Like my previous trip to the River Raisin, I departed from the River Raisin Canoe Livery ( http://www.riverraisincanoelivery.com ) although this time I was alone. The livery is near Dundee, Michigan, about 20 miles north of Toledo. Their website has driving instructions and it's fairly well marked as long as you're watching for it out there in the middle of nowhere on Plank Road.
Although they rent canoes and kayaks at the livery, you can bring your own and it'll be $5.00 for parking. Then you drive down to the water, unload your gear, and park back at the top of the hill. I met (the owner) Cherry at the livery a couple of minutes before she left to pick some people up from a "float" (another available service there - they'll pick you up at particular waypoints along the river if you just want to paddle one way--for $10.00, not bad). And if her husband, Chuck, is there upon your return (paddling both ways, that is) he'll see you (or you can call to him) and he'll help steady your boat for disembarking and help with loading it on your vehicle.
The boat launch is carpeted but that only stretches into the water for a couple of feet; after that is clay for a bit, and most of the river bottom is sand. I'm not sure if it's allowed, but I did see someone "swimming" in the middle of the river near the livery and it looked to be about 3-4 feet deep at that point.
There is a restroom (porta-potty) at the launch and a changing room nearby as well. The current is slow during the Summer --especially when they need rain-- so you can easily paddle upstream or downstream; this time I chose to go downstream. The nearby bridge is a railroad bridge but there were no trains here that day. Most of the river in this area is fairly featureless as it meanders lazily through farmland. You'll see a place where people obviously do some bank fishing (tires for chairs, concrete blocks for foot stools) but for the most part, at least on a weekday, it's quiet except for an occasional car that follows a road next to the river and the occasional great blue heron that squawks overhead because you're violating its space. The herons are big out here; could easily be mistaken for pterodactyls.
Chuck says there are plenty of Maple trees along the way so Autumn is a good time to paddle this one. In his experience, it's only spectacular during the second and third week of October; after that, it's over as far as the Autumn colors go.
The houses along the way are set pretty far back from the river but you can still see them. "No Trespassing" signs are a common sight, as well as pontoon boats, rowboats, sheds, and chairs. Lots of chairs. This was a weekday afternoon so nobody was out there, but from what I gather, people sit in chairs a LOT on this stretch of the river.
Above you'll see a most curious shorebird that I followed for quite a ways. I checked my Audobon book and I believe it's a "killdeer." This fellow flew 1-2 inches above the water while evading me from time to time. Then it would land on mud or debris and appear to be eating bugs while bouncing its butt up and down all the while. It never made a sound.. It kept to the shade most of the time so this was a lucky shot. And for this one I was definitely in "stealth" mode and on the other side of a large fallen tree. At a State Park, the wild animals are relatively tame, but out here, this is definitely their territory and not ours. Even the ducks are plenty skittish. Photographers have a challenge here; recreational paddlers have it easy. Fisherpeople? Not sure, yet.
The bridge is quite a landmark both when departing and returning. The current seems stronger near the concrete abutments, so be careful; still, it's a nice place to hang around. If you can see a little white dot just left of dead center in the picture, that's the livery. A pontoon boat, actually. Getting close to home now. I only paddled about an hour and a half downstream; you could certainly go much farther, and in both directions. I don't know of any campsites along the way but again, the current is slow and the area is quiet. I'm recommending this for an easy afternoon paddle (upstream or downstream) for beginners, families, and exceedingly patient photographers.
By the way, I remember mentioning Chuck. And I mentioned he'd steady your boat when you return. The ramp has a pretty steep fall-off. Not deep water, but a fairly steep ramp. On this particular trip, I chose not to call to Chuck (I could see him on a bench up on the hill but I decided to call him). I know I'm a beginner, but I wanted to disembark from my new kayak all by myself. Then I slipped on the wet clay river bottom when getting out of the boat and although the water is only about 2-feet deep there, somehow I went in up to my neck.
Now I have some new ideas: 1) Get Chuck to help my tired bones exit a narrow kayak, 2) Carry wallet & cell phone in ZipLock bags, and 3) Bring a change of clothes always always always always always always always always.
Tomorrow I will get to test my revolutionary new ideas at the same place; I know they're winners. Have fun; be safe.