Monday, November 09, 2009

Keeping the Shiawassee River navigable for paddlers

Written by Doug Lanyk - Sunday , 11/8/2009

What a day! Steve H and I met at 10:30 to stage cars and clear the 3 portages and 2 other downed trees on the Holly to Fenton stretch of the river.
We hadn't even spotted my truck in Fenton When the kayaks started to roll in. The sunshine and the mid 60's had everyone out. Of course I was on a mission to cut dead trees so I was dressed to spend the day in 45 deg. water. I found it embarrassing having just had our grand opening and the river blocked up already. We set off from Waterworks park in good order planing to put the location tags on the emergency takeout sign at the wastewater plant as our first stop. I was going to put my 5mm neoprene chest waders on there. So much for good plans. There were multiple trees down behind the Holly Convalescent Center. Three trees were down requiring you to get out of your boat and 2 more low enough the it would be a challenge for most canoes. Steve was dressed to get wet but since it was looking like a long day in the water, we tried to keep him dry. The first of the kayaks passed us there. Finishing off the sign behind the WWTP we did have clear sailing
(or technically paddling) down to the Headwaters Trails property. 2 weeks ago we could scoot by on the left. Today it required getting out of the boat. It was a messy tree with lots of branches catching
everything else coming down the river.

Steve  worked from the bank pulling the debris up on the flood plain. That took another 15 minutes and it was starting to look like a long day. The next ten kayaks passed us there. The third set of kayaks passed us while I was breaking up the logjam just passed Fish Lake Rd. It was on the first sharp corner after the culvert. I wish I new how to fix that spot within the river clearing guidelines. It's a reoccurring problem. Another bunch of fine paddlers caught up to us while I was clearing the 3 blockages in and just passed the tornado zone. The first 2 trees weren't too bad beside the fact that the water was belly button deep. One of them was over 20" diameter. The next bunch was in a spot with a nasty portage.

The start of the marsh had the ground soggy and no good spot to land. 5 trunks had come down on top of each other. It was blocking so much river there was a buildup of water on the up stream side. This was a dicey piece of cutting. No mater how I cut each trunk it wanted to pinch my blade. The kayakers were patient and cheered me on. Giving me a captive audience to sell all the good works done by Headwaters Trails. While I whittled down the trees, Steve put up the Shiawassee logo on milepost 3. Eventually it was cut through and we bid the last of the groups adieu. It still took another 15 minutes or so to finish cutting up the trees. The river was mostly clear after that. Although I did end up cutting several more trees that made the river more of an adventure than it needed to be. Our last task was mounting the logo on milepost 5. There we saw the last of several fishermen that had come up from Fenton by canoe. We slogged our tired butts up to my truck about a quarter after 4:00.

Happy Trails Doug.
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