30-October-2010, Leg 10
Bundy Road Bridge to Coloma Road Bridge in Riverside
Last Saturday, I started the next -to-last segment of my paddle journey down the Paw Paw. Once again Kenneth Nesbitt joined me and we paddled the short stretch from Bundy Road to the Coloma Road Bridge at the town of Riverside. This part of the river was pretty and very similar to the segment we did the week before upstream from Bundy Road. I can tell we are now in the lower portion of the river; the current is slower, the river is deeper and I can't see gravel bars anymore. There are still wide expanses of floodplain forest dominated by huge Sycamore trees. The hollow ones are great habitat for all kinds of animal life. There are high banks at every big bend in the river and occasionally you can see where junk has been thrown over the side. Check out the picture of the old car halfway down the bank to the river [I am sure someone can identify the make and year of the vehicle just from the hood ornament].
There were hardly any houses to be seen, mainly just farm fields to the edge of the high banks. Throughout the Paw Paw River Valley the high banks are generally far apart and a wide forested floodplain occupies the lowland between these banks. This forest corridor which is so essential to wildlife extends from the outskirts of the city of Benton Harbor all the way east into Van Buren County past the confluence of the main stem and North Branch that I paddled past back in August. The Nature Conservancy has identified this entire forested floodplain corridor as one of the most significant natural areas worth preserving in all Southwest Michigan.
After two hours of lollygagging on the river and exploring some backwater bayous, we reached the take-out at Coloma Road near Riverside. Fifty four miles completed, approximately twelve to go. I elected to go no further that day because there simply is nowhere to stop and get off the river until you get to Benton Harbor. I waved good-bye to Kenneth who continued on down river to do more clean-up work so that this weekend's paddle will be a little easier. [I later found out that he didn't get to his take-out spot in Benton Harbor until after 10:00 pm!]
The current plan is that we will hope the weather clears up by Sunday and we will try to do the last 12 miles in one final push. Wish us luck!
Another aside: Kenneth just told me that he and his friends have now completed clearing a paddle path on the Paw Paw River from 48th Ave to Lawrence. When added to the sections cleared earlier this year from Lawrence to Hartford and the Hartford to Watervliet section kept open by Mike Gilliam, there is now a 30 mile section of beautiful river that is very paddle friendly even for beginners. I cannot overemphasize how cool this accomplishment is; people travel hundreds of miles to paddle shorter sections of rivers nowhere near as beautiful as the Paw Paw. I can foresee a day when the Paw Paw River is a destination for paddlers throughout the Midwest, just like the Pere Marquette, Pine, etc. The more people who come to know and appreciate the Paw Paw, the more who will help fight to protect it. I want to recognize the following people who worked on the river clearing project: Kenneth Nesbitt, Johnny DeBruyn, Dave Marcelletti, Bill McKinney, Mary Jo Isbrecht, and Greg Francisco.
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