Winter Kayaking On The Huron

A friend and myself spent 7 hours on the Huron this last weekend in sea kayaks. We paddled 5 miles against the river current and 10 miles with the current. The section of the river was from Kent Lake Dam to Placeway Picnic Area in the Island Lake State Park.

Huron in Winter

Huron River In Winter

Saturday’s weather was windy and cold, the top decks of the kayaks became icicles during the paddle. I was struggling to keep one hand warm and for it not to lose feeling. I was trying out a new drysuit and discovered the arm seal was so tight it was limiting circulation to my right hand. The suit was just not sized for me, I needed the next size up but did not realize this until I put on enough layers for the cold.  The two hours paddling up the river against the current with the equipment issues for me, made it a long paddle, the return 1.5 hour paddle with the current was more fun.  However by the time we returned to the put in point we were both cold and had a little trouble getting ourselves out of the kayaks.

Huron River

February Paddling

On Sunday was the annual Huron River winter paddle for the local environmental group  using canoes and kayaks with 12 brave souls, getting off the couch and braving the elements to enjoy the river in the winter.  Saturday was cold and windy, Sunday was warmer and sunny a perfect day for the paddle.  The current however was much less on Sunday than Saturday which made for a safer paddle for all who attended.  Hot chocolate, hot coffee and cookies were ready for us at the take out point.

Annual Paddle

Annual Winter Paddle

Kayaks In winter

Getting Near the Takeout

Winter Canoe

The Cookies and Hot Chocolate Are That Way!

Bottom line, you can get out and start kayaking even in the winter. Enjoy the water, wildlife, and the great outdoors.

Kayak Rolling and Pool Play

We had another fun Sunday session in the pool practicing rolls, sculling braces, paddle strokes and general kayak play in the pool while it’s cold outside. Yea, we look funny with nose plugs.

The pool is open for practice and for kayak lessons from a certified instructor there is a fee and you must reserve a spot by contacting Expanding Horizons Kayaking.  A lifeguard is present.

Ice Fishing – Greenland Kayak Building Time

I have not posted anything in a while since the weather in Southeast Michigan has been toggling between winter and late fall or early spring weather – 40 something with rain on and off.  So winter kayaking events have been hard to plan or attend.

I also have been busy catching up on maintenance work around the house, not too exciting to blog about.

This weekend was the first time of the winter season that the ice was thick enough for the ice fisherman to venture out onto the ice, it was a big event for the locals that love to ice fish.

Ice Fishing

First Ice Fishing This Season

I have been going to open pool sessions at the Brighton High School pool.  Contact Expanding Horizons if this interests you.  I have been improving my roll and  bracing.

The Southeast Michigan Kayak builders group is looking for people who want to build a Kayak this winter, they are also looking for a 3000 to 3500 square foot building to least for 3-4  months near Brighton, Pinckney/Hamburg/Dexter,  or Ann Arbor.  Leave a comment if you want to get into contact with the group.



Winter Kayaking On The Huron River

The Huron River flow rate was up (around 1390 CFS) on December 18th and a good time to do some winter kayaking.  Paddling in the winter is not as easy as the warm weather kayaking but one can see sights along the river not observed normally.

Launch Site

Hudson Mills Launch Site - View of where mill used to be across from launch site

First there is safety to be concerned with.  Never paddle cold water alone, be at a boat skill level that allows this to be a relatively safe activity, not recommended for first timers or fair weather novices.  Second make sure the winter kayak gear will work for the conditions anticipated.

Kayaks Ready

Sea Kayaks At The Ready

It was 31 degrees when we launched and it was supposed to be sunny and 35 to 38 degrees.  Well the sun did not come out until after we were off the water and the temperature likely was not much above 33 degrees for most of the paddle.   I personally planned for it being warmer as forecast but was not far off in my gear selected temperature wise.  I was using some new neoprene water proof gloves by Glacier Gloves and my hands did pretty well.  If colder I would need a layer under them to stay warm.  I had tested them out prior to the trip washing my car in similar temperatures.

My friend Gerry had kayak gloves but not 100% waterproof.  He also had a lesson learned that Greenland paddles are wetter than Euro paddles.  The Euro paddle generally has water cups that dump the drips out and not onto your hands.  Needless to say Gerry’s hands got wet and then cold on this trip due to both the glove construction and the Greenland paddle.  If the temperature was colder this might have been a real problem.  There is always something that one learns by experience.

Going Down The Huron With Greenland Paddle

Going Down The Huron With Greenland Paddle

For myself I almost had a disaster at the very beginning of the trip just after launch at Hudson Mills.  The current was very strong, and caught me off guard at the start.  I knew I had to be at a certain place in the river to miss downed trees from both sides of the river.  At the last moment before passing the larger tree on the left the current pushed me over further than I planned and I was gong to hit the very end of the branch with my body.


With strong currents you do not want to get hung up on obstacles in the river.  Well I grabbed the branch to keep from being hit by it with the intention of just using my arms to push me around it.  The current however showed me this was not such a good idea and I was going to be turned sideways and pushed over into the river.  With lots of fear of getting wet I leaned the kayak way over while turning around the branch – using the kayak’s primary stability point to quickly turn the kayak around the branch leaning over and having the branch go above my upper body.


This maneuver was more instinctive than thought out since I only had a few seconds before the Kayak would get pushed over by the current.  I was still close enough to the launch point however that I would be able to get back to a vehicle to get dry.   This again would not have been too bad if I had the right winter gear for total immersion which I did not have.


Knowing this lack of gear I had a complete change of clothes with me, I would have been cold changing clothes but not life threatening.  Again it was a combination of things that were not anticipated that could have made for a problem.  Not having enough time after launch to judge the current before the obstacle and its effect on the long sea kayak, a stronger paddle stroke may have avoided the branch knowing more urgency and a stronger paddle stroke was needed to correct course.  The other two kayaks missed it.  Then having a dry suit to be able to get into the cold water for a short period of time without any negative consequences.

Eagle In Tree

Can You Spot The Eagle?

We enjoyed the scenery, the ice formations, witnessing the flooded river, looking at some of the ice formations; we spotted an American Eagle as well at several points going down the river.

Eagle In Flight

Eagle In Flight

The table in the water was interesting, normally on dry river bank.  Picture is a little blurry, I got water on the lens.  However you can clearly see how high the water is due to the earlier in the week unusual December rains in Southeast Michigan.  (normally snow this time of year)

Table in River

Table Normally on Shore

Near the end of the trip at the take-up point there were some rapids at the Delhi park section. Bill decided to shoot the rapids in his wood kayak which I captured on video to be posted on You Tube.  Again if it was warmer the other two of us would have hit the rapids as well.  We took the conservative route and exited the river just before the rapids.

Huron River Delhi Rapids

Huron River Delhi Rapids

Delhi Rapids

Delhi Rapids - Kayaks before the rapids can you find them?

After the rapids

Bill after going through the rapids heading for Delhi take out

Packing up the kayaks

Loading the Sea Kayaks Post Paddle - Ready for a late lunch at the Dexter Pub

Hard Water For Kayaking

Well it finally happened the water got hard at my shore and kayaking the lake may be done on the chain of lakes for this year and for the first quarter of next year. The lake looks open since the ice is smooth and clear (perfect for ice skating if it was a little thicker) but not very good for kayaking.

Clear Ice

Clear Ice Looks Like Water - Dec 11

It Really Is Ice

It Really Is Ice - I walked on it

The far end of the lake is still open near Hell Creek to the bridge entering Portage Lake. The water fowl are enjoying the water ice interface.

ICE and Water

Ice And Water - Far End Of Lake

Ice Until Bridge

Ice and Water - Hard For Kayaking

Its Michigan so it will warm up again, Thursday it’s supposed to be in the forties and rain, there goes the good ice skating ice.  There will be some winter kayaking in the near future on the Huron River, just waiting for someone else to take the lead and organize.

Kayaking Addiction

There are signs of kayaking addiction in people you know if you look for them.  One sign is if there are more kayaks in the garage than cars, if every wall in the garage has kayak stuff one them.  One other sign is that the person is not content to just paddling a kayak but is also making kayaks by hand and hanging out with people that make their own kayaks.

People who are addicted to kayaks have storage issues due the the multiple kayaks they own and collect.  I figure I have room for maybe two more kayaks on my garage ceiling.

Kayak Storage

Four Kayaks on the wall - taking up the whole wall

It took me almost a year to install the storage kit I bought last winter to get one river kayak properly stored. Did not have time since I was busy building a Greenland kayak over the winter.

Kayak Storage Problem

How not to store a kayak

Storage kit properly installed, some floor space recovered.

Kayak Hoist

Properly Stored

What do you have in your garage?

After Thanksgiving Day Paddle

Many people have Friday off after thanksgiving so the Great Lakes Paddlers had a paddle from Proud Lake to Milford with a meal at the end.  I considered going since it’s a great group of people and it is a scenic part of the Huron River.  I chose instead for a solo paddle and a little more of a workout however.

Late November Fall Paddle

Portage Lake View

The day was a sunny and warm 58 degrees which for the end of November is a heat wave.  The water however is still chilly so that has to be taken into account for safety reasons.  I was the only boat on Portage Lake during my paddle.   I did see a jet ski earlier on the lake before I launched.   Although it was warm and sunny there was a 15 to 20 MPH wind out of the South making the only protected area on Portage Lake the North end where I entered from Little Portage.  It was fun paddling with the wind riding the waves with ease, however I had to pay the piper when I turned around to had back into the wind.  Waves were six inches to maybe a rare foot wave here or there with white caps.

Little Portage In Late November

Little Portage In Late November

I crossed the lake at the sand bar and cut across the lake finding out I needed to take a track slightly into the wind.  It was getting wet from the waves going over my bow then the water lifted by the wind.  The sun and the 58 degrees were not keeping me as warm as I expected, now thinking my paddle jacket in the storage compartment would feel good on plus some paddling gloves.  I toughed it out however with a vigorous paddle against the wind.  As I reached the protected area at the South end of the lake it was like a different lake – calm and warm, I would now be over heating with a paddle jacket on.

Everyone looks buttoned up for the winter around the lake.  The temps fall next week and the “S” word is forecast getting back to more normal temps for this time of year.

Special on blue shrink wrap

Special on blue shrink wrap

Sunday is rolling practice in the pool where its nice and warm without the waves to practice in unfortunately.  Paddling into the setting sun on the return trip.

Paddle Into The Sun

Paddle Into The Sun

Only Kayak

Being the only kayak.  It’s November and it’s amazing how many people think kayaking is done for the year. I have been able to get out on the weekends and have some nice peaceful paddling. Sure it’s not 70F degrees and the water temp is cold which needs to be respected, but even paddling alone, it can be safe and enjoyable in November. Especially since there have been some sunny mid 50 to 60F degree days.

I could call up some paddle buddies to go with me, but a spur of the moment solo paddle can be nice. For safety when alone, I keep myself close enough to shore so I could “self-rescue” myself in the unlikely event that I flip over and can’t perform a roll,  which is still a new skill for me. Even with the cold water, by staying close to shore I could get out then call for some help before the cold water would be a concern.  Maybe not the most pleasant experience if it happened – I would be cold.

I dress for the cold, but not for immersion which I would do if I owned a dry suit (on my list of must haves). But like I said, the water is not yet extremely cold and when solo – I’m staying near shore. At this time of year I’m the only kayak I see out there and fishing boats and late season pontoons are few and far between. I’m paddling in a populated area however and help is not far away if needed.

So I’m enjoying the time on the water while the mid day temperatures are pleasant. It’s a bit strange to see everything buttoned up for the winter months however along the shoreline.  A bit sad, all the green is gone, and people are off doing other things inside.

For the Huron River Chain of Lakes November 14 – Today is the day the water level is dropped by opening the Portage Lake dam. It will be interesting to get back out on the weekend to see what the shoreline looks like with the drop.

I’m also getting pool time in –  practicing my kayak  rolls at the pool. Expanding Horizons is providing this service on selected Sundays in Brighton Michigan, I also have a friend that has pools sessions at the EMU pool if you might be interested in that venue, just contact me for the info.

Sea Kayaking – Pool Kayak Rolling Practice

Well it is that time of year where the water is getting colder and not real fun to practice kayak rolls in.  In fact the temperature in the morning was 28 degrees F, my kayak was on my truck the night before, it rained then got cold.  I had to rip off my cockpit cover with great difficulty in the pool parking lot.  There was an inch of ice frozen around the cockpit.  For a time I thought I would have to wait till it got warmer to get my kayak off the truck with the frozen and hard straps securing the kayak to the Thule rack.

The solution is of course to the cold water is a nice heated pool.  There were 12 people that showed up at the Brighton High School pool to play in the pool, most people there were practicing roll skills.

Kayaks in Brighton Pool

Brighton High School Pool

The group was well represented by experienced kayakers as there were at least five ACA certified people present and who also provide kayak instruction.  There were many Greenland style paddles and one Greenland kayak in the pool.

I was happy I successfully rolled my kayak the first time using my Greenland paddle.  Alas, after 2 hours of playing in the pool I got tired. My rolls degraded as my paddle fell instead of sweeping and I cheated by hitting the bottom of the four foot pool depth with my paddle for a little bump to get me over.  At this point I figured it was time to stop before I learned this non useful technique.

I also practiced my cowboy re-entry and found out I was a little rusty there, so the pool was a good place to tune that back up.

Fall Kayaking – Huron River

Last weekend was supposed to be a big paddle weekend, with 3 paddles that I wanted to do, one of them I was leading up the Huron River.  Well Saturday had winds forecasted to gust to 45 MPH, don’t know how strong the gusts actually were, but I had to cancel my paddle with the Great Lakes Paddlers for safety if nothing else.   I had a hint that I should cancel when my die hard kayak friend was bailing.  I did have one person show up – Rick from Milford.  He still wanted to go, and was disappointed the trip was cancelled.

It is a good paddle to Zukey Lake and back from Little Portage, having a 20-30 MPH wind would have made it very difficult if it didn’t kill me to paddle against that kind of wind.  Instead I winterized my Craig Cat in my garage.  that took most of the day due to a difficult oil filter and fogging the lowest cylinder out of three.

Sunday I did not get going early enough to leave by noon for a 1 PM paddle in Northern Livingston County, the morning the weather was not so good but turned out to be a nice day.  Took the dogs for a fall hike in Stinchfield Woods instead.  In the end my kayak did not see the water over the weekend.

Stinchfield Woods

Stinchfield Woods In The Fall

Dog In Stinchfiled Woods

Max The Dog In Stinchfiled Woods

Wood Pecker Evidence

Wood Pecker Evidence - Note the Square Hole

What kind of wood pecker makes a square hole? I know, do you?

CCC Trees

CCC Trees In Stinchfield Woods