My friend and I like to explore small rivers and streams. Our first attempt was in 2015, when we traveled about nine miles on the Belle River by canoe (well… partly by canoe, partly by dragging, and partly by portaging). We went on to travel over most of that river, and then on to branches of the Flint River and the middle branch of the Clinton River (check out the blog archive to read about those trips). Ekaterina called me this spring and said she had passed by the most beautiful creek, and should it be our next one? So, Mill Creek is up next!
Although I love kayaking, these types of rivers and streams are not really conducive to it; this one is nice and shallow, perfect for wading. A few years ago, we waded a section of Belle River and it was very enjoyable, but every river we’ve been to since has been a little too deep for wading.
We picked a launching spot on the map and arranged to be picked up; we weren’t sure how far we could get. One of Ekaterina’s dogs joined us, the same dog that went on the first wading trip years prior. Mill Creek is beautiful. It looks like something out of a mountain region, or maybe far northern Michigan. There were wildflowers everywhere: forget-me-nots, phlox, wild irises. The water was decently warm, and it really was perfect weather for it.
The wading went at a decently fast pace when we had a sandy bottom to walk on, but we did slow down dramatically when there were large stones, I was worried about twisting an ankle in those areas. The deeper parts were nice, no need to worry about falling. But the dog definitely preferred the shallower areas to walk on. Some spots had thick seaweed mats, which added some resistance to our walk. I’m surprised the fish can get through it in some areas, it was so thick. We saw one snapping turtle trying to fight her way upriver through thick seaweed, it was very slow going!
I found a mailbox lid with an interesting pattern early on (I wish it was my house number!), and some wonderful clamshells. The river clams there were of an amazing size! We saw plenty of both live ones and empty shells. We saw plenty of tadpoles, and some snapping turtles, and of course tons of fish of all types. Bottom feeders, trout, bass. And tiny baitfish schools. We also saw some interesting birds, they were small and black and white, possibly magpies.
After some hours, we passed under a railroad trestle bridge that is now part of the Wadhams to Avoca Rail Trail. This was a nice spot for a second lunch stop. By this point the dog just wanted to be on dry land and wouldn’t even look at the river. But we had further to go of course, and she recovered when it was time to go. Amazingly, we didn’t encounter a single downed tree or beaver dam, nothing that would be a portage at all. Although the creek was much too shallow for consistent kayaking.
I spotted a reasonable looking end point, what looked like a road on Google Maps, and we planned to exit there. The map showed the creek going in a horseshoe bend, with a lake in the center, and a road leading down to the lake. We went up the banks to have a look, and found a few old rusty vehicles, including a bus. After maybe a mile of cross-country traveling, we found the ‘road’ which was more of an ATV path. This lead us eventually to a main road; it turned out we had ended up at a nature preserve. It will be the perfect spot to pick up again next time!
By land, we were only three miles away by highway roads from our starting point, but by river it had been a little over six miles. Wading is definitely not a fast way to travel, but it’s a lot of fun and kind of amazing to hardly see anyone the whole day.
If you’re interested in learning to kayak, check out my classes here. The water is about warm enough!