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The Belle River: A Somewhat Unimpressive Finale

We made it to the St. Clair River! Ekaterina and I have traveled a good section of the river this year, from the non-navigable area at Braidwood Road to the end, 47.4 miles in total. I realize that this number isn't all that impressive, but with so many obstacles it's been a slow project. Each mile has been a challenge of some kind. I wonder if anyone else has done this; or if we're the only ones with this hobby.

We launched at the convenient Belle River Access park in East China Township. It was nice to not worry about my truck getting towed while we were out! I had read online that from this point it was about fifteen miles to the end, and it sounded like this area is used by other paddlers. So we assumed it would be straightforward paddling but would take a while in our inefficient boats.

Going around the corner from the launch, we immediately encountered an obstacle course of downed trees. No problem there, and it ended up being the only one all day. This was completely different from our past trips. It was a strange experience to have dry feet (and legs, and torso...). The river soon widened, to maybe four times it's previous width. It was also deeper. In some spots we couldn't reach the bottom with our paddles. It was scenic for a while, with lots of birds and many turtles.

After just a couple of hours, we started passing houses and seeing other boats, even small motorboats. Someone had put out fairy houses in a few of the trees. Ekaterina asked how much further we had left and when I checked I was shocked and unhappy to see that we were only three miles away. Were we faster than usual? Much faster? No. The actual distance was just eight miles. Apparently I should have measured the distance myself! Our pickup time wasn't until seven PM...

Knowing that we now had an abundance of time and nowhere else to go, we stopped at a cemetery for a break and to evaluate our options, mooring my boat off the seawall. Her inflatable boat held up okay when we were moving slowly and navigating obstacles, but it was losing air pretty quickly during actual paddling. We could continue down the St. Clair River, but a headwind was picking up and was predicted to be close to 30 mph. A bit much on open water for these boats. We decided to stick with the original take-out point just a half mile down the St. Clair River, and when we were getting back in the boats we spotted a mink jumping in to the river and swimming across.

As we closed in to the St. Clair River we put our lifejackets on and hooked up my dragging rope to Ekaterina's boat so I could help tow her. The wind made it a challenge to steer her inflatable, and this way she could top it up with air every few minutes. It is not a seaworthy craft. The St. Clair River was plenty wavy and windy, making for a fun paddle to end the day. As we waited for a different ride that we were able to arrange, we watched several freighters passing by and a dive boat drifting on the current.

We'll be back: we may wade upriver from our starting point next to cover more distance, but this is the end of our kayak exploration on the Belle River! Until next time...

If you want to improve your paddling skills and learn to be safe out on the water, check out my Kayak Essentials course.

Some photos have captions.



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