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Kickapoo River, Ontario WI

 
 
 
On our way up to Minneapolis for a paddle down the Mississippi River to do a little research for “Paddling & Pastimes”, we stopped in the town of Ontario WI. There we visited Tony Kelbel, owner of Drifty’s Canoe Rental, and kayaked a river I wrote about in the “Canoeing & Kayaking Wisconsin” book: the beginner accessible – and unforgettable - Kickapoo River.
The Kickapoo is the longest tributary to the longest river in Wisconsin: it flows south/southwest for 130 miles and ends by merging into the 430-mile long Wisconsin River. The Kickapoo features the most beautiful rock outcroppings we’ve ever seen on a river. You paddle by 12 separate rock formations on the short 2 hour trip (6.6 miles) that begins at Drifty’s Canoes.
Millions of years ago, the valley where the Kickapoo flows today did not exist. The sandstone and shale rock formations were continuous layers that stretched across where the river valley now is. Over time, erosion cut thru these geological layers, leaving a deep valley for the Kickapoo to flow thru. Most of SW Wisconsin was untouched by glaciers during the Ice Age. It’s an area known as “unglaciated” or the “driftless region”. Glaciers deposit sediment called “drift” which would’ve flattened or eroded these outcroppings, had the glaciers not bypassed the SW corner of the state.
Although the drive to Ontario WI is a long one for folks from Michigan (9 hours from SE Michigan), the beauty of the Kickapoo creates a memory well-worth your time.
 

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Crockery Creek, Grand Haven MI

 
A great wildlife viewing paddle adventure awaits you on Crockery Creek, located just
a few miles east of Grand Haven, 10 minutes from Lake Michigan. The suggested site
to launch is just a few feet northeast of I96 at exit 10 / Nunica. From there, we took a
4 mile float south to where Crockery Creek empties into the mighty Grand River.
 
You find yourself meandering down Michigan's version of Loo-siana bayou country,
padding beneath and around leaning branches, midstream deadwood, and plenty of
trees jutting out of the water (some of this due to the early season high water levels).
The frequency of the obstructions make this an enjoyable paddling challenge and not
well-suited for beginners.
 
A herd of at least 30 deer stampeded next to us, treating us to a beautiful sight 'n sound.
This was truly special, not unlike watching a scene from Lonesome Dove with Captain
Call, Augustus & the boys driving a herd of horses across the prairie.  
 
At the 1.4 mile mark, we counted 23 nests some 50' high in the trees above us, nests of
the Blue Herons. While some birds stayed in the nests with their eggs, others took to the
sky above, squawking their distaste for our intrusion into their lives. It was quite a sight!
Since Blue Herons use the same nests for several years at a time, there is an excellent
chance that this sweet wildlife viewing opportunity will be yours for some time to come.
 
At the 4 mile mark, the southward flowing Crockery Creek merges with the Grand
River flowing from your left to right on its way to a junction with Lake Michigan. You
paddle for a quarter mile across the Grand to the 118th Street DNR access site on
the south side of the Grand.
 
Canoes and kayaks may be rented from Karen and Bob Chapel at Lakeshore Kayak,
phone 616-566-1325 and website www.lakeshorekayakrental.com.
 
 
 

Mecan River, Princeton WI

 
One of the sweetest little streams you'll ever float is the Mecan (ma-can) River in south
central Wisconsin. The river averages a narrow 15' to 20' wide and features a deceptively
quick current that slingshots you quickly around the tight turns. Plenty of deadwood and
low hanging branches give you a fun run for your money. The clearance is so minimal under
some of the small farm bridges that you have to squeeze under, there was a cheer for each
boat that made it successfully. The stories told on the ride to our launch site by Mecan River
Outfitters Godfather, Paul Harvey, were half the fun (now we know the rest of the story).
The old time tavern feel of the Buckhorn Lounge in the nearby town of Princeton (you'll dig
their Hillbilly Wind Chimes) does your soul good, sitting on the Buckhorn's back deck over-
looking the Fox River (the Mecan flows into the Fox a little SW of Princeton). Overnight in
Princeton at Ellison's Gray Lion B&B for a short walk back from a belly full of Schlitz (no
PBR on tap, so a fine plan B) and pizza at the Buckhorn.   
 

Fox River, Seney MI

 
The fabulous Fox River was our 4Day getaway destination. Our hosts were Northland Outfitters
on M77 in Germfask, 75 minutes west of the Mackinac Bridge in the beautiful Upper Peninsula.
We launched from the Fox River Overlook, about 6 paddling hours upstream from the Seney
Township Campsite. Although there is no whitewater or rapids on the Fox, this is one of Michigan's
most challenging streams, a narrow & fast flowing river, featuring frequent tight turns and quite a bit
of deadwood to paddle around or over. The Fox is a wonderful wilderness experience! During our
4 days on the water, there was not another paddler in sight - you are deep into a wonderful seclusion.
Plan to work as the logjams are plentiful, but the Fox is so spiritual and so beautiful, that you'll want
to come back again & again.
 
There are a few day trip options on the Fox:
1. 2 hours - Fox Overlook to the Fox River State Forest Campground
2. 4 hours - Fox River S.F.C. to the Seney Township Campground
3. 6 hours - Fox Overlook to the Seney Township Campground
 
You can take 2 or 3 days to run the Fox from the Seney Township Campground down to 
Northland Outfitters in Germfask. It takes us approximately 12 hours for this stretch. There
are no designated campgrounds along the way, and the only public access of any kind here
is at M28 - only 20 minutes downstream from the Seney Township site.
 
25 minutes beyond M28, you enter the Fox River Spreads. You'll know that you're at the
Spreads when the Fox splits into two smaller streams - and each of those streams splits, and
then splits again. The river becomes so narrow that you can reach out and touch the brush
leaning into the river from each shore. Take any one of the splits in the Spreads and know that,
within 30 minutes, all of the splits will reconnect. A very cool experience!
 
Less than a two mile walk from the Seney Township Campground is one of our favorite
taverns, Andy's Seney Bar. Located on M28 in Seney, Andy's is about 150' or so east of
where the Fox River flows beneath the M28 Bridge. To quote from the classic 1985 song,
"Some get there by canoe, some get there by car, they're all looking for Andy's - Andy's
Seney Bar". Andy's opened in 1978, the same year that we took our first 4Day canoe trip
with Northland Outfitters. An evening (or a day) at Andy's will be full of good times, with
table top shuffleboard, Pabst Blue Ribbon beers, and maybe doing a shot or two of George
Dickel Tennessee Whisky right along with Andy. If you do a few rounds of Dickel with Andy,
and your shoes are missing the next morning, save yourself some time by looking for 'em at
Andy's first. 
   
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