This is an excellent float through some of the prettiest country in southeast Michigan. Numerous access points make it easy to shorten the length of the trip for those looking for a quick float. Flatwater and a few riffles make this section of the Huron especially attractive for beginners and families, although a good deal of paddling is required. Great bird-watching and fishing opportunities abound along this entire stretch. Total trip time: About 6 hours.
We put in at Island Park in Ann Arbor and were greeted by several families of ducks. We scraped bottom a bit through the early sections. We continued on through Ann Arbor, passing many beautiful homes and parks. We stopped for a swim at a great spot below the two identical apartment towers.
The river widened and slowed, requiring a good bit of paddling. Just below US-23, PORTAGE the dam at Dixboro Road on the RIGHT. Parking is available here for those looking for access. The lot closes at 10 p.m. We stopped for lunch here before completing the 200 yard portage on even terrain. Picnic tables are available, no restrooms. We floated on, past the Ann Arbor wastewater treatment plant. The river is very wide here and dotted with beautiful homes. Further on, PORTAGE the unnamed hydroelectric dam on the RIGHT. This is a short portage, but the downhill portion is quite steep and rocky. We were very disappointed to come across the remains of a campfire and a great deal of trash (mostly fishing related) and broken glass on the downstream side of the dam.
This section of the river was the most scenic. Very few houses (although signs announced new construction in the near future). We came across a pair of Blue Herons wading in lily pads. Further along there were dozens of ducks putting on fat for their coming migration. We stopped for another cooling swim at the railroad trestle that marks the end of this wild stretch.
Below this stretch, the river widens and slows again as it approaches the dam at the old Peninsular Paper works site in Ypsilanti, just north of Eastern Michigan University. PORTAGE this dam at the dock on the LEFT (near the dam proper; pulling out at the trail before the dam will add quite a carry). Carry by the old paper works building, descend the stairs and reenter the river. If you look across the river, youll notice a newer set of apartments standing on what was the main portion of the paper plant. Look closely and youll see the developer left the smokestack, adding a bit of interest to the units. Parking is available here, but no facilities.
This lovely bit of the river, although not as clean as the section through Ann Arbor, moves you swiftly into Ypsilanti. We quickly reached Frog Island and Riverview parks in Ypsi proper. Those interested could stop off in Depot Town for a quick ice cream or cool drink. Look for the wooden pedestrian bridge spanning the river adjacent to Washtenaw Avenue. Depot town lies along Washtenaw, east of the Huron. Several Victorian mansions face the river here and reminded us of their past glory. We passed under Michigan Avenue and entered another quiet section of river with a brisk current. We were distressed to see scores of dead pan fish, and unsure what killed them. We let the current take us through Gilbert Park and to our takeout, easily visible from the river.
If you dont mind a bit of paddling, I highly recommend this trip. The wildlife is great, as is the fishing. The scenery is constantly changing, from look at that beautiful house there to I cant believe were not up north.
Island Park closes at 10 p.m. Four hour parking from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. is posted. We had no trouble leaving the car for 6+ hours. No overnight parking.
The parking area off Spring Street is a bit dicier. It is posted as "Parking for fishing from the bank only..." We had no issues leaving a car there for 6+ hours on a Sunday. No overnight parking.
No restrooms at either end, although there are numerous restrooms and picnic spots along the way, both guerilla and sanctioned.
Put in at Island Lake Park in Ann Arbor (some maps show this as Fuller Park). Exit US-23 at Plymouth road and head West. Continue on Plymouth Road until you reach Maiden Lane and head south. Watch for Island Drive on your left. Island Park is a short distance down this side street.
Take out at a parking area just north of the Ford Lake dam in Ypsilanti. Take I-94 to exit 183 (Huron Street). Go north on Huron Street to the first light which is Spring Street. Take a right to head east. You will immediately descend a short hill and see the Visteon plant on the right. The parking area will be on the north side of Spring Street RIGHT AT the railroad tracks
Canoeing Michigan Rivers: A Comprehensive Guide to 45 Rivers (Dennis & Date, 2d ed.) was consulted. Information on this stretch of the river was sparse.