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I have been wanting to paddle the Clinton River for ages now, and after moving to Mt. Clemens with the thing practically in my back yard, I figured it was time. With an Old Town Canoe on loan from a friend, my girlfriend and I decided to do up America's birthday in a big fashion and paddle on the 4th of July from Yates Cidermill at 23 and Dequinder all the way down to Shady Side park in Mt. Clemens. A huge stretch of river no doubt, but we figured we had the whole day ahead of us and thought we'd get an early start on things. How bad could it be?
Upon dropping in at Yates, we instantly noticed the river was much quicker than we had anticipated. The water levels were pretty high, and there were many tight turns and mild rapids just moments after dropping in. It wasn't anything that we couldn't handle, but it was just slightly more intense than we had planned, what with our cooler filled with beers galore.
Only 20 minutes into what would be a long, long day, we ran into a downed tree and the boat turned sideways, tipping slightly and filling up quite quickly with water. We both got dumped out and had to drag it ashore to turn it over and clear it out again. Okay, so the first spill was out of the way, how could it get any worse?
We had planned on stopping in Utica for some lunch, and after a pretty entertaining stretch of river (Yates to Utica) with lots of turns and great great scenery, we thought we had arrived at the park, seeing as how we had just passed under M59. The left side of the river had some park benches and picnic tables, but the river side was filled with huge bolder rocks. I figured we could just paddle up and climb out on the rocks, but wrong again! Boat flips as she tries to get out, and we loose a ton more gear. Oh s*@t! Get back in the boat and a guy from land tells us the pull out park for canoes is just down the river a little bit, so we drift down and sure enough there is the most beautiful pull out that we should have used instead of those stupid rocks, DOH!
So okay, up to this point all the flipping over and mayhem had pretty much been our own fault and not really the rivers' doing, and that wasn't so bad really, but what lay ahead was just insane.
I had called the Clinton River Canoe/Kayak rental place to inquire about trip lengths and times, and they informed me that it was possible to go from Yates to Mt. Clemens, or so I remember hearing... Turns out it was not really the case.
After Utica, we noticed we didn't see any other canoers or kayakers anywhere, and then we made a big sweeping turn to find the first of many, many nightmare log jams. I'm talking big ole suckers with logs jammed up for 50 feet or more. The first one was a bit surreal, just coming to a stop and knowing we'd have to pull this boat up and over the many many loose and dangerous logs, which were just floating on the water and once you step foot on one, it sinks down and you find yourself submerged in pond scum and fast moving water-- nightmare!!!
For the next 5 hours or so, we literally got in and out of that damn boat at least 30 times. So many log jams that I just lost count. We tried to cut across a small stretch of land in hopes of cutting out two log jams in sight, but ended up running through a horrible patch of poison ivy, which left a horrible reminder of that treacherous day for the next few weeks.
Knowing full well that this day would be an epic adventure, one in which we might not have the energy or time to complete in its entirety, we left a "back up" car at Budd Park, just incase the river got the best of us. Well we started our trip around 11 am, and arrived at our "back up car" at 9:30pm, soaking wet, totally exhausted, and just a little shaken up.
I now know that for all kayaking and canoeing purposes, the stretch of river from Utica down to Budd Park is just completely out of the question. The amount of times you have to get out and carry your boat over some very questionable logs just totally out weights the ride itself. While the surrounding scenery was amazing, and we didn't see a single building the entire time, the log jams really ruined it for us. Oh well, you live and you learn!
P.S. I went back to Budd Park with the same canoe and a different friend (my girlfriend refused to get back in that boat after that day, can you blame her?!) the stretch from Budd all the way down to Shady Side in Mt. Clemens is really nice. Easy going pace with no real sharp turns to worry about, and not a single log jam in sight!!!
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