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Traverse Area Paddle Club

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Trip Reports

August 18 Sturgeon River

Mariah Walton | Published on 8/18/2021

Sturgeon River Trip Report (2021-08-18)

The trip so popular it attracted members as far away as Ireland (the country), Holland (the city, but let’s pretend country), Ludington, Las Cruces NM, and Park City UT, in addition to the more "local"(totally not mundane) Traverse Citiers

Roll Call:
John (Heiam)
John (Walton) & Piper the dog
Mike R
Mitch E

Hello Traverse Area paddlers,

I have made the crossing from the green shores of Ireland to the green woods of Michigan to give you this report (I know you’ve been waiting years for it). The Sturgeon is cemented in my heart as a fun river full of trash - er, I mean, a very fun river for a trash clean up. This was not a cleanup, but it was fun.

We put in at Lumberjack Park in Wolverine, taking out at Fisher Woods Rd, with a lunch break at Rondo Road. The Sturgeon, if you’ve not experienced it, is fast and winding, with some rapids in the first half, and countless large log jams and eddies in the lower section. It has seen many a dump by our club through the years, from practical jokes ("grab the rope!") to boats turning into an eddy to slam against a log….a pattern worth maintaining, don’t you think? I believe I did say the trip was "fun"…

It was just an hour into the paddle when John H. heard it - the shrill call of a whistle! One…Two… Two whistle peals is, of course, the standard call for…absolutely nothing, which is how John knew it was serious. If the caller hadn’t even had time for the third -

The "anonymous" kayaker *ahem* (wait a minute, wasn’t Jocelyn taking photos all day?) struck a rock, causing their boat to turn and capsize. They were heard to have said, as they sank into the water, "It’s colder than Hell!" Now, I must point out, that while our weather that day was not the blistering heat forecasted, it was plenty warm, with full sun and only a light breeze, and in order for Hell to be frozen, we’re going to have to work a lot harder at our carbon reduction climate policies….but I suppose one cannot criticize exclamations made in the "heat" of the moment. Rescue was efficient and plentiful, with big thanks to Wayne, John H, and Mike. Jocelyn documented the event.  
No boats, water bottles, paddles, or towels were lost, only time and ego, of which most of us have more than a bit to spare.

John, having had enough entertainment riding the caboose, moved to the front to demonstrate the easiest route through some of the Sturgeon’s many obstacles, with Lois kindly moving into sweep. A high-pressure job which, I can say, mostly consisted of gossiping with the author of this trip report (don’t worry, we weren’t talking about you, dear readers. As far as you know).

Mitch, Mike, and Jocelyn seem to have misread the trip posting - I think I said this wasn’t a cleanup? - proceeding to compete for amount of trash collected; each had a sizeable bag of cans and whatnot by the takeout. I admire their efforts (and I suspect I will see you on the Pine??) I, myself, was too busy looking for Petoskeys (those rock bars are a gold mine) to pick up anything but a doggie ball for the beast, Piper. Someone has to keep her running back and forth ad nauseum for the entertainment of everyone present, right? Right?

It was a pleasure meeting new paddlers and revisiting the old - thank you John & Lois for hosting me, and thank you TAPC for being your usual awesome. Jocelyn is going to share with us some of the amazing photos she took of us hitting going under the bridge? I recommend shooting her a note for a signed copy 😉.

Special thanks go to Kat for her car spot (I understand you have a fabulous vehicle - 5 stars on Uber), and thank you Wayne and John & Lois for hauling the extra boats.

All the best,


Photos by Jocelyn & John
Lois near the beginning

Kat, one of the 3 "Sturgeon virgins"

Mitch was new to the river as well, and had driven up from Holland!

Newbie #3, Wayne, came from Ludington

Jocelyn left the launch area early so she could set herself up for all these photos taken from above the bridge - see her in the red shirt?

The hordes of paddlers approaching the bridge

John W never got the lesson of "always keep your paddle in the water for best control". 
Piper doesn't care.

His daughter Mariah knows proper technique, even though she hasn't kayaked much since moving to Ireland; doesn't she look cool in John H's mango Inuit?

John H really likes to wear his lime green TAPC shirt so he matches his kayak.  Notice: his paddle blade is in the water.

Lois got to travel light since John was carrying the lunch and Mariah had the chairs

A bit of rescue action orchestrated by Mike R and John H.    Meanwhile, Wayne was downstream emptying the kayak.  A word of advice; if you have an inflatable PFD, you need to pull the cord when you need it.

Mike zooming under another bridge

Mike took this shot from the bike trail at the Rondo access.  Wayne is up on the canoe slide (hidden by foliage), and Mitch is at the base of it.  John W grabbed the bench, and the rest of us are lined up for a seating chart on the platform: Mariah, John H, Lois, Kat, Roseanne, Jocelyn

Nice colors heading downstream

Photos of wildflowers by Jocelyn