Clinton River North Branch - Part II
After completing our first section of the North Branch of the Clinton River, it was time for the next stretch. I had a fantasy of making it the whole way to the confluence with the main river in Mt. Clemens, but Ekaterina was skeptical.
Our launch point was a heavily trafficked road, and I couldn’t see a way that we could park there all day without the car getting impounded. There was enough room to pull off to unload the boat, but I didn’t want to test the parking restrictions, so I asked my parents to drop us off; my fiancée would pick us up when we finished, no doubt in Mt. Clemens.
Fortified with a Dunkin Donuts egg sandwich, we arrived at the drop off around 9:30. As we carried the boat to the river, a significant distance, I saw a tick catching a ride on the kayak. So soon? We were only in the grass along the shoulder, not even into the real weeds yet.
It had recently rained heavily, so the water levels were high and there was much less dragging than the previous stretch. In some ways this was good, but it also means that some of the portages were more challenging, as we could not stand on the riverbed. The water was also very churned up and completely opaque. We only saw two of the large fish that were everywhere on our previous section; I’m not sure if the water turbidity was the cause of that or if their spawning season has ended already.
It seemed like the rain would continue for a few hours because the sky was so cloudy, but it stayed dry and eventually the sun came out. The first mile was nonstop portaging, including some long drags along the land. It became obvious that reaching Mt. Clemens was a fantasy for another day.
After a while, the river opened up a bit so we could paddle a little in between portages. At one point we saw what looked like a fence in the water, but it turned out it was an overturned bridge. We also saw several heavy metal cables strung across the river, wrapped around (and cutting into) trees on either side. I’m not sure what they are for, but they did complicate portaging at times.
We found more ticks: four or five on the boat and one on my shirt. The poison ivy and stinging nettles also seem to be more prominent in this area, or maybe we just spent more time out of the river. The mosquitos also came out for a bit until it got windy enough to deter them.
As usual, we had some great wildlife sightings. We saw three deer crossing the river in front of us, plus a fawn nestled in above the riverbank. Similar to the last stretch, I found a single baby turtle, this time a snapper. It was so young that it did not snap when I scooped it up for a closer look. We also saw many adult turtles sunning themselves in the mud, a couple of muskrats, and a very large brown owl.
Early on, we saw trees with beautiful burgundy flowers that didn’t look familiar. When we looked them up, it turns out they are pawpaw trees, a native tree with mango-like fruit. We might have to come back in the fall to do some foraging!
We did end the trip earlier in the day this time than we have in the past (my fault, Ekaterina was still going strong!). There weren’t any other exit points coming up for a while, and I had a few other obligations in the evening so didn’t want to make the commitment to get to the next main road.
I do feel like possibly with good ambition and an early morning start, we could make it the full distance to the confluence during Part III. We just need to travel a little more than twice the distance as this time, no big deal.
If you’d like to join me on a trip, I offer guided backpacking trips, and sea kayaking lessons (these are on an actual body of water, no portaging necessary!)