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Traverse Area Paddle Club

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Trip Reports

Aug 29- Pigeon River Old Vanderbilt Road to Campground

Ron Coyne  | Published on 8/29/2020
Pigeon River - Old Vanderbilt Road to Pigeon River State Forest Campground

Interesting, Beautiful, Remote and a little more exciting the expected 

Flow 85 cfs  Gage 2.3 feet

Participants- Jocelyn, Mike Rodenberg, Henry, Roseanne, Marlene, Glenn, Lambert Adams, Jackie and me Ron.

3- I was making breakfast for us and Jackie and Glenn loaded my boat, Jackie said my bulkhead was loose. I'll call the boat manufacturer and see how to fix it next week

2- Portage, Portage ???

1- At the put in there was about 3 inches of water above a nice flat rock to step on to ease getting in

Okay we're off to explore a section of river none of us had never done before

1- Why mention water height  
6 inches higher and you won't make it under many of the low lying trees and a couple of bridges, 6 inches lower and you're in for bottom dragging and walking.

2- Portage


At the site of the Old Lansing Club Pond you'll make a right turn and a left turn is ahead a couple hundred feet take the branch to your left halfway between the and stay left at every fork


Mike navigating the left branch


We found a nice little island just below the Sturgeon River Road bridge to have lunch at


From here to the take out is where the current picks up and things get a little hairy. I was with Bert and he said man it sounds like a waterfall up ahead. I could partially see over the tree blocking all but a 5 foot opening to my left and could see the river had a drop. So I proceeded to paddle down to investigate it and promptly got shot down a raging chute the pinned my boat between a stump at the bow and tree at my stern. I leaned downstream  for all I was worth but the current rolled my boat upstream and shot me out like a rag doll. Now underwater my pfd pushes me toward the surface and my head into the cockpit of my overturned boat. I remeber Michael Gray ACA Instructor saying there is a pocket of air in the cockpit of an upside down boat. I take a breath and manage to push my self under the boat and come out on the downstream side of it. Next task is dislodging an upside down boat which the rushing current has created a vacuum pulling the cockpit down. After getting it free and upright my paddle hits me across the legs and I was able to grab it. Now hanging on to my paddle and boat for dear life my shins are being drug across a gravel bar, I finally make it into an eddy and get on shore only to look back and see Glenn helping Bert out of the same spot I got lodged in. Bert is a laid back guy who is very strong with good paddling skills and somehow managed to stay upright. 

2- Portage??  
PORTAGE !!!!!


Above-The tree and stump that dumped me the rest are portaging to the right
Below- Bert eddies after getting out of the mess


3- After emptying the water out of my cockpit the boat was still very heavy due to 10 gallons of water in my hatch that came through the loose bulkhead


Paddle fast and go through the center tube



That's where the river went before the dam breached

The takeout is just after these tubes. Get out above the drop on the other side or paddle like hell to the left after the drop because the swift current shallows up very fast and you'll be swept 50 to 75 yards past the take out before you can eddy out and catch a tow back upstream.



ERROR 1- Staying in my boat to investigate what I could not clearly see from a safe distance and getting into a mess.

ERROR 2- After running Chipmunk falls a considerably higher drop but that spanned the entire river I did not take into consideration how fast the current from a 40 foot wide river would be when pushed through a 5 foot chute that dropped 2 to 3 feet with a 90 degree turn in the middle of it.

I dearly thank everyone on the trip for helping myself and each other out and preventing what could of been a disaster into a great adventure of a paddle.

Normally I cringe at writing a trip report. I'm setting here bruised, battered sore an damn glad to be here to write this one. Lesson learned. I have a new slogan I will use and hope others in the lead position do also.

IF THERE IS A SHADOW OF DOUBT ABOUT IT GET OUT OF YOUR BOAT AND SCOUT IT