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Trip Reports

July 3 Betsie River - County Line to Fred's Landing

Lindy Barnes  | Published on 7/3/2017

Trip report by Lindy Barnes; photos by John H & Glenn

The day began in the most perfect way possible with temps in the low 60’s heading toward the mid-70’s, clear blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. Ten of us (Lois and John, Doug and Lindy, Bob Fitch, Angie, Tracie, Jackie, Glenn Bier, and Linda Pelkey) all arrived on time and in high spirits. Our put-in site was a bit muddy and slippery slick with caliche (clay) so most of us chose a small grassy area right next to the put-in and otter-launched from there.  Lois chose to move her solo canoe out into the water and climb in while in the river. John and Glenn took some great pictures.


We hadn’t gone very far before we encountered a downed tree and were forced to portage. It was at this time that I chose to put on my PFD.  After all, a PFD doesn’t do much good if one isn’t wearing it.  This section of the Betsie was running fast and we encountered a lot of river debris that had to be maneuvered around, skooched over, and/or otherwise avoided in any way possible. This, of course, made for some interesting “paddlebatics”. And then, just before lunch,the powers that be decided that one paddler needed to learn a hard but necessary lesson.


Yours truly dumped. This was a first for me and many lessons were learned: the power of fast moving high volume water, the immense power of a group of people all suddenly coming together in rescue mode and all doing exactly what was needed to successfully perform the rescue, the life-saving reason for PFD’s properly worn, the reason for high quality gear (dry bags, dry boxes, clothing that dries quickly, etc, etc.) all latched safely and securely to the kayak or canoe.


There is no way I can ever thank the rescue team enough. The main players were Glenn Bier, my hubby Doug Barnes, and a couple not part of our group - total strangers - who showed up at just the right moment.  Glenn, an admirable rescue person, took expert charge and everyone else followed his lead.  Other paddlers in our group took their places in eddies in case anything or anyone else was needed. Many thanks to all those who grabbed hold of what wasn’t latched down (paddle, water bottle, chapstick, etc.). Chapstick :D!!   I couldn’t believe that tiny little bright orange tube of chapstick was caught.

My little 10’ Tribute made it through the adventure unscathed. The rescue turned out well with many people soaked to the skin,scratched and bruised but very relieved and happy that it was successfully over.  We continued on to join the first half of our group at lunch (a few were way ahead of us and didn’t know what had happened), got some medical care from nurse Linda for those scratches and abrasions, and changed into dry clothes (the reason for a change of clothes in dry bags plus thanks to Angie for the fleece shirt she loaned me).


Speaking of the fleece shirt – another lesson learned - I’m completely redoing my change of clothes dry bag to include clothing that is lightweight, warm, quick drying - NO cotton).  John and Lois drive it into our heads - no cotton!  NO COTTON!  I had completely forgotten I had a useless cotton shirt and sweatshirt in my dry bag.  Some lessons need to be beaten in with a baseball bat.


Oh, yes! One more lesson learned - do not follow too close to the paddler in front of you.  If the front paddler suddenly decides to make a big change, the paddler too close behind might be in for a very BIG SURPRISE!!!  Safety also means remaining at a safe distance from other paddlers.


The remainder of the trip did not go without a hitch as we encountered more woody debris. Mother Nature really did a number on this section of the Betsie over the winter/spring. At one point we all had to hold up in eddies while those in the group with saws cut away the branches of a downed tree so we could get our boats through. 

Our access at lunch proved to be the muddiest, muckiest yet. Jackie found herself ankle deep in thick, oozy, rich, jet black mud which she hates, but being the good sport that she is, gifted us with a huge smile as she sunk deep into the muck. BTW - today, July 4, 2017, is not only the 4th of July but is also Glenn Bier’s birthday. Happy, happy birthday, Glenn.

Photos by John
Jackie illustrates proper form for an otter launch

Doug's form could use a little work, however his brace was effective and he stayed upright.

The first tree to block our path.

Re-entering the river after the portage



The lunch spot was great, but the access to the lunch spot was a "little" muddy.

You could keep your shoes clean by going barefoot, but then you had to clean your feet!

This large turtle was sunning himself.


Photos by Glenn
This is the access at County Line Road



That is Doug in the water doing the rescue.