16-October-2010, Leg 8
City of Hartford 64th Street Bridge to Ma-n-Pa's on M-140
Wow! A total of 23 paddlers joined me on this segment. Some were members of Two Rivers Coalition already but others had simply heard about my journey to raise awareness of the natural beauty of the river and wanted to come along. A big thanks to Kenneth Nesbitt of Lawton for helping to organize this group paddle. In addition, he and some of his kayaking buddies have been working on clearing a paddle route from Lawrence downstream which has certainly made my paddling easier the last two weeks.
We had a beautiful fall day and the colors along the river bank were gorgeous. The Paw Paw trees were changing from green to yellow, the spicebush was red, the buttonbush was yellow and the canopy above ranged from brown to orange to scarlet. For the first mile or so the riverbottom remained gravel just like the several miles above Hartford. Some of the paddlers saw trout and salmon on the gravel bars. The river then slowed and widened and went back to a sand bottom with deep holes below high banks at every bend of the river. On some of the south banks [facing north and therefore getting less sun] there were stands of hemlock, an evergreen that has a very limited range this far south. We paddled back into an oxbow [an old channel of river that has been bypassed by the main current] and saw the remains of a Great Blue heron rookery high in some Sycamore trees. When I paddled this route in the spring, the noise from the nests full of chicks was deafening. We paddled by the confluence of Pine Creek which is a coldwater tributary of the Paw Paw. Pine Creek rises in the glacial morraine hills of Keeler [south of Hartford] and is a DNR designated trout stream. Sadly both Pine Creek and Mill Creek have had high levels of e. Coli when tested by the DEQ in recent years. Possible sources include large concentrated animal feeding operations which can generate 3,000 head of fecal material per day. At this point the DEQ does not have any plans to do further testing to narrow down the source.
All in all it was a very enjoyable paddle and very easy compared to the log jam wilderness sections I had paddled between Paw Paw and Lawrence. Mike from Paw Paw River Campground and Canoe Livery has done a good job of keeping the river open for paddlers from Hartford to M-140. We still had to weave around and duck under some obstacles. One unfortunate kayaker was attempting to squeeze under a large downed Sycamore when he had a dispute with his kayak as to which way to go. They compromised and each went their own separate way and the paddler was dumped into the cold water!
I have now travelled approximately 2/3's of the way to my final destination: the confluence of the Paw Paw with the St. Joseph in Benton Harbor.
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