Betsie River May 18, 2013

The upper part of the Betsie River reminded me of the Two Hearted River in the Upper Peninsula with the heavy scent of cedar filling the air. Clouds gave way to sunshine as we launched with temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70s to make it an ideal day.
We had to pass through the culverts under North Manistee County Line Road at the launch site.
This was the first kayak trip since New Years Day with a larger group. We had 19 paddlers show up, although after today some of them may not be kayaking for a while. Even some of the more experienced paddlers were having problems. Kayaking in early spring means a lot of trees down in the water. The livery companies haven't started yet, so no one has been through to clear the river.  But everyone helped each other out and except for a couple of swimmers and a broken paddle, most of us made it through without problems.
We spent a lot of time picking our way through the downfalls with a combination of maneuvering through branches or ramming over logs. There were several portages around some of the bigger blockages, made more challenging by deep fast water and muddy banks. We were able to move some of the logs and cut through some brush to make it easier for the less experienced paddlers.
A strong current kept us moving along at a good pace, at least when there weren't any trees down.
We had to wait several times for some of the paddlers to make it through the tougher sections. There were very few spots where you could land easily and get on shore so we mostly had to wait in our boats.
Much of the river is through national or state forest land, so there are few houses or roads. It made for a nice peaceful day.

The forest floor was carpeted in many areas with hundreds of trillium. We had never seen so many before.

Several areas had whole sections of bank that slid into the water with the trees still firmly rooted in them. The heavy rains earlier this year had done some lasting damage.
Since the river was quite narrow, there wasn't much room to hang around the trouble spots, so that kept everyone spread out throughout the day and we never got a crowded feeling.
There were a lot of redwing blackbirds along the river. Luckily they weren't dive bombing us as they usually do this time of year. Geese and ducks also were prevalent. An eagle at the takeout was about the extent of wildlife we saw. A couple of paddlers claimed to have heard a bear, but no one actually saw it.
 As usual, Carla provided the comic relief for the day. She had left some boiled eggs in the rear hatch of her kayak from last weekend, so needless to say it smelled rather bad when she opened the hatch to look for her lunch. Of course she didn't want to litter, so she threw them back in her kayak. Lucky for her the lunch was behind her seat and not in the hatch. Never a dull moment with her around. But she was very helpful by giving her paddle to the kayaker who broke his. She used the broken paddle like a canoe paddle to finish the day. 

The river did open up a bit as we got closer to the end. There were not as many obstacles so we could relax a little and enjoy the day a little more.
The leaves were slow to come out this year because of the cold weather, so they were not quite fully out yet.
Overall it was a great river to paddle with just the right amount of challenges and some lazy, laid back float time. We will have to do this river again soon. 

With all the obstacles to go around, it did make for a longer than expected day. A 12 mile run that normally would take three to three and a half hours took five plus hours. If we hadn't known there was a dam at the take-out, we would have thought we missed it. As usual we hated to see it end. But it did make for a wonderful day, at least for those of us who didn't suffer from any major problems.

A stop at a local restaurant afterward for food, drinks and great conversation with some old and some new friends made for a perfect start to the summer paddling season.

Miles paddles today: 12.8. Year to date: 108.9 miles.

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