The Huron River, a bending, twisting water trail, starts in Commerce Township and ends in Lake Erie. You can paddle the entire 104 mile route, not in one day, of course, or tackle a section at a time. We did about 6 miles of it, starting at Barton Nature Area, winding through Ann Arbor with glimpses of the arboretum, the VA Hospital, apartment buildings and homes, and ending just past the Gallup Park canoe livery.
The Barton Nature area has a two-track down to a dock so it’s convenient to launch from this spot. There are also a few picnic tables and a port-a-potty which makes it popular with families tubing and rafting. We maneuvered the Ford Flex Adventure Wagon down near the dock and unloaded our tandem kayak, also known as the marriage tester, and then parked the car up in the lot. At the spot we put in, the river is pretty wide and deep, with scenic views and not too much traffic.
It was a beautiful day and easy paddling, especially at the top. As we approached the Argo Canoe Livery launch site, it got a lot busier with first-time canoeists and a horde of youngsters out tubing with beer floaties. We had to employ our advanced paddling and swearing techniques to avoid collisions as we approached the cascades, a series of rapids, pools and rock chutes, just after the Argo launch site. Dodging tubers was the toughest part of this, although we did end up swamping the kayak after the last rapid so we pulled off to the bank to dump and have a snack and a cold beverage.
I wish I had kept a shoe/flip flop count at the start of the paddle because I spotted lone footwear floating and caught up in brush all along the river. Easily 10-15 people went home that day with one shoe. Or maybe no shoes.
Despite our afternoon start, we still encountered a little bit of wildlife, in addition to college students. I’d like to go out really early someday and see what animals we might spot.
We also had to perform a water rescue on a couple boys who purposely tipped their kayak and then discovered the water was over their heads. Luckily, another guy came over to help and we were able to get the kayak upright and boys back inside. Although they had life jackets, they were not wearing them properly and it could have ended poorly for them. WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKETS, PEOPLE.
The river gets pretty shallow at some points and people took advantage of that to get out and wade around or picnic on the bank. It took some maneuvering to avoid scraping bottom. As we approached the Gallup Park area, the river widens out considerably and the wind picks up. This area has a lot of lily pads and weedy stuff and it was difficult to paddle unless you found a clean lane. It was also a lot windier here. We explored a little bit, then found our way to the dock to unload.
I waited with the kayak along the Gallup Park walkway while the Singer took an Uber back up to Barton Park to fetch the Adventure Wagon. All told, our trip was about 4 hours. After we loaded the kayak on the car and changed clothes, we headed in to Ann Arbor for part two of our adventure.
Michigan has so many great places to paddle, and a lot of them are within an hour’s drive from the Detroit area. I’ve found Riverside Kayak to be a great resource, and I also use these websites to scout locations and plan trips. If you go out, bring lots of sunblock and drinking water, wear your life jacket, and secure all footwear. Check out these links for some places in Michigan to try out.