How to Bust Brush

This is a river I plan on paddling after the ice breaks out of the lake at the take-out.

I can’t find anybody who’s paddled it. I doubt there are falls or bad rapids, but the only way I have to find out is to try it. None show on the topo.

Two of the shots are where it probably isn’t navigable. The middle shot is just downstream from the put-in where two more branches have combined. I’m concerned that I’ll find lots of downed trees and possibly scrape bottom a lot if I wait too long after the snowmelt. I think it might run too fast for me to paddle it upstream.

Should I try it in a canoe first in case I have to get out and climb over trees a lot? I have a C-2 but I think I would be going solo. I might consider clearing some of the trees if necessary to make future runs more pleasant. does anybody have experience with this and if so, do you have any tips?



First impressions and other thoughts

– Last Updated: Feb-15-06 12:14 AM EST –

Sometimes you can tell a lot about the geology of an area by the lay of the land. These shots are a bit close-in, but in shots #1 through #3, there appears to be a well-established floodplain, and the visible topography, as well as the appearance of the river, suggest sand or sand and gravel. The last two shots appear to be an area that's a bit more rocky, but possibly just boulders and cobbles rather than shallow bedrock, but I can't tell for sure.

In any case, it looks very navigable to me in every shot. Any place the river flows through sand or sand-and-gravel country, you will probably find a channel deep enough for your boat any place you go. It may only be five or six feet wide and tight to the bank (the outside bank on a curve), but it will be there 99 percent of the time. If things get rocky, I'd bet any shallows will be a short riffle followed by a pool. Maybe you'll hang-up in the riffle, but overall I think it looks very doable.

In shot #2, the part of the channel with all those "sand boils" is shallow, but that dark area against one bank is a few to several feet deep. Even in shots #4 and #5, where there are rocky shallows, notice that there's a distinct deep channel right against the bank. I bet you'll find this pattern all the way down the river.

As far as the water being too shallow if you wait too long after snowmelt, I sort of doubt that it will happen that way. I bet that river is almost as low right now as it is during summertime levels, and it looks very runnable right now. Maybe if it were to really drop substantially you'd have a problem, but such a drop would surprise me. See if you can find a USGS river gauge for this area on their water-data website, and look at the long-term trends, as well as the water level at the time you took these photos. If summertime lows are two feet lower than the level when you shot the photos, summer would be a bust, but I doubt it will turn out to be that bad. Anyway, see what you can look up on-line.

It's hard to say about deadfall, but for the wide sandy areas, it looks like you are in the clear, so to speak. For narrower spots, see if you can find the river on this site, and check out the whole length you plan to paddle:

You'll be able to zoom in enough to actually see individual deadfalls, though the photos are probably 5 or 6 years old. Still, it'll give you a good indication of what the whole stretch looks like. Newer sites like Google Earth are way more popular (maybe because of the color photos or the brand name), but what little I've seen of them, they don't provide the detail or magnification that you get with this particular version of Terraserver (I bet there are others just as good, but this is the only one I know with one-meter resolution).

Finally, it looks like paddling upstream would be easy enough right now. During snowmelt might be another story, but as I mentioned earlier, it appears to me that a summertime trip would work, when the current is about like what you see in the photos. In that case, maybe do some scouting trips from each end - upstream and back from you prospective take-out, and downstream and back from where you plan to put-in. Maybe you can scout the whole area between those points, but if not, at least you'll see a lot more river before committing yourself to a one-way, long-distance trip.

It may turn out that I'm totally full of crap, but I've been fascinated with river geology for many years, and have been watching "standard patterns" in river current and structure for much longer, and I'm seldom surprised by what I find after I've taken a cursory look. Anyway, even if I am full of crap, you should have a blast and find plenty of solitude.

Looks very doable
I’d do it first in a canoe I’d bring waders, a saw an a pole. Id work the rivr in sections going upstream and then floating back downstream

Just curious…
…what state?

Try it and see
I look forward to doing stretches of rivers I haven’t done before. From the photos you posted that stream looks plenty wide/deep and very open. Call it an adventure and get on with it. Do it in a canoe.

Fact: For a multitude of practical reasons forest dwelling native people in North America used open canoes. Kayaks evolved in a completely different environment for very different purposes. The ancients knew their environment and how to travel through it efficiently. We should be open to learn from their wisdom.

As far as clearing brush goes, my approach is to do only minimal clearing – just enough to get through that day. Rather than busting my back whacking brush I work my way through, over or around log-jams rather than trying to permanently establish clear paths through brush on streams. Water levels change daily and so do log-jams etc. There’s no point wasting effort clearing what will change anyway. Try to travel through nature gently and respectfully - leaving as few traces as possible.

Enjoy! Randall

Just what I wanted!

I think I’ll start watching it in May and look for it to slow down. I’ve gone over every inch in terraserver, but I can’t tell the leaners from the fallen. I think there are probably a lot of tag alders down, but they won’t be the problem.


It’s in…
… Michigan.

It’s not a real long stretch before it empties into Van Etten Lake and that might be why it doesn’t show up in any guide.

Explore rivers with canoes
–Fact: For a multitude of practical reasons forest dwelling native people in North America used open canoes. Kayaks evolved in a completely different environment for very different purposes. The ancients knew their environment and how to travel through it efficiently. We should be open to learn from their wisdom.–

That’s a very good point. Thank you. I was thinking maybe a recreational kayak wouldn’t scrape bottom as much and would have the maneuvering advantage, but I just couldn’t picture getting out to go around obstructions frequently.

Trimming Brush
I thought the DNR was a bit touchy about trimming brush and cutting tress along most rivers.

Can anyone clear this up for me?

Looks like fun.
I love doing streams this size and smaller. Very intimate, especially when the ice is gone but you’ve got some snow on the ground and in the trees. From the looks of it, there’s not much gradient to be concerned with, therefore you won’t have anything sneek up on you too quick. Don’t do it alone and portage around what you need to. Have fun!

Darn gray areas
I’ll be in a gray area of the law. The river hasn’t been declared navigable, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t meet the criteria. I’m a property owner and I’m not interested in trespassing, but I don’t want to be denied a beautiful stretch of river that meets the criteria simply because nobody has taken it before the courts. I could win a case and that would open the river to public use including fishing.

There’s private property on both sides, usually owned by the same owner. The plat book shows connectors across the stretch I’m interested in, just as it does for a public road where the land on both sides is owned by the same person, but not as it does for a private road or small stream that doesn’t meet the criteria. I’m taking that as an indication that somebody thinks the puplic has a right-of-way, but a landowner may have taken advantage of the lack of a specific declaration of navigability and deliberately dropped a tree into the river to impede me from exercising my right-of-way. I would feel no guilt at cutting a clear path through even a large tree that was felled by a person, but for a naturally fallen tree, I’ll do the minimum required.

I understand that licensed liveries do some cutting on Michigan rivers that have been declared navigable, to maintain the commercial status of the river. I think the DNR, the landowner and I might have an intersting discussion if the landowner doesn’t just shoot me. :smiley:

The criteria is based on the ability to float a log down the river and the river can be declared ‘seasonally navigable’.


But alone is what it’s all about
I want to run it for the solitude. I’m thinking of talking to my wife via radio for the first run. She can stay within a mile and I can use a GPS to ensure that.

Looks Like
the Blackwater River here in NH. Lots of floodplains, nice sandy bottom as well. I’d opt for poling up it in sections or the whole run if possible. With that kind of bottom it looks like a perfect place for a pole. As you go upstream you can tie off and make any cuts you have to to continue. Makes me jealous, I love rivers like that!


Poling might work
I was considering just running downriver in a solo canoe that I would have to buy or borrow. I have a big heavy tandem canoe (actually suitable for three people). It has oar locks, so if I went upstream, I could start out rowing to get up the lake. I might arrive at the river mouth tuckered out, but if I get upriver by either rowing, paddling or poling, at least I can rest on the way down. I hate traveling backwards, but I can do it for a prelimary run.

I have limited experience in general and especially limited experience in poling. I’ve probably only poled about a half mile, but it was in this same canoe. I might have to explore in stages. My wife could meet me at either of the two bridges if I have to pull out prematurely. :wink:

You guys have given me a lot to think about. Thanks.

Cedar Eater