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Around Harsen's Island on Thanksgiving Day

I’ve wanted to circumnavigate Harsen’s Island for a while now but just hadn’t gotten around to it; I expected it would be about sixteen miles so it’s a bigger time commitment. I had planned to do a lap around neighboring Dickinson Island before meeting to eat Thanksgiving dinner (to best make room for extra pie!), but I was awake anyways, so I figured I’d go for the longer trip.

I had been to Harsen’s Island a few times this year, for diving and once for an event commemorating the Edmund Fitzgerald at a museum. It’s one of the bigger islands in the St. Clair River delta and does have a lot of houses on it. You could do this paddle by launching in Algonac, but I really wanted to start by paddling upriver and end with the easier downstream section, so I took the $15 ferry. The ferry runs pretty much constantly, even at night and early morning, so I didn’t have to wait at all for it.

It was dark when I got to the launch, but there were a couple of duck hunting boats getting ready as well. I saw one out with no lights, maybe to better hide from the ducks... I paddled in the dark for a while, seeing some Christmas lights and then later the sunrise. I used to guide nighttime kayak tours in California and have occasionally paddled in the dark since then, but not often. I did start hearing gunshots around sunrise, but it was hard to tell where they came from. I did not see any ducks but did see plenty of other birds and some muskrats.

The upstream portion on the Middle Channel, about seven miles, took me about two and a half hours. The current is quite strong, and it is definitely nice to do that part first! A freighter was coming right as I went around the corner into the South Channel, so I had a great view. Shortly after that another one came, and this second one was so quiet; it really snuck up on me. The downstream section didn’t take long, and I did paddle over to Seaway Island to see an interestingly shaped marker over there.

I had planned to go across Muscamoot Bay but found way too much ice over there and couldn’t get through. I guess there’s really no water movement there so it freezes early. I thought I might have to go all the way to the main Lake St. Clair, but fortunately found open water not too far down. It ended up being a little over eighteen miles and took about five hours total, with a few short breaks.

Happy Thanksgiving!


1 comment


Beautifully written, and super photos! Nice ...

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