Thursday, March 29, 2012

Early Season Midwest: March 18th -March 25th

Midwest river flows have been a shocker so far this season. Flows came a month early than normal. It threw off a lot of boaters plans of and made boaters flock to runnable whitewater this past week.

Decker Auto Boof on Manabezo Falls

The north shore river didn't have much of a chance to run. With minimal snow levels and 70 degree weather the snow melted fast.  Last fall we had drought conditions on the North Shore so when winter came, the ice built up on the bottom of the river beds. The snow melted fast and we were left with ice to deal with.

Camp set up at Porcupine State Park over looking Lake Superior, U.P. Michigan

The Lester River in Duluth, Minnesota was a great example of this. Zimny, Heydt, Decker, and Japs paddled the Lester on March 18th. Flows were low but runnable. It was a pretty odd paddling experience though. In the flatwater sections, the entire river bed had a foot of ice pinned to the bottom. The guys were paddling on water above a giant sheet of ice. All the drops were clear of ice, but different rapids had different water levels from the massive sheets of ice pinned to the bottom in spots. You had to run the river like it was your first time. Scouting everything with high caution in the constantly changing river conditions.

Sisley boofing Manabezo Falls

On Monday March 19th, a second group lead by put on the Lester in low water and paddled the last of the water in the Lester.

Things were drastically different on the South Shore of Lake Superior in the U.P. Michigan. The L'anse, Michigan area had excellent whitewater the entire week of March 18th-March 25th. The falls river flowed for a few days, the Silver flowed for a week, and the Sturgeon never came down to boatable levels during that week. Bletch, Crimmins, Japs, Smits, and Sisley enjoyed three days of paddling the Upper and Lower Silver. The first day the level was around 8.6ft. The river dropped about a foot a day after that. There is a new take out for the lower silver thanks to a local. It's a great new take out because it saves you miles and miles of flatwater and you still get the best of the lower silver. Off Dynamite Hill Road go North on Piney, when you see the large Y which is actually a 4 way intersection. Take that right. It turns into a tight one lane road. 4x4 is required all the way to the river. Follow that as far as your vehicle will allow. There is a steep downhill with a deep stream crossing so a scout might be needed. Be prepared for your vehicle to get scratched up.

 Steve Bletch and Steve Smits finding firewood after Paddling the Falls River

Ryan Zimny and Jason Stingl portaging

On the weekend of March 24th-25th the Presque Isle was the river to be at. Boater flocked from all over the Midwest and PNW to get some water.

Upper Peninsula Michigan
Photo: Jonathon Sisley

On Friday Bletch, Sisley, and Japs ran the entire 15 mile section. They pretty much floated/slow paddled the whole way. We put in at 10am and finished at 5pm. The level was 7.25ft which was awesome padding in the class 3 and 4 boogy water in between the large rapids. The long 1/4 mile rapid battleship was a favorite rapid of the day. Just read and run around big holes. They took a 1/2 hour lunch at Stiger Bridge then scouted Nokomis and Triple Drop extensively. Nokomis and Triple Drop looked very stout from shore and intimidating. But flushy at the same time at 7.25ft. They all had decent lines all day with no swims or any major beat downs. After the trip, Bletch said  "That run of the full Presque Isle was a personal highlight of my paddling career."

On Saturday, 3 groups paddled 3 sections of the Presque Isle.

Decker, Zimny, Schidel, Bletch, McConville, Sisley, Hooper, Holton did two laps on the lower.

Everson, Monski, and Charles did the full 15 mile section.

Zimny setting up the boof on the Presque Isle River

Japs, Peter, Techno, Schidel and Stingl hiked into triple drop at 6.75ft water level. They found a new way to hike into to triple drop. They hiked their boats uphill about 3 miles and it took us 1 hour. It's hard to describe the hike but when you get to the confluence of Copper Creek and the Presque Isle you keep following the dirt road alongside the Presque Isle going east (30min) until you get to a deep ravine and a new clear cut area. Follow that ravine towards the Presque Isle and you will arrive just above Triple Drop. And 5 minutes later Midwest Vetrans Everson, Monski, and Charles arrived in the eddy above triple drop. They did the 15 mile section and the timing was impeccable. The two groups paddled a few rapids together and had a good time.

Action on Manabezo Falls on the Presque Isle River near Bessemer, Michigan

The lines were less distinct and the holes at Triple Drop and Nokomis were munchy than the day before at 7.25ft. I found that the lines were harder with less water. And the river way more bony in the class 3 and 4 boogy water.

On Sunday the Black River was the destination.  Zimny, Decker, Bletch, McConville, Sisley, Holton, Hooper, Kehn, Melissa, Jorgenson all put on the Black. The level was 550. Many boaters hucked Patowatomi and walked Gorge Falls. Johnny McConville fired up the whole river. He ran all drops with two runs down Rainbow Falls.

Jason Stingl running Gorge Falls on Black River at 550cfs
Photo: Peter Noren

Patawatomi Falls on Black River: Bessemer, Michigan USA
Photo: Peter Noren

McConville, Sisley, Hooper, Holton running Patawatomi Falls on the Black River, U.P. Michigan 

Jason Stingl solo run of Patawatomi Falls Black River, U.P. Michigan