About 3 years ago I started kayaking and have been challenging myself each season to get better. With the busy schedule I keep it has been tough to find enough time on the river to push me to the next level at the pace I’d like. This year, my goal is to start creeking on the shores of Lake Superior. I waited patiently for the spring weather which seemed as if it never wanted to come. But it finally did last weekend, and I headed north to meet Mike Croad, Bob Menard, and the chicago crew on some of the most paddled creeks in L’Anse, MI. The Slate river was our destination and the temperatures were at 70 degrees for a few days now.
When I arrived in L’Anse, not only did I find Mike, Bob, and Adrian…but 9 other familiar faces from Wisconsin and the North Shore guys whose rivers were still full of ice. I knew this would be a step up for me, but from what I was told about the Slate, I was expecting medium levels and a challenge I wouldn’t hesitate to accept. As we put on the river we could tell the level was continuing to rise quickly every minute that went by. Trees were literally breaking off and floating downstream alongside of us.
Our crew of 13 split into three groups and had a lot of fun. After one of the first rapids Mike had to stop to do some boat repair. Scouting and identifying lines based on stumps or logs in the river turned out to be a bad idea when in the 3 minutes it took to get back on river, the massive stump at the top of the drop moved a few feet causing everyone to be off line.
It was my first day in my Villain this season and the first drop, banana peel, went well.But as we continued down the water had risen so much it was beyond my ability. I hiked around the next major rapid, ecstasy falls, but enjoyed a nice paddle through a few features before reaching the canyon section. Here, I took out along with a few of the other guys who realized everything was just getting TOO BIG! About half of the group continued, taking on the never before seen Slate River at High Water. While there is no gauge on the slate, You can judge it somewhat based off of the gauge on the silver river.
When we got back to the tale out after about a mile hike and looked at the level, the water rose about a foot in the 3 hours we were on water. And while I had to return home for work,the 3 Johns, Joerg, Ben, Tony, and Nate stayed for more days of high water fun running the east branch of the Huron.
The levels have just continued to rise. With record April snowfalls (and even another 14″ in some areas just today, may 2nd) combined with an extreme jump in temperature from mid 30s to 70s, There is just so much water everywhere for the time Being.
This weekend everyone is looking forward to the North Shore visit. The Lester Race is finally going to happen on Saturday. But Kettle Fest had to be moved back to May 10th-12th because of high water.To give you an idea of how high the water really is, Last year we were excited to have 1500cfs flowing down the Kettle, this year, it’s over 5000cfs. The L’anse rivers are typically in the 8ft range and are currently nearing 12ft.
The Black River is typically run at a few hundred cfs and is bumped over 9,000cfs the other day. So, if you are looking for some serious whitewater this spring, you might want to grab your boat and head to the shores of Lake Superior. As for me, I’ll be waiting one more week to head north giving the rivers time to calm down a little so I can enjoy them at their more normal flows. My favorite part of Kayaking is to be able to enjoy being with my friends on the river and I can’t wait to get back to the shore and do just that!
Bob Menard’s River Guide of the Silver at 8.5ft (Before the rivers got too big!