Trip Report: Pigeon & Sturgeon Rivers, Aug 27-28

More nearly perfect weather no reasonable person could ask for than what we had for this trip. We arrived Friday, August 27 at Pigeon River State Forest but unfortunately the trip organizer (me) was the only one who didn't know where the campground was, so it took a while for the group of four to coalesce. Craig Thurston, John Neal and Jim Janowicz had all ridden together, so between them they were able to figure it out. We finally decided to camp at the Round Lake area rather than the main campground, which was becoming clogged with fifth wheels and children. The Round Lake campground, on the other hand, was totally empty and serene, with a view from every site of a lovely little lake.

It was getting a bit late by the time we reached the put in for the Pigeon but there were no other members waiting for us. Some concerns were expressed about whether we would finish in the dark but the current was running swift and the trip took considerably less time than originally projected. This, despite the numerous snags, sweepers, shoals, strainers and probably some other alliterative obstacles we ran into. Literally ran into, in some cases.

The Pigeon is a rather narrow river and although the current was quick it was rather shallow. This meant that we scraped bottom in some places and that larger boats, like Craig's 16-footer, were at something of a disadvantage. Boats 10-12 feet or less would have been better suite; unfortunately, the rest of us were in 14 foot boats, so we got a lot of practice trying to make quick turns. And disentangling ourselves from snags, freeing ourselves from sand bars, and occasionally emptying a boat after an impromptu swim. There was also that log that completely blocked the river. I had picked this section based on the theory that a nearby canoe livery would have been keeping the stream cleared, but they seem to have been slacking off.

But, as I said, the weather was nearly perfect - low 80's and a cool breeze coming up the river, so who could complain? We found a nice spot for a snack and when we reached the take out spot we had logged about 11 miles in 4 hours, really none the worse for wear. The trip organizer (me) wisely determine that the best option for dinner was to drive into town, which was roundly seconded by the rest of the group. We went to a local restaurant that was having an all-you-can-eat fish fry, then returned to camp ready for a good night's sleep.

Saturday dawned bright and clear and turned out to be nearly a copy of the day before, ideal for paddling. We broke camp and  found a diner for breakfast and, suitably fortified, arrived at the Sturgeon River launching spot in downtown Wolverine by late morning so we were able to put in more or less on time and were pleased that Bob Slade was able to join us, so now we were five.

Where we had seen only a few other boaters on the Pigeon, the Sturgeon turned out to be more popular, There is a canoe and kayak rental shop in town and there were half a dozen or more people at the put in. We came across groups of kayakers, rafters, tubers and someone in an inflatable easy chair during the trip; considering the difficulty we again had in maneuvering the narrow, swift river, we might have been better off tubing it, too. After swims by several parties (not me!), Bob's Herculean feat of unblocking the channel of a fallen log, and heroic assists to some other floaters, we made it to the end in 3-1/2 hours, ready for ice cream.

Several of us had learned a great deal more about river kayaking and emerged from the experience with a good reason to buy another, shorter, boat, so it was certainly a successful trip.

New to Kayaking?

Don't know how to get started? Which boat to buy? How to learn without embarrassment? What if it tips over? Do I have to roll the kayak?

We were all beginners once and we'd be happy to help you with the basics. Before you even buy a boat, why not stop in at our monthly meeting (see the Paddlers Calendar) for some friendly advice from experienced paddlers. Whether you're interested in calm afternoons on one of Michigan's beautiful lakes and rivers or two weeks in the wilderness, we can help - we've been there.

To ask any questions or to contact the group for any reason, please send an e-mail to