Here we go with another kayaking trip. This time around it was Jamie, Rivermaster Denis, and I. The total trip length was 4.54 miles. Our trip time was 2 hours and that included a serious portage. Our speed was 2.27 mph. The river gauge downstream is at 10.3 feet and falling. The weather was sunny and pretty close to 60 deg F.
As always, there is a trip map to follow below. This is an east to west trip.
The beginning of this trip highlighted the primary hurdle for kayakers and canoeists; where to park. We were lucky in that we know someone close to our take out location so we had a place to park a vehicle. But the larger problem was how to get the right vehicles in the right locations and all the boats at the starting point.
There was quite a bit of back-and-forth involved.
In setting up this trip, both Denis and I thought that the short run from the Michigan Center dam wouldn't take enough time. So we decided to tack on the run from the DNR ramp off of Napoleon Road. We both thought that the trip from the ramp to the dam would be pretty short.
About 1.6 miles later we knew exactly how wrong we were. But it was a sunny day and our kayaks slipped easily enough through the water. Jamie had brought his canoe and his wrist was really throbbing by the time we got to the portage on 5th Street. Jamie had also brought his electric trolling motor and keeping that thing pointed in the right direction was pretty hard on his wrist!
It was a nice enough start to the trip. A little aerobic exercise never killed anyone. It made me appreciate the river section that much more.
After that straightforward paddle came our portage from the lake to the river at 5th Street. That part of Center is always pretty busy. After dodging a few cars, we managed the two trips it took to get all our gear over near the river.
The water was coming over the dam hard and fast. The river was pretty smooth down by our second launching point, but it was also moving very quickly.
A small confession; I am in good shape....if you think 'round' is a good shape. A few too many years away from regular exercise combined with a desk job and I think you get the general idea.
Any time I slip into fast water, I am just a bit concerned that the margin between what I am capable of doing and what I am going to be required to do might run a bit thin. I'm not quite as flexible as I once was either. So I've always got that little voice in the back of my head asking "are you sure you can get out of this next mess once you are in it?"
I hate that little voice. It's right way too often.
I mention that because the river just below the dam is moving pretty quickly. Back paddling isn't an easy task. And there are a couple of trees that make paddling pretty "interesting".
Fortunately, our Rivermaster Denis was along for this trip. He really enjoys finding his way through/over/around/under trees and brush. He really has a good knack for leading the way.
I did the smart thing and let him go first.
After the initial rush through the trees, we lazily paddled our way through the marsh behind Adco Products. There the muskrats were having some sort of party as we spotted several noses crisscrossing in the water ahead of us.
At one point we paddled directly over some sort of large fish. It took off at a mad pace. We watched the pressure wave traveling ahead of it on the surface as it dashed away from our boats. Eventually it found some weeds in a shallow area as the pressure wave transformed into a line of bubbles that traced its path in the surface of the water.
Eventually we came to the old dam that is at the end of the marsh. The dam is marked with one of the blue dots.
I had talked to other kayakers that had gone over the dam. It was less than a 12 inch drop and the water wasn't terribly deep. But dams can be perilous and the water is still pretty cold.
We opted to do a quick portage over the wall to the left of the opening in the dam. The wall is mostly old concrete, cement, large stone, and other debris. Water runs freely through it. Some day in the near future it is going to fail.
We paddled on from the dam and just enjoyed the scenery. Considering the many industrial sites that line the north edge of the river, it looks pretty good back there. Not great. Just pretty good.
The river is full of submerged trees. We were constantly surprised by limbs that suddenly scraped along the bottoms of our boats.
After a bit of easy paddling, we passed under Falahee Road and traveled alongside the old Clark Equipment plant. That was where we found our next and last serious obstacle.
A tree had fallen. The root ball had come right out of the ground. The entire river is blocked with the limbs and tree trunk. We tried a little hand sawing to create a path, but there was no good way through.
Denis led us to the left side where we all got stuck in the mud. He got through with an imitation of the gondola men of Venice combined with the kayaker's butt scootin' boogie.
I wasn't so lucky. After I noticed that my paddle wasn't really sinking into the muck, I decided to stand up and just drag my kayak forward until it was in clean water. I got back in a little too soon.
Just about then, Jamie slid his canoe up through the shallow water. I swear that thing only needs about an inch and a half of water. I gave his canoe a few pulls and he sailed right on by. He then did me the same favor by giving my boat a couple quick pulls. That teamwork thing still works wonders.
We were all back in clear water.
A little more uneventful paddling and we found ourselves behind Dawn foods at a little park that they have set up by the river. We pulled our gear from the river, picked up the truck we had parked nearby and made our way back to the starting point.
An easy trip, pleasant weather, and great friends to share it all. What a great evening.
Until the next time....
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