This is our first trip down the Rifle River. We put the kayaks in at Moffatt Bridge. We then traveled down the river to the Outdoor Adventures Rifle River Resort. The resort is located at the Melita Road Bridge.
The river where we launched our boats is about 50 feet wide. The water is 1 to 2 feet deep at this point. Several places along the way during our trip were shallow enough to cause our kayaks to drag bottom. However, at no point did we need to get out and drag our boats across the rocky bottom of the river.The entire trip took about 3 hours. We did some floating and an average amount of paddling.
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t get very excited over sporting events. Last night, however, I witnessed an event that totally astonished me and I can’t seem to get over what took place. This was the most fantastic sporting event I have ever attended.
When I called last week to reserve the site at the campground we are currently at, I was asked if we were coming to town to watch the canoe race. I replied that I didn’t know what he was talking about. The guy from the campground just snickered and proceeded to explain that it was a canoe race from Grayling, Michigan to Lake Huron along the Au Sable River. I thought it would something fun to see if we had nothing better to do.
When we arrived at the campground my wife picked up a brochure about the race. It said the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon was a 120 mile race on the Au Sable River. It would take the contestants 15+ hours to complete the race. The Marathon started in Grayling at 9 PM with the canoes staged downtown in the street. We decided to head over and check it out. We arrived in town to find thousands of people waiting for the race to begin. Shortly after we got there the starting gun was fired and the paddlers picked up their canoes to make a mad dash for the river. The Au Sable River at this point is only wide enough for about 3 canoes. The contestants bumped and crashed as they try to enter the river at the best possible spot.
The crowd roared as the last contestants set their canoe into the river. This was definitely the home town favorite. It was Al Widing and his partner, 21-year-old Hailey McMahon of Grayling. At 87 years old, this is Al’s 40th attempt. Al currently holds the records: Most Marathons Entered, Most Marathons Finished, Oldest Paddler to Compete, and the Oldest Paddler to finish in the top 10.
This event is advertised as” North America’s Toughest, Richest Canoe Race and the World’s Toughest Spectator Race!” The contest pays out over $50,000 in cash & prizes. The contestants come from all over the world for a chance to compete in this distinguished event.
To get an idea of how fast they paddle down the river, we made a trip on the Au Sable earlier that morning that lasted just over 3 hours. The pros get down that same stretch of river in 1 hour 8 minutes. This is amazing.
Back in Mio we woke from a brief cat nap to go down to the dam to wait for the Paddlers. This was spectacular. There were crowds of people waiting for the paddlers. The canoes were approaching the Mio Pond in total darkness. Some had a small lamp but others had nothing at all to guide them through the obstacles in the river. We have a hard time avoiding these things in broad daylight. The only thing to alert us of their arrival was the faint sound of paddles entering the water and an occasional ” Hup!”
I really can’t belive that I have lived in Michigan all my life and never head about this event. While the world watches Olympics events like Synchronized Swimming, Trampoline, Badminton and Ping-Pong, we have the grand-daddy of all canoe races right in our back yard. Next year give yourself a treat and check this out. It will be an experience that you will never forget.
This has been our richest kayak trip to date. We left McMasters Bridge at 8:30 am. The temperature outside was in the mid 50’s with a small breeze. The weather was perfect for a ride down the Au Sable River. The river here is about 60 feet wide and 2 or 3 feet deep.
There was absolutely no one else on the river but us and a couple of fishermen in a rowboat the entire morning. The only time we come across anyone else is when we got to our destination at Parmalee Bridge. This place was a mad house. There was a constant flow of traffic trying to get to the river and dump people in.
During our trip we encountered a lot of wildlife this morning. More than ever before. We saw a Bald Eagle, a Marten, Ducks, a Great Blue Heron, Hawks, Geese, Fish, Turtles and even a White Tailed Deer. This was a very productive trip.
Some people run their business as if it were a pleasure for you to be doing business with them instead of the other way around. You know the kind of place where they act like if you don’t like it, then just take a hike. You wonder how (and why) anyone with this kind of disposition would be in a business that deals with the general public.
Yesterday, we got the opportunity to do business with such an establishment. The place was Duggan’s Canoe Livery in Harrison, Michigan on M-61. The guy running the place is Phil Duggan and he is quite a character. This nut job is hell bent on running his canoe livery into the ground. This is very sad since he could have a very lucrative little business.
It all started with us pulling into his parking lot. Some old man came running over and started screaming at us for parking in the wrong spot. We should have pulled out and left at that point.
I found who I assume was Phil Duggan and let him know that we were in the market for a couple of boats to rent. I also asked him if he would be interested in making a couple of extra bucks by letting the rest of us park there. He very abruptly said “no”. Puzzled I asked him if he was sure. He said that we were not allowed to stay there unless we all rented from him. Since he didn’t want my money I simply put it back into my pocket. His loss.
I then asked where his boats were going to be put in at. He said near the place we were going. I asked if he could just let them out with us. In an irate tone of voice he simply said that I should stop trying to get him to change the rules. With this guy’s nasal passages starting to flare, I decided it was time to go.
We had a wonderful time on the river until we got back to Duggan’s. Since the majority of us didn’t rent from them, we got out across the river from the place. The two boats we rented were returned to Duggan’s. This is when the guy who I again believe was Phil went ballistic. He was screaming that it took us way too long to get back and he was tired of waiting for us.
We were informed that we would not be getting our deposits back. We asked how he could keep our money. After all we did return everything that we had rented. This guy whipped out the paper we had signed when we rented the boats and forced it into our faces. It now had written at the bottom of the paper in ink “be back by 5:30”. This was not there when we signed it earlier.
We tried to complain. We also asked for a copy. At this point we were instructed to leave his property or he would call the cops. Once again we were more than happy to oblige.
On the way home we stopped to pick up some meat to grill. I ran into the butcher. I asked if he ever heard of Duggan’s? He replied “yes”, in fact his daughter was banned from the place for returning her canoe too late. I found this quite funny.
This whole ordeal is very sad. It is really too bad that what could be a very nice little business is simply going down the toilet. Excuse me as I flush!
On Saturday most of us gathered to take a trip down the Muskegon River. After all, that was the biggest reason for choosing the place we were camping at. In all, there were a total of 13 of us who chose to go. The day couldn’t have been any better. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
According to the maps we were looking at prior to going the trip should have been around 2 hours long. How wrong we were. The entire trip from Church Bridge on Pine Road back to M-61 took almost 4 hours. We even picked up the pace a bit towards the end.
We did encounter a setback prior to entering the river when I realized that I had forgotten the paddles to both Terri and my kayaks. My bad!
Other than the length of our trip becoming a bit long, the river was just right. The current speed was good. The depth was ok as well, with only a couple of shallow spots where we had to drag bottom. The width was also good for the amount of people we had together.