26-September-2010, Leg 4
44th Avenue Bridge to 48th Avenue Bridge
On Sunday September 26, I put my kayak in at the 44th Ave bridge. I was immediately amazed at the junk that I encountered there at the bridge (see photo). Apparently someone had thrown a large number of newspaper vending machines into the river. Later, someone else had pulled them out and put them on the bank. It staggers the imagination that some people think of the river as only a place to throw their trash. Later in the day, I came upon a farm dump where garbage was still being dumped over the bank (also documented with a photo). Many of you know exactly what I am talking about because you helped with the river rescue/clean-up in August and saw it firsthand. At the site where I was captain (67 1/2 Street between Hartford and Watervliet) my team found several old sofas, TV's, and bags of household garbage! I understand the Almena Swamp team removed over 35 yards of trash from the ditches connecting to the river. Needless to say, seeing this trash in the river influenced my attitude for the rest of the day. Really, folks! It's apparent that we have a long way to go to achieve universal recognition and respect for the many critical roles water plays in our lives. We all need to work together on this!
Ok, off the soapbox and back to paddling... The stretch from 44th Ave to 46th street and then down to 48th Ave was quite a bit different from what I had done the week before. More houses, more power lines, more farm fields. Also, the water was back down to normal levels so it was tough going at times thru the trees. Some logs you can jump if you get up a head of steam. Others, you can stay in your kayak and pull yourself over with your hands. Some logs you can go under if you bend down and let the spider webs tickle the back of your neck. But some trees are just too damn big and you have to get out, step in mud up to your knees, pick up the kayak and try to carry it through brush, stinging nettles, poison ivy, etc. until you get around the obstacle. See the photo labeled, "No way through?" (Actually, I was able to sneak through this obstacle on the left side).
Yes, I ran into some difficulties but still very much worth the effort. I hope my photos convey just a little sense of the awesome beauty that nature has provided for us on the Paw Paw River. The trees of course are magnificent. I took a picture of some swamp milkweed that unfortunately is past blooming. At its peak, the plant is covered with quite striking umbrella-like clusters of pink to purple flowers. I include it here as an example of a plant growing in the watershed which has been identified by the DEQ as one whose continued existence in Michigan is precarious. Worth protecting? You bet!
Only one more very difficult segment (48th Ave to Village of Lawrence) and things should get somewhat easier. From a psychological perspective at least, I think it will be easier because I will be back on the portion of the river that I have paddled frequently in the past and know to be mostly open with only the occasional log jam. My plan is to post a date and time for the 2 or 3 segments between Lawrence and Hartford and invite experienced paddlers to join me. Then, weather permitting, will do the same for the segments between Hartford and Watervliet and invite everyone with access to a canoe or kayak. Thanks to those that have made contributions at www.firstgiving.com/kevinhaight in support of this venture.
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