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Manistee River in Michigan

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

I was on a kayak fishing trip where I had to travel between bodies of water. On my way west out of Wellston on M-55 I came to High Bridge Road north that crosses the Manistee River. When I reached the bridge, I decided to explore it by parking along the road and walking to the center of the bridge as it provided tourists with sidewalks to ponder the quiet solitude of river as there was little traffic. The High Bridge was adequately named because it was about 40' plus above the river that flowed gently and quietly with clear water and a sandy bottom.

As I was looking down, I noticed a person that was fishing from a wheel chair so I walked over the bridge and down to the river bank. It turned out that the fisherman was a veteran who had lost his foot in Vietnam and was "pushed" through the soft sand down to the bank by his brother-in-law to "get out of the house"!

As we talked he said that it was the only thing he does because he was also wounded mentally somewhat. I said that if he needed help, I could stick around to help him and his brother-in-law push him back up through the soft sand because it was more than 150' up to the road. As we talked, his rod bent quickly as he hooked one of the many carp that thrive in the Manistee River. He was rather excited as he fought the 3 lbs. carp until he brought it closer to the bank. I told him that I would stick around to help him land the fish since he could not go in the water nor bend over far enough to take the hook out of the mouth of the carp. As soon as it was close enough, I grabbed the carp, got his needle nose pliers and removed the hook. He said that that was the most fun he had had in a long time and thanked me to doing that for him. With that said, I looked at the current and decided to do something unusual by going back to my truck and roll my kayak down to the river and go for a ride.......upstream.

Since I was solo, I could not go down stream not knowing where to take-out and I had never been on a river before. The banks of the river had "dead water" so I thought I could take my Moken 10' kayak and see how far I could paddle upstream with the intention of drifting back since I had a leisure day planned driving from Wellston to Healy Lake.

I bid my farewell to the vet on shore and paddled in the dead water until branches blocked my path on the south side of the river at which point I began a zig-zag pattern until High Bridge disappeared. The current on the Manistee moves along in a brisk manner with clear blue water averaging 5' deep with carp darting out here and there as I passed over their secret hiding places. There were also turtles on logs that would take a dive to get out of my way as I passed by.

After about 30 minutes, I came to a bend in the river where limbs prevented my from going any further because the current was quite strong keeping in mind that a Moken 10' which is quite nimble for going downstream is just the opposite for going upstream. That is, it is extremely stable but is a real tugboat in waves & wind and in this case becomes a barge in an upstream current. When I tried to paddle into the current, I could tell by looking down at limbs in the water that I was not moving. No matter what I did, I could not make headway. At this point, I rested my paddle and got out my video camera and recorded my experience because I was pretty much worn out by the 30 minutes of hard paddling I had to do to get this far upstream.

With my camera filming, my feet hung over the side in the cool water, I dipped my hat, filled it with water and poured it over my head because temps this day were in the mid-80's and it was pure joy to begin my hard earned float back to High Bridge. Within 15 minutes or so, I drifted back to my point of put-in as my SD card filled up and I loaded my kayak back onto my truck and continued my journey to my next lake.

Looking back and reviewing my film, that was a lot of fun and I will do that again only I will have an ocean kayak and will "turn that bend" and go further upstream because I will have a better kayak to handle what the Manistee River has to offer. Should you decide to do that, keep that in mind!


From US 31 east to M-55 to High Bridge Rd. north


Put-in at the bridge as well as the take-out.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location