River Ramblings

It’s ironic that rivers try to carve a straight path through the soft deposits left behind 10,000 years ago by receding glaciers, because for people enjoying rivers today, it’s all about the winding curves of the water, of not knowing what is around the next bend.

Adventures abound in, on, and alongside the waters of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

There are thousands of miles of rivers and streams in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and nearly as many scenes of people enjoying them. Maybe you’ll see a kayaker floating down the Kawkawlin River, a family enjoying a picnic lunch along Bay City’s Riverwalk, or birdwatchers thrilled by the sights of migration at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. You may even catch a glimpse of fishermen casting for bass in the Chippewa River, or gathered in ice fishing shanties across the Saginaw River.

It’s ironic that rivers try to carve a straight path through the soft deposits left behind 10,000 years ago by receding glaciers, because for people enjoying rivers today, it’s all about the winding curves of the water, of not knowing what is around the next bend.

Cast a line

John Van Dalen, a local fisherman, enjoys the many amenities offered by the region’s rivers. Van Dalen, a certified Trout Unlimited casting instructor, has been teaching fly fishing in the area for 40 years. “Local rivers,” he says, “are such a wonderful resource, and are tapped so little. You don’t have to spend a whole weekend [traveling] to enjoy [the rivers].”

For beginner fishermen, Van Dalen recommends Midland County’s Chippewa River. The river maintains a good depth, and has a bountiful population of smallmouth bass as well as some trout. The Tittabawassee River is also excellent for bass fishing, but requires use of a boat due to its depth, while the Chippewa River can be easily waded.     

To get started, Van Dalen recommends stopping by local shops to purchase fishing gear, such as Little Forks Outfitters in Midland (for fly fishing), or Frank’s Great Outdoors in Linwood (for spin fishing). Staff members at these shops can advise you on what equipment to buy and current weather and water conditions, and provide directions to river access locations.

Rivers throughout the region can be accessed from nearly any public road, though parking is often less than optimal. A plethora of parks, nature centers, and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) access sites are also available, and generally provide better parking options.

But most important, just enjoy the experience of being outdoors. “Remember,” Van Dalen says, “it’s called fishing, not catching.”

The experience itself, not the catch, is also the fishing motto of Andy Gorske, manager of Frank’s Great Outdoors in Linwood. To people fishing on a boat with the radio on, he advises, “Shut that off and listen to what is going on [around you].”

Gorske generally does his fishing from atop a one-person pontoon boat. He loves river fishing because it allows you to cover more territory, soaking up the experience at whatever pace the river delivers. But if you don’t want to float the length of an entire river, Gorske recommends the mouths of the Kawkawlin, Saginaw, or Au Gres rivers as great fishing locations.

John Van Dalen, a local fisherman, enjoys the many amenities offered by the region’s rivers. Van Dalen, a certified Trout Unlimited casting instructor, has been teaching fly fishing in the area for 40 years. “Local rivers,” he says, “are such a wonderful resource, and are tapped so little. You don’t have to spend a whole weekend [traveling] to enjoy [the rivers].”

For beginner fishermen, Van Dalen recommends Midland County’s Chippewa River. The river maintains a good depth, and has a bountiful population of smallmouth bass as well as some trout. The Tittabawassee River is also excellent for bass fishing, but requires use of a boat due to its depth, while the Chippewa River can be easily waded.     

To get started, Van Dalen recommends stopping by local shops to purchase fishing gear, such as Little Forks Outfitters in Midland (for fly fishing), or Frank’s Great Outdoors in Linwood (for spin fishing). Staff members at these shops can advise you on what equipment to buy and current weather and water conditions, and provide directions to river access locations.

Rivers throughout the region can be accessed from nearly any public road, though parking is often less than optimal. A plethora of parks, nature centers, and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) access sites are also available, and generally provide better parking options.

But most important, just enjoy the experience of being outdoors. “Remember,” Van Dalen says, “it’s called fishing, not catching.”

The experience itself, not the catch, is also the fishing motto of Andy Gorske, manager of Frank’s Great Outdoors in Linwood. To people fishing on a boat with the radio on, he advises, “Shut that off and listen to what is going on [around you].”

Gorske generally does his fishing from atop a one-person pontoon boat. He loves river fishing because it allows you to cover more territory, soaking up the experience at whatever pace the river delivers. But if you don’t want to float the length of an entire river, Gorske recommends the mouths of the Kawkawlin, Saginaw, or Au Gres rivers as great fishing locations.

Coiple hugging by the river

Paddle at ease

For many people, floating down a river has nothing to do with catching fish but rather with climbing into a kayak or canoe and letting the current dictate your speed and destination. The best place to get started might not be on a river, but on your computer, at the website of the East Coast Paddlers, www.eastcoastpaddlers.com.

This group of local water enthusiasts welcomes new members. The website has links to local weather forecasts and the United States Geological Survey’s current water data page for Michigan. Use the website to avoid mistakes such as starting a four-hour float when a storm is likely to arrive in two, or trying to kayak a river flooded from rains received upstream. The website also features detailed directions on where to start and end kayak and canoe trips, including locations along the Kawkawlin, Shiawassee, and Saginaw rivers.   

The optimal way to determine what equipment is best suited for you is to literally try it on, in the case of personal floatation devices, and to try it out, in terms of kayaks, canoes, and paddles, on the water. A stop at Frank’s Great Outdoors might be just the ticket. The store has “demo days” throughout the summer, offering customers the option to try out its products on the water.

Lori Hightower, buyer/manager for kayak sales at Frank’s Great Outdoors, says kayaks are not the “spin and flip” vessels many people picture from whitewater kayaking scenes. Recreational kayaks are stable and flat-bottomed, making them perfect vessels to use on the river, whether you are fishing or just floating. Basic kayak models start at around $350, but especially lightweight models, or models with special amenities such as perched seats and storage hatches, are more expensive.

Whether your experience is in, on, or alongside a river, make it a point to get out and enjoy the waters of the great lakes bay region this summer!

Canoe

Riverbank adventures

A river adventure doesn’t always mean getting in or on the water. Wildlife watchers can have an adventure without ever leaving the riverbank. “I’m naturally inclined to go birding near water,” says Ryan Dziedzic, a Midland County resident and biology instructor who has been birding in the region for 20 years. “That’s where the birds are—in the riparian (riverside) corridor. You’re almost guaranteed to find birds, especially in the spring.” Dziedzic should know, as he found 220 bird species in Midland County last year, the majority of them alongside rivers.

Dziedzic’s favorite birding locations in the Great Lakes Bay Region include two Midland County Parks located along the Salt River: the Laur Family Park and Pine Haven Recreation Area, the latter of which Dziedzic describes as “an absolute jewel, with southern and northern [bird] species all in one great place.”

Another one of his favorite birding hot spots is the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, particularly the 6.5-mile auto tour that largely follows the Shiawassee River. “Rivers have a natural fluctuation in their water level,” Dziedzic says, “which creates ever-changing mudflats, shallow water, and deeper pools, perfect for [spotting] everything from shorebirds and ducks to swallows and kingfishers.”

As with kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, there is much to be learned with birdwatching before you even step outside. Dziedzic recommends visiting the Saginaw Bay Birding website, www.saginawbaybirding.org, to get a feel for where birders are going and what species they are seeing.

As important as the preparation is, though, beginning your birdwatching journey early in the morning may be most important. “Think like a bird,” Dziedzic says. “When you’re annoyed by them singing at six in the morning, well, you should already be out there.”

Maybe the challenge of planning a canoe trip, or getting up early for a morning birdwatching session makes enjoying our local rivers seem more like a chore than “recreation.” Not to worry. For a simpler adventure, take a stroll along Bay City’s appropriately named Riverwalk, which extends from Veterans Park south to the Lafayette Street Bridge. Bring a picnic lunch, or something to cook on one of the grills provided along the way. The Kantzler Arboretum is located midway down the Riverwalk, and from there you can enjoy an extended walkway to a gazebo near the shipping channel. Or, continue south to an elevated portion of the walk, which gives you a good view of wildlife, including egrets, herons, ducks, and deer.

Whether your experience is in, on, or alongside a river, make it a point to get out and enjoy the waters of the Great Lakes Bay Region this summer!

Related

Phase 2 of Bottle, Can Returns Starts Oct. 5

The Michigan Department of Treasury is beginning Phase 2 of bottle and can returns Oct. 5.

Shaping Young Lives

Rwaida Baz Bates has been that inspirational person for countless children in the Saginaw Public School District for …

A Walk to End Alzheimer’s

The vision of the Alzheimer’s Association is “a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.” But that vision ha…

Best of Great Lakes Bay: Farmers Market Fare

A look at some of our readers favorite items found at local farmers markets.

Classroom Chic: Back-to-School Fashion

The new school year has begun. Even though this school year may look very different than previous years, you can stil…

Connect

Contact

517.203.3333

221 W. Saginaw St.
Lansing MI, 48933

All Rights Reserved Great Lakes Bay Business and Lifestyle Magazine