin Islands
  • Wind River Mountains

The Program

The mission of the Red Wing ELC is “to instill an awareness and appreciation for our local environment and to be a catalyst for environmental appreciation in the Red Wing community.” The organization serves students ages eight to eighteen who are from the Red Wing area.  A student can start this program when he or she is in third grade and participate in programs until high school graduation.  The ELC offers core programs year-round, and depending on the season, the activities include rock climbing, cross-country skiing, canoeing, kayaking, backpacking, winter camping, and biking.  Specialized programs are also offered such as snowshoe construction, fly fishing, log rolling, pioneering, and orienteering.  Physical skills, ecological concepts, and relationships are built through a step-program ranging from intro day programs to week-long trips to two-week-long expeditions.  Students start with day trips, and if they have a positive attitude, work hard, and have a sense of responsibility, they can move on to programs that are longer in time and distance and require more skill.  It is a system that helps develop character by challenging students both physically and mentally, increasing self-esteem and confidence. 



First, the ELC keeps it simple.  The actual center has offices; a storage room for sleeping bags, snowshoes, cooking gear, wetsuits, and sleds; trailers full of kayaks and canoes; a map room; a library with old, leather couches, and a classroom where potlucks and slideshows take place.  There are three fifteen-passenger vans parked in the gravel parking lot outside the white barn. Hitched to the vans are canoe and bike trailers.  The ELC owns two cabins, which were built by students: one in Red Wing and one near Two Harbors, Minnesota.  Students have a rustic experience when they stay in one of the log cabins, set up tents on the needle-covered ground of a hardwood forest, or sleep on platforms that rest on rafted canoes floating on the floodwaters of the Mississippi.  Finally, the ELC encourages simplicity by not allowing students to bring watches, IPods, or cell phones. Without these devices, which have become a normal part of most people’s daily lives, students are able to break free from their normal routine and reexamine their everyday practices.

Second, the philosophy of the ELC is that once students are outside experiencing nature, the understanding and appreciation will follow. The ELC emphasizes the idea of the Chinese proverb, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” The whole idea of “I do and I understand” is the epitome of experiential learning, where students are trying new activities, making mistakes, and learning from these opportunities.  Environmental education is tied into everything they do.  Since the students are outside during the entire trip, students must learn the skills to be comfortable in the outdoors, such as building a campfire, cooking, and setting up a tent.  All of these activities require group cooperation so the group learns and grows together.  Many of the programs are challenging the students on a personal level, such as rock climbing.  Here success is completely dependent on the individual, so he or she must use personal motivation and creativity to climb to the top of the wall. These types of risk-taking activities provide new perspectives and personal accomplishment.