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We pulled in Friday night to PaddleBrave Canoe livery. The owners were extremely friendly and a reservation is not necessary in the fall. They spotted my car for me ($25 if you go with, $40 if they do it alone) at the end of my trip. I got a late start, about 9:30 a.m. starting from the livery, but I still seemed to be the only one on the river. I saw maybe a dozen fly fisher people, but no other boats, and very few people on the banks.
The first hour from the canoe livery/Steckert Bridge is inhabited. We were greeted early on by a riverside Pug who wanted us to pull over and party. Contrary to my own Pug's wishes, we paddled on. Most of the homes appeared to be cottages or weekend places as there was not much sign of life anywhere. Lots of places for sale, though.
After the Chase Road bridge one enters the Mason Tract, land left to the State of Michigan by the heirs of the founders of General Motors, to be left to return to its most natural state. It is said to be world class trout fishing waters and it proved to be an excellent paddle. From the Chase Bridge it is approximately another three hours to Smith Bridge, my take out point. Three hours of solitude and autumn splendor.
We saw several beaver lodges and one awesome beaver dam, trout, osprey, grouse, and I swear I heard a Kirtland's warbler toward the end. I was disappointed in not seeing more wildlife, but I think that was mostly due to our late start and the dog's noise.
It was an awesome day, the weather was unbelievable, the dogs behaved pretty well and I had a blast. I highly recommend Paddle Brave Canoe Livery and totally recommend the Mason Tract as a paddle destination.
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