My paddling partner Marty
Cooperman wrote this journal entry about paddling near Detroit:
I wrote about in "The Soo," John and I and Heike and Ron Sell from Ann Arbor, paddled and sailed for four
days before being forced to return home due to gale force warnings
for the next several days. The "Soo" I write of is really Sault Ste. Marie, the first word pronounced in French as "Soo." It’s the town of that name on both the Michigan and Canadian sides of the border
separated by the rapids of the St. Mary’s River that connects Lake
Superior with Lake Huron. The rapids were bypassed for commercial
shipping by the huge locks that allow iron ore from Minnesota to
pass to the steel mills of the lower Great Lakes.
Ron remained home in Ann Arbor and John drove home to Cleveland,
Heike and I decided to resume our adventures near Detroit. "Detroit?" you say, "What could you find to paddle there." A great deal, as it turned out.
original plan was to paddle from the Lake Erie Metropark
at the mouth of the Detroit River, some 17 miles south
to Stirling State Park campground on the west shore of
Lake Erie. But it was high winds that day and we would
be forced offshore by the landforms and by the security
buoys at the Enrico Fermi nuclear power plant, about a
mile out into Lake Erie. It was questionable whether the
wind and waves a mile out would allow us to get back in.
It was blowing a good 20 to 25 knots.
we drove to the state park, got one of the last campsites
(right on the water) and then drove to the more protected
waters of the Detroit River to partake of their water trail.
Never heard of this water trail? It’s barely in existence.
But a fine kayak shop, Riverside Kayaks, gave us the planning
map detailing the trail and suggested put in places.
late in the day, Heike and I paddled against the river’s
flow, hugging the west (mainland) shoreline to keep out
of the wind’s main force, along industrial and residential
sites, stopping for lunch at a rowing club’s floats. Across
the channel from us was Grosse Isle, the well named biggest
island in the Detroit River. The river, by the way, is
very big, well over a mile wide. We then crossed east of
Grosse Isle and hugged its eastern shore for more wind
protection and traveled with the current to a "thoroughfare" which cut diagonally through the island, past homes with boat docks and finally
back to the start. It was a good thing Heike had her headlamp
as we returned after dark having paddled some 15 miles.
next day the weather eased and we were up early. We were
crossing to Canada. At the mouth of the Detroit River the
crossing was only 5 or 6 miles and we set out to find a
natural beach I knew of on the other side. We saw big freighters
crossing our path some distance off as they sailed to other
ports, and a goodly number of private boats, most of them
big but considerably smaller than the freighters.
rumors of arrest, fine and imprisonment for trespassing
on Canadian soil without checking in with Customs, we in
fact, saw no one save a family out with their dog romping
on the beach. There was no Customs to report to. But the
beach was nice, protected by some Canadian conservancy
from the predations of private ownership, an example of
which was provided as we headed up into the Detroit River
mouth an hour later. Here a variety of homes with the usual
rip-rap, bulkheads, and concrete slabs attempted to hold
Lake Erie at bay and in the process turned a residential
waterfront into a construction zone. Not pretty.
peeked into the main shipping channels and, with no freighters
in sight, set out along the Detroit River water trail for
several islands in the middle of the river. At the first
one a 30-foot motor boat lay beached and leaning as though
it were a small skiff. A party was going on and paraphrasing
the words of one of the party-goers: The fellow with the
big motorboat had anchored several feet offshore only to
discover the next morning that the shore had encroached
a dozen feet past his boat due to the high winds blowing
the water eastward, and now he was high and dry. We left
as a group of them attempted unsuccessfully to rock the
boat loose with one hand while holding beers with the other.
Not our type of crowd. Apparently the fellow was going
to have to wait there until the waters returned on their
other islands we passed vast fields of lotus beds, apparently
some of the northerly most ones in the country. They are
very dramatic, the leaves refusing to be dunked and shedding
water as soon as released. They were the size of large
serving platters. The distinctive flowers surged up several
feet in the air claiming their share of the sun.
across the river we headed south, now going with the flow
at the mouth, past homes, parks, and marshes and were left
momentarily scratching our heads for our launch spot. At
last Heike spotted the large flock of egrets which we scattered
when we first left in the morning, and they, more than the
indistinct marsh landscape, directed us back; 19 miles by
my best estimate and a lovely, lovely day in a variety of