Thursday, July 30, 2015

Trip Report: Canoeing the Huron River (Ann Arbor, MI)


    Last Saturday, I went canoeing for the first time ever. My destination of choice? Ann Arbor’s own Huron River!

    Being from an entirely landlocked and desert state whose only notable body of water starts with “Great Salt”, I don’t have much prior experience with water sports. One time, a friend and I tried to sail a 20-foot boat in a Utah reservoir for an entire afternoon (operative term: tried). Now, I was expected to literally pull my own weight as part of the highly-choreographed test of relationship skills some call “canoeing”.

    The morning of the big day, I met up with my group at the University of Michigan’s Outdoor Adventures building at the University of Michigan to grab our boats, load up the truck, and set off on our journey! To any UM students and Ann Arbor locals reading this: you would be remiss renting gear anywhere else. OA is the best deal in town, bar none.

    With our gear loaded, we drove to the 90 mile mark of the Huron River to Lake Erie. From there, we launched our boats and set off for a day on the water! One of the first things I noticed was how calm and flat the water looked. There was still some current, but it was nothing like the mountain streams I was used to. This wasn’t whitecaps and rocks – the Huron River, especially this early, was tranquil. There were lily pads lining the banks, a slight breeze over the water, and tons of waterfowl out enjoying the summer day.

    To compensate for my lack of sea legs, I started out in the front of the boat. After hours of friendly pointers turned passive aggression (“Alexa, maybe a little less enthusiasm”), I finally started to get the stroke down! The “advice” ended, our boat moved instead of lunged, and suddenly, I was part of a team.

    Eventually, our trip guide gained enough confidence in my abilities that he let me try and steer the canoe. From my outsider’s naiveté, I didn’t think sitting in the back and controlling the boat would be that hard. Oh boy. I have been wrong before. After some close calls with bushes and the aforementioned waterfowl, a few listless circles, and some wobbly minutes paddling everywhere but forward, I got the hang of it and was able to keep us in a (kinda) straight line.

    We made surprisingly good time and had lunch at the end of our route next to the river. Since we had some time before we had to return to Ann Arbor, we decided to practice a T-Rescue with the canoes. Future paddlers, take note:

    When you capsize a canoe, it fills with water and accordingly becomes, well, really heavy. A capsized canoe is nearly impossible to flip back over, especially if you don’t have footing. A T-Rescue, as its name implies, is a rescue maneuver wherein two boats form a “T” shape. The upright canoe pulls the stranded boat onto its gunnel at a 90 degree angle to form a T, elevating the formerly sunk canoe enough to drain it. Once drained, you can flip it over and slide the newly-functioning canoe back into the water.

    Cool, right? 

    After the T-Rescue, we disembarked, toweled off, and loaded up the boats for the return trip back to Ann Arbor. Even for all the hours I spent paddling in circles, I was hooked: canoeing was a really fun Michigan experience, and I can’t wait to go again!

~Alexa W. -Women's Technical Apparel


Planning a trip? Want to get more insider tips and travel recommendations from Bivouac's expert staff? Read about our adventures to Canyonlands National Park (UT)Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (MI), and Chicago (IL), or click here to go back to the Bivouac Blog!

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