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

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