upper peninsula

Paddling the Montreal River Canyon, at last!!

Ever since learning about this amazing canyon from a close friend a few years ago I've wanted to explore it! The Montreal River forms the border of Michigan and Wisconsin for many miles and below Saxon Falls it runs through a deep canyon.

Andy and I got a taste for the place earlier in the summer as we hiked to the put in to scout things out and to explore the impressive Saxon Falls.

With only 2 fingers of the falls we were seeing very low water, which was fine since we didn't have plans to run it on that day. When free time and water levels lined up during mid-Fall, we had to go!

With a whitewater raft, kayak, and canoe, we really embodied the attitude that you can paddle whatever you like. One Love, One River! Check it out:

This paddle was everything we could have wanted and then some! The views don't even make sense.

This is a very scenic and remote canyon, once you are on the water the only way out is basically downstream. In theory you could devise a plan to scale the walls and all, but actually no you really can't. We paddled at 550 cfs which we found to be adequate, albeit on the low side of runnable. If you plan to paddle this, make sure you have the necessary skills for the whitewater and are prepared to handle any unforseen challenges 100% on your own. Ain't nobody comin' down there to help.

The American Whitewater link has a bit more info and logistical help. For flow information you can call directly: (715) 893-2213, this hooks you up with an automated line that will tell you the most recent cfs. As of September 2016 this hotline was down for the season. Apparently the automatic gauge got a bit wallaced during a large storm. I spoke with one of the dam controllers and he told me it will be online and running by next spring, hopefully in time for the runoff!

One last cool detail? The takeout is very close to Superior Falls, the final plunge of the Montreal River before it meets Lake Superior. Make sure to check out the falls! Here are some videos and pictures from our side adventure after the paddle:

Paddling the Paint river of Michigan's Upper Peninsula...and a little bit of the Net too

Evan and I realized we both had the weekend free about 3 days before this paddle, and didn't know for sure if we were going to have some adventures until about 12 hours before I left Eau Claire to meet him in the North. Our plan was to figure out a river or rivers to paddle Friday night while hammocking around the campfire, and that is what we did.

We settled on a 13 mile paddle that started on the Net river for the first 2.5 miles, and finished the remaining 10 on the Paint. Immediately and for the entire day the scenery was U.P. goodness. Large spruces and pines mixed in with birches and maples, all lining a rocky shoreline bordering slow waters. The Net river, from what I paddled and aerial photos above our put-in, seems to be large open lake-like sections divided by short wavy pinch points with very small rapids, maybe class I on a good day. There are a few very small rapids upstream on the Net, but American Whitewater reports suggest nothing more than waves. We did have a few logs/beaver dams that spanned the stream but had enough water over them that we could scoot across, use your best judgement here.

Once we hit the Paint we eventually found some rapids. The first was pretty short and a fun little warmup, then a bit longer one, and finally we arrived at the Upper Hemock rapids. This was a fun one that has the most rad campsite right on the rapids, river left, with what looks to be a huge eddy to pull into. We saw some canoers who were portaging the rapid while we passed through. It starts with an S curve at the top, where the portage and campsite are. After the bending it was a matter of finding the line with enough water. Plenty of stuff to avoid, and occasionally a ledge that spanned a good chunk of the river. Nonetheless it was pretty small and not bad, and I'd say we were on the lower side of navigable. A little more water here would make it more flexible and peppy, while a lot more water would make it straight up party time in there. I'll pray for lots of rain before the next trip so we can camp on the rowdy and then run some laps, huzzah! 

Our group recouped in the eddy below the rapids, and I managed to get a pic of Evan running the last bit of em.

After a short distance we started to notice the river slowing down, like it does above dams or large rapids, and sure enough we came to a horizon line. Hello Lower Hemlock Rapids! This was the highlight of the day and everyone crushed it, including Abbie who was paddling her Necky Looksha LV for the first time. I think her success sealed the deal on her relationship with the boat. I gotta say this rapid was larger than I expected, and that's a good thing. It was a blast and had plenty of waves to enjoy. Many hoots and hollers all around. From here it was a few flat, moving-water miles until our takeout at the Bates-Amasa bridge landing. Plenty of space, but otherwise just a dirt landing. Who needs more?

Between the Upper and Lower Hemlock rapids were some really cool little tributary streams. They are pretty tough to find but if you take a minute or so and listen quietly you can sometimes hear them. One 100 yard section had 3 little creeks and super steep hills bordering the main river, it was absolutely awesome northwoods scenery.

High Water on the Menominee River

The Menominee River makes part of the border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. Its shores are lined with conifers and the dark tannin stained water slowly meanders through the northern parts of the midwest. As the river gets pinched in Pier's Gorge the flow naturally picks up, finally making the largest drop at Mishicot Falls, with the next quarter mile of whitewater quite a lot of fun. On this summer day we were blessed with high water. It had been raining non stop for a few days and the river was finally ripping real solid. We brought 4 guides and 2 boats, a 10 footer, and the 16 foot raft that I had got caught on a tree earlier in the day. Rookie guide doing rookie guide things. The run itself was spot on and we couldn't wipe the grins from our faces for a while after that one. Video below: