The South Branch...What Makes It Such A Special Place?
It was a lovely summer day and the wind was still when seven paddlers recently assembled on the banks of the South Branch of the AuSable River. The seven included Emma B., John H., Lois G., Jacqui M., Angie W., Linda W., Bob M. We started at Steckert Bridge and Paddle Brave Canoe Livery handled the shuttle back from Smith Bridge.
Linda, arriving first after driving up from Flint, said this was her first trip of the season and she had had to force herself to “take a day off.” This is what she chose to do for a day of peaceful relaxation.
While paddling, Jacqui said she had an unexpectedly extended stay in her native England last year when the Covid lockdown forced her to stay longer than planned. When restrictions eased a bit, she bought a kayak and paddled on English rivers, but in her estimation the waterways in England do not compare with the beauty of our Michigan rivers. Here, Jacqui’s paddling is both a physical joy and a metaphysical experience.
John shared his experience reading the river by pointing out areas of the shoreline that had suffered from wind shear years ago, when trees had been snapped in half. The damage is still visible today but is hard for untrained eyes to spot through the regrowth.
These folks have reminded me how I have also viewed this river over time. I have paddled this river for over forty years and in all seasons, including winter. I have especially enjoyed it for all the reasons each of the others have - it was forced relaxation when working extra hard. A connection with Nature gives inner peace and healing solitude. Mostly, it’s the timelessness that the South Branch has. It’s a river that hasn’t changed very much over all those years. The cedar sweeps that hang over the shoreline are welcome constants, and there are points of interest along the way, like the Chapel in the Woods and the Durant Castle ruins. This is a fly fisherman’s paradise, and it should be noted that the fly fishermen help maintain the river as the great resource that it is. Conservation organizations like Trout Unlimited and the Anglers of the AuSable have been its caretakers for many years, so we can come and experience its timeless beauty.
Report by Bob Michela
Photo by John
Jacqui, Lois, Angie, Bob, Linda and Emma