Au Sable River Stephans Bridge to McMasters Bridge Aug 17, 2013

The Au Sable River. Famous for its trout fishing. Home of the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon, a 100+ mile canoe race, the second leg of the canoeing triple crown. The first river I kayaked on, still the river I've paddled most often. And still one of my favorite places to paddle.
After camping at Paddle Brave campground with an overnight temperature in the mid 40's, it turned into a beautiful mid 70 degree day with mostly clear skies. The water was as clear as I have ever seen it.
The fish were feeding on the river. Too bad there were only a few people fishing. More room for us though.
Some friends of my wife moved up here about eight years ago, about 1/2 mile from the river, and we would visit a couple times a year. Whenever we did we would borrow their kayaks and head for the river. We all grew to love it here, but rarely get up here anymore since our friends' health is declining and they can't accommodate us as well. I had planned a camping trip up here with one of my groups, and my kids decided to tag along with their spouses to paddle it on their own, opting to stay at a hotel instead. They did end up paddling the same stretch as us, about an hour ahead of our group.
There are quite a few cottages along the river, so there is not as much forest as other rivers. But they are mostly well maintained and not overly crowded. There is still plenty of solitude to be found.
The river is fairly shallow for the most part. Its clear water, fallen trees, and a stoney bottom provides great habitat for trout.

We put in at Stephans Bridge where most of the canoe liveries take out, so there were only a few other kayaks and canoes on this stretch of the river. Closer to Grayling it can get rather crowded on the weekends.

Some leaves were already starting to turn color, seeming to warn of the approach of colder weather. The cool summer we have had probably is speeding it along.

Wakeley Bridge. Time to stop for lunch.
Rodney brought his hammock to relax on at lunch break.

A family of geese swimming in the river, not too happy to be disturbed by our presence.

The local bra tree, donations always accepted. No one from our party donated, though.
A Cooper's hawk didn't like our presence much either, screeching from the treetops as we took a short break at Conners Flat Landing.

Another great day, followed be dinner at our friends house. I have missed this river. Hope to return soon.

Miles paddled today:12.3 Year to date:191.2

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UP Trip 2013 Day 4

Tahquamenon River Lower Falls Aug 2, 2013

Thursday we paddled below the Lower Falls of the Tahquamenon River. After some debate on what to do, eight of us drove to John's cabin in Eckerman to pay him a visit. Originally our trip was to center around his cabin, but when everyone from the original group except Dennis, Sally and I dropped out, plans were changed. We felt guilty leaving him out of the week, so we drove the two hours to see him.
The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is about forty-five minutes from his cabin, so it was a short drive after lunch to reach the river.
John said there wasn't much current in the river, so we planned to paddle up to the falls, then downstream for a ways, and then back to the put-in off the campground. He didn't realize that the heavy rains for the last few days put the river well above normal.
Dennis and I were the only ones who wanted to paddle. Everyone else planned to explore the falls on the footpaths along the river. We noticed as soon as we got to the water that there appeared to be a good swift current. A couple in a canoe was landing as we were launching, and confirmed that the current was indeed quite strong. As soon as we entered the main channel we realized just how strong it was.
It took fifteen minutes of hard paddling to make it the quarter mile to the base of the falls. Once we got to the base of the falls it was actually more manageable. We decided to go to the island in the river to get a better view of the falls.
The trail around the island by the lower falls. Much of the falls can only be seen from the island and can only be reached by boat, either a rental or by kayak. 

This area of the falls cannot be seen from the main trails along the river. We were beginning to understand just how high the water was.
It had been some fifteen years since I had been here, and Dennis used to live in the area. Neither of us remember seeing the water so high. Later the workers in the boat rental building confirmed that the water was three feet higher than the previous week.

The falls stretch over several hundred yards with several drops of anywhere from a few feet to as much as fifteen feet.

Some incredibly brave, or maybe stupid, kids were in the river between several of the falls. They were actually more toward the middle of the river moments before. If they had lost their footing on the slippery rocks, they definitely would have had some big trouble.

We returned to our kayaks to explore more from the water. The water was covered with foam from the falls in any area where there wasn't much current.

Dennis paddled up an narrow chute to get above a small island in the river. I followed a little ways behind to make sure he could make it. I wanted to be sure he was out of the current in case he lost it and came back downstream. There wouldn't be enough room for him to get around me so we would both have ended up in the water.

Dennis finds a kayak cart caught on an island in the middle of the river. Looks to be in good shape. No idea where it came from or how long it had been there.
We entered a fast moving channel and rode the current through the small rapids back to the main channel of the river.

Dennis with the kayak cart on the back of his kayak.
We paddled back to the put-in, deciding the current was too strong to try to go further downstream and have to paddle back. It was twelve miles to the mouth of the river, and although both of us were willing to try, it was too late in the day to begin to go such a distance. The river below the falls is quite open and flat, so it would have been at least a six hour paddle. And we couldn't find a take out spot on the map anywhere before the mouth.
We met up with the others and walked the main trails along the river. Afterward we went back to John's cabin for a meal of chili made with beaver meat. Never know what type of meal we are going to have at John's cabin. It does keep it interesting.

Miles paddled today:1.5. Year to date: 178.9.

Friday we woke up to widespread rain in the area. Most of the others were leaving to do some more site seeing at the Soo Locks and the shipwreck museum. Dennis, Sally and I were the only ones who wanted to kayak more, but the weather didn't look too promising. So Dennis left to go visit some friends in the northern Lower Peninsula, and Sally and I decided to head toward home, hoping to be able to find a river to paddle along the way. Heavy rains on the way ruined those plans, so we were back home by mid afternoon. We didn't get in nearly as much kayaking as we had hoped, but with our main goal of paddling Pictured Rocks completed, we at least had some satisfaction of a good trip. We are already planning for next year, with maybe a paddle around Grand Island in the mix, taking a couple of nights for rustic camping on the island.

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