A Mid-Winter Paddle on the Huron River

February 20, 2016

I love paddling in the winter, it is just that usually I do it right after a big snowstorm.  Today brought blue skies and 60 degree temps to Michigan, and that along with the desire to test out my new Whisperbar kayak rack on my Mazda had me pointed north to Brighton and my favorite place to paddle – on the Huron River in Island Lake State Recreation Area.

My day started out in a different direction than planned, as one of our goats had twins – about a week before plan.  I stuck around to make sure all was well and that mom was taking care of her babies, then I was on my way.


The park closes my favorite launching point in the winter, a little two track back to the Huron River Fishing Site (where the canoe is in the top center of the map), and so I needed a plan B.  During the last two times I was at the park, a Friends meeting and scouting out a new trail, it was mentioned that the river is unpassable due to fallen trees between Riverbend and Placeway.  The park would like help finding where those trees are so they can head out by land to trim them back.  With that in mind, I decided to put in at Placeway and paddle upstream, as I like to paddle upstream first and then have an easier paddle back to the car.

Island Lake Map

It was an amazing Michigan day: blue skies, warm temps and a quiet stretch of river.  As always, click on any small picture to see it larger.

My trip took me upstream about 3.5 miles/1.5 hoursto the fishing site, and back down in about an hour to Placeway.  While there was no snow to make the leafless trees more striking, the blue skies and reflections in the water did a pretty nice job of showcasing why it is such a great stretch of the river.

The condition of the river was better than I expected.  While many trees are down, as is the norm in a post emerald ash borer world, none caused me to turn around or exit my kayak.  It is certainly not in a condition for beginners to paddle through, but the stretch from the dam to Riverbend is really the beginner stretch, while Riverbend to Placeway has always had a bit of a wilderness challenge to it.  I personally like it the way it is, but I could live with a little bit of selective trimming here and there to encourage more people to see this part of the river.

I saw 7 other paddlers today, all having a great day.  I think I was the most careful of the bunch, as even though the shallow depth in this stretch reduces the winter risk greatly, I still wore dry pants, paddling boots and synthetic layers up top.  I saw one guy is a full sweat suit – that would not be fun wet -the water is COLD!

Passing by the canoe campgrounds did have me wishing I brought a tent – maybe next time!




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