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Traverse Area Paddle Club

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Trip Reports

August 8 Upper Manistee

Cyndi Dickey  | Published on 8/8/2020
Trip report by Cyndi

Upper Manistee River Challenges Surmounted by TAPC Group on 8/08/20


The northern reaches of the Manistee River were successfully explored by a rugged group of paddlers from the TAPC. The group was headed by Lois Goldstein and included John Heiam, Marlene Puska, Terry & Cyndi Dickey, Linda Pelkey, Henry Eckhardt, JocelynTrepte, Mike Rodenberg, and Gail Hastings. The ground crew who ran shuttles for group also included Marv Puska.

The group faced the challenges of reaching this remote location, navigating this barely navigable headwater stream, and inclement weather.

The rewards for this group were a peek back in time to what the pine forest looked like before the loggers came and built the ghost town of Deward, a pristine river flowing thru pine, then deciduous forests.  Remnants of its logging past were seen along the way: concrete building remains, submerged docks, old pilings. Thirteen varieties of wildflowers bloomed.  Many tree stumps still standing in the river had become lovely little islands containing miniature wildflower gardens.

There was an abundance of wild, natural beauty to distract one's gaze away from the tight turns, above- and below-water obstacles, and sandy shallow spots. I used every paddling maneuver that I knew, and maybe invented a few I may never use again! Once my kayak was straddled like a bridge over TWO submerged logs. I think I got off with help from a fellow paddler, I'm not sure!  A few fishermen shared the river as we silently passed by.  Navigating through the maze took steady concentration on the route ahead. The water was not deep, nor fast, yet there was little time for conversation. We saw three beaver dams and Lois guided us we slid over one of them.  It created a little anxiety during the approach, but everyone made it safely to the downstream side. One wonders what the beavers thought!?


We stopped for lunch at the Deward access. This was a surprise 80th birthday celebration for Jocelyn. We enjoyed carrot cake with an icing photo of her on top. She opened and read the many birthday cards she received. Everyone enjoyed celebrating with her. The last piece of cake, containing a photo of Jocelyn's head, was saved for Marv! His generous help with the car shuttles is certainly appreciated! 


After lunch, the weather deteriorated and presented our third big challenge. It was sprinkling rain and we "sort of" prepared as we set out.  Eventually, a fog formed over the river (old loggers' ghosts?), and it began to pour.  It also got windy, the cloud cover thickened,  and it started thundering.  Some lightning flickers were seen, but no bolts.  Many in the group gathered under Cameron Bridge to consider the next course of action.   the consensus was to proceed to the end where our vehicles awaited.  We then were into an area with some cabins along the banks, and a few very wet and cold tubers.  One group in particular tugged at our hearts.  A man was pulling a 2nd tube with a woman trying to shield a very young child.  All were soaked, cold, and totally unprepared.  Three in our group eddied out to give them a trash bag for rain protection, and some spare clothing to warm the woman and child. They were very appreciative! There were many empathetic "grandparents" in our paddling group!

We all eventually reached our take-out point and hurriedly loaded the boats, posed for photos showing us as drowned rats, and got into our cars. 


The long day provided lots of beautiful memories with friends, improved paddling skills, knowlege of local history, a little botany. I learned more about preparedness to help myself and others. I also paddled with Gail, who 15 years ago, invited me for my very first kayak experience.  I never would have imagined this kind of adventure in my future!

Thanks to John and Lois for instruction and trip planning, to Marv for shuttling us, all the friends (and my husband) who paddle with me and look out for each other. 'Til next time! Cyndi D. 

Photos by John, Jocelyn and Mike

What are they looking at?

The goldenrod crab spider which is very well hidden by his color

Lois tests the water

Jocelyn just downstream from the put in


John shows the way past some hidden obstructions

Mike waits for Gail to get by the obstruction

John makes his way through the downed trees

Taking out at the lunch spot

Putting Jocelyn's birthday cake in a place of honor

The birthday girl

The rain starts in earnest.

Hey, it's not raining under the bridge!

Can you smile through adversity?

We made it! Get in the car, and turn on the heater!