24-October-2010, Leg 9
Paw Paw River Campground at M-140 (was Ma & Pa's) to Bundy Road Bridge in Coloma
On Sunday, Oct. 24, five paddlers [myself, Kenneth, Mary Jo from Benton Harbor, Carolyn from St. Joseph and Kathy from Stevensville] set out from Paw Paw River Campground. Mike Gilliam, the proprietor of the campground and canoe livery, came down to the water's edge to wish us luck and talk about the Paw Paw. Mike does his best to keep the stretch from Hartford to his campground clear and we have certainly benefitted from his work these last two weeks.
It was sprinkling as we started but soon cleared and the weather was fine the rest of the day. We immediately went past the outlet from Paw Paw Lake which actually has a water control structure on it to control the maximum level of the lake. The lake is the largest in the Paw Paw River watershed and by far the most densely populated. There are lots of problems with non-native aquatic vegetation in the lake. Unlike Van Buren County which has adopted an ordinance banning residential application of fertilizers containing phosphorus, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners has thus far refused to consider the issue. Phosphorus [which isn't even needed on most lawns in this region] runs off into the watershed where it promotes algae and other weed growth. Our web site has a lot more information on this subject – To learn more, check it out under beginning with . Related topics are and . Don’t have time for all that today? Go here for a very short explanation by Mattawan seventh grader, Hannah Walker.
Back to the business at hand… We continued paddling toward Watervliet and Hayes Park where there is the remains of a dam which is the only impediment to navigation between lake Michigan and Paw Paw [other than a whole lot of trees]. Check out the photos and video of our kayaks in the current below the rapids. Interestingly, both the power dam ruins and the diversion dam just upstream will be removed soon [maybe next year]. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission official Marcy Colclough [a TRC member] has orchestrated a grant that will pay to remove both dams and restore the old channel of the river [see photo of oxbow in Hayes park]. This will be good for the overall health of the river as it will allow native fish, mussel and invertebrate species to move more freely up and down the river.
As we paddled between Watervliet and Coloma, at times we could forget we were in an urban area. With the floodplain sometimes extending on both sides of the river, there is a significant forested corridor that is very important to wildlife. Unfortunately, we did start to see a lot of trash that had accumulated in eddies behind logs, etc. We picked up what we could until our kayaks wouldn't hold anymore. Observation: It is really hard to jump logs when you are trying to balance a discarded igloo cooler on your bow full of cans, bottles and miscellaneous trash. The other paddlers tell me that Kenneth Nesbitt is incapable of just taking a relaxing paddle down a stream, it always turns into a clean-up operation.
As expected, as we approached Coloma we started having more trees across the river. The stretch from Coloma to Bundy Road was terra incognita for me, a portion of the river I had never paddled. It was very pretty and surprisingly undeveloped as soon as we got past the second Coloma Bridge at Defield Road. Yes, there were two or three bad log jams here but this group of intrepid paddlers took them in stride.
An aside: Earlier in the week I attended a wetlands restoration workshop put on in partnership with TRC by the VB County Conservation District. Although I knew only a few people there, many strangers came up to me and said, "You don't know me but I have been following your progress down the Paw Paw, keep up the good work!" Obviously, that was very heartening to hear. Hopefully all those people [and you, gentle reader] will join the Two Rivers Coalition and help us work on water quality issues. I have now completed approximately 52 miles and have paddled nine of the last eleven weekends. Probably two more segments [maybe three] and I will reach my goal, the confluence of the Paw Paw with the St. Joseph River.
Many thanks for your support,
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