Thornapple River - Middleville to Parmalee Road March 9, 2013

A bit of a different kayak trip today. I was hoping to get on another river while there was still snow on the ground, so I contacted Michal Ann to see if the Thornapple River was clear of ice. She said it was, but there was another reason to go down it this weekend. A mentally impaired young man has been missing for over a week in Middleville, and without his medication they were fearing the worst. Hundreds of volunteers would be searching on foot and atvs in the woods and a couple of planes from the air on Saturday, but the sheriff's department didn't have the resources to search the river in the winter. Michal Ann's husband is a volunteer with the sheriff department, and since some of us had winter kayaking experience, we were asked to help with the search.
We had only five paddlers since we had such short notice. And several of the regular winter paddlers were out of town on business, while others were at Canoecopia in Wisconsin. We decided to split up, with Mike and his son and Kirtus putting in at Irving Road to search the stretch above the dam, and Michal Ann and I searching the stretch below the dam to Parmalee Road.
I got off to an embarrassing start, doing a seal launch before realizing my paddle was no longer strapped to my kayak and was lying on the bank. Michal Ann hadn't launched yet, but I was about 100 yards downstream before she was able to catch up with me. I had dropped my paddle leash on the ground by my car as I learned when we got off the river.
Everything went smoothly after that. It was an overcast day with temperatures in the low 40's, and a few sprinkles of rain here and there. The current was good, and there were very few trees in the water to cause any problems. That was good, since we had to spend so much time searching the banks and brush piles. The other group wasn't as lucky, as there were a lot more obstacles for them.
There were a lot of ice shelves on the banks, giving an indication of how high the river had been earlier in the winter. The large amount of rain in late January followed by the cold weather that has persisted since then left the ice three to five feet above the river.

The neighborhood gargoyle watching over the river.
We scared up several deer bedding along the river, and startled lots of ducks and geese. A hawk kept flying ahead of us, and of course there were the ever-present kingfishers and blue herons.

There were a lot of bogs where a person could have easily fallen in, especially at night. But they were still covered in ice, so we were unable to search them. We did check several of them as much as we could to see if there were any holes in the ice.
There was no sign of the missing man by either group or the volunteers on land. Hopefully he will be found safe, but after a week with the cold temperatures we've had at night, chances were rapidly dimming. Pray for the family that they may at least have closure.

Today's paddle: 4.95 miles. Year to date: 42.8 miles.

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