August 18, 2007

Au Sable & Manistee Rivers

The Au Sable River in central Michigan’s Lower Penninsula is a long-time favorite of both paddlers and fisherman since the turn of the century. The River is noted for it’s trout population, and a 22 mile stretch dedicated to ideal habitat for “catch & release only” fly fishing.

Our journey started in Grayling at Penrod Outfitters carefully designed campground and launch site, and continued through the lower 18 miles of this habitat. Penrod shuttled our truck down to the takeout for a modest fee, so we definitely recommend these folks!

Compared to most rivers we had been on that did not contain rapids, the Au Sable is very fast. We completed the paddle in about 5 hours, including a lunch stop and several short ones to stretch our legs.

Crystal clear water, punctuated by stretches of emerald green grass, waving like a hula skirt in the fast current were interrupted only by the numerous man-made cribs, log jams and bankside lay-downs providing ideal trout habitat.

The day would have been perfect were it not for the cool temps accompanied by annoying 20-25 knot winds. As you can see, Kim found a fleece very comfortable at midday in the bright sunlight (yeh, I know about Louisiana, sorry!).

The “Au Sable River Boat” caught my attention, a cross between the Ojibway canoe and a Cajun pirogue, they glide effortlessly along with the current while providing a rock stable platform for the fisherman. And the fisherman were all from the “GoreTex Club”, wearing only the finest of clothes & paraphernalia.

By 3:30 after the eighteen miles in the windy conditions, returning to the trailer and a bowl of piping hot chili was as much of a treat as floating the River.

The morning of the 18th brought another paddle in the Grayling area, another river, but a much different story. From the put-in the the take-out, I really enjoyed the tranquil, remoteness of the Manistee

The River is also a “trout river”, it is not as popular or “maintained” as others, and also does not have the high level of paddle traffic. From beginning to end, brought a slower flow, and a narrower stream, with far fewer homes and camps…what a treat. Many birds graced the banks, including several Great Blue Herons, numerous ducks (mostly teal) and even a few shorebirds.

We enjoyed this paddle so much, we didn't take many pictures, just relaxed & went with the flow of the River!

The return to Goose Creek Campground was just in time for lunch. The Campground is also a favorite of trail riders (horses). We witnessed that some horses and canoes don’t get along, when a cowboy was thrown and almost trampled by his horse while trying to cross the River right in front of an oncoming canoe. I guess it was supposed to be macho, but looked pretty stupid to me!
We broke camp early today and headed for Flint, for a few days near good internet & cell connections.