Kalamazoo River, South Branch
September 26-27-28, 2014



Kalamazoo River

Friday the 26th, Steve and Jock Pulled into Tom's driveway and stretched their legs for a couple minutes. By 9:30 am we were headed for the Kalamazoo River. It was a foggy drive up for those guys and also up till we were near our destination, the Twin Pines Campground and canoe livery. The sun came out and the day looked great.

We were still setting up camp when Liz and Coleen pulled in so the five of us continued setting up camp and did manage to erect Tom's not so "easy up" canopy. Lunch followed soon after. It was well in the afternoon when we finally got moving toward the river. We put in at the Goose Lake Road Bridge and paddled upstream with five solo boats. Jock had his poke boat, Coleen had her brand new Mad River canoe, Liz had her Swift with the wooden gunnels and Steve and I had our homebuilt cedar canoes. After nearly one and a half hours of going upstream we decided it was time to turn around. We were amazed at how clean and clear the water was. It was a small river up in this area, maybe 10 to 25 feet wide with a channel that seemed to be anything from two to possibly 12 feet deep. The weather was all we can hope for, sunny, warm and not to breezy.

The river in the area we paddled was mostly sand bottom with silt and weed beds with the occasional lily pads and very few obstructions. The banks of the river were nearly nonexistent because a lot of the area is swamp and low land drainage. We did not see much in the way of wildlife that day but did hear someone's dog chasing rabbits near the river. The dog apparently didn't care if the hunting season is on or not.


On our way back downstream, we wondered how close the next road bridge would have been had we went further upstream. Guesses were made at 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. We found out the following day that it was halfway. We loaded up the boats and went back to Twins Pines since it was already close to 5:00 pm. Steve got in touch with Wil and found he was getting close to arriving so we got the campfire just right for roasting ears of sweet corn and got several quarts of Steve's chili heating up. Wil, his son Joe and grandsons Sebastian and Carter pulled in and sat up their camp, with member Chuck doing the same shortly after. Wil proceeded to make yellow cornbread, good stuff to go along with chili. After our bellies were all very happy we had much conversation and relaxation around the fire. We were very curious about the musical apparatus that Wil brought into camp. Suddenly a stranger appeared in camp and stated, "It is time to square up." We all wondered just what might be needed to do this but he didn't appear to have any weapons. We asked who he is and what he was about. As it turned out this fellow was the campgrounds owner's son who does not seem to understand that there are things like social skills. We sent him packing off with no more than information overload, so he returned later and informed us that we could pay our fees in the late morning. We didn't have to wait much longer to find out about Wil's musical, Jumping Jimmy, leaning against the tree. Joe got out his guitar and sang some pretty good songs for us and Wil was the percussion group with his Jumping jimmy ensemble. We really enjoyed the singing and music. Everyone continued sitting around the fire and enjoying each other's company until late.

The next morning everyone was rounding up breakfast and getting ready to go when in pulled Lance with his canoe. He was in plenty of time for the shuttle since we were leaving late so as to pay our fees to "Ranger Joe." He informed us that we needed to change our route to their five hour trip from Mosherville Road back to camp. We were not on the water till nearly 11:00 am and the river looked quite innocent to start, but in only five minutes we started encountering logs above and below water. Luckily that only lasted about half an hour then we had clear paddling. We had a slow current and lots of sunshine. We stopped at Goose Lake Road for lunch along the river or the road as you would have it. We encountered a couple guys fishing from a john boat which had to be tough to get downstream and also a couple of people who seemed to be piddling instead of paddling. Someone saw a muskrat or beaver along the river and lots of beaver sign along the banks. We also saw some ducks on Saturday but not much else in the way of wildlife, but then there were also other people on the river ahead of us. We had eight boats on the river Saturday.


After we returned to the campground/livery, Liz talked to the owner and told him how long we spent paddling that day. He raised his "Ranger" eyebrows in surprise. We got settled down in camp around 6:30 and had our fiesta with too many food items to list or remember. However Miss Deborah's (Jocks wife) orange cookies and Wil's pumpkin desert where hits. All of us went to our tents at least half an hour earlier than Friday night due to the long day. Liz had to leave after dinner due to other obligations. She was lucky to have not gone along with Chuck, Coleen, Steve and Tom (myself) on Sunday.

We were on the water by 10:30 am Sunday morning and once again the water looked innocent, but hardly five minutes into it and we were in the thick of it. I would have to guess that 75% of the obstructions we were able to work through without getting out of the boats. We had to do a lot of crazy maneuvers as I know I went through a few spots backwards because of lack of turning space. We had 2.5 hours of really tough traveling to get to our 2 hour clear paddle, bringing us into the village of Homer.

I thought I never saw a prettier sight than that of Jock standing along the riverbank telling us we only had a couple hundred yards to go. Jock was very patiently waiting at the Grist Mill Park in Homer for us. He already knew that we were in for a rough time because he had talked to a kayaker at the park who told him what we were up against. He also found out that if we had done the planned route from Homer to Albion, Michigan, we would have had 10 miles of clear paddling. Oh Well!! We pulled our boats out before the Homer dam and got them close to the trailer before we all collapsed. We ate our very late lunch which was long forgotten while negotiating the chaos in the river and once we cleared the mess we just felt like putting distance between it and us.

So we got back to camp and proceeded to pack up and all headed for home from a very memorable experience. Remember The Kalamazoo!!!

...Tom Burger...


View All Pictures From the Kalamazoo River