Thursday, April 23, 2009

UHHC Progress Report - April 23, 12:37 p.m.

Charlie called about 8 AM The Intrepid 4 are on the Portage River. It is all downhill from now on. They will go winding thru Little Portage Lake and then bypass Big Portage Lake in a flooding, take a loop to the north where Orchard Creek joins the Portage, then into the channelized part of the Portage River which I call the Portage Ditch, without question the ugliest stretch in the entire Grand River system. It consists of mostly barren, straight channels in a sort of zigzag pattern all the way to the Grand just north of Jackson Prison. If you want to see the original channel the Township line between Henrietta and Leoni Townships of Jackson County follows it.
Back in the late teens and early 1920's flood control projects consisted mostly of channelization where a floating dredge would straighten the river out for many miles. The net result would be to send the flood waters faster down to the lower parts of the river which would of course make their floods worse.
The north trending reach of the Grand River from north of Jackson almost to where the Grand makes its big turn to the west was channelized in 1919. The remains of the original channel are obvious in oxbows on either side of the present river's straight line course.
The next problem the Challengers will face will be numerous log jams and deadfalls blocking the Grand. If the water is high enough they will be able to get around by paddling through the woods. That worked quite well for Charlie and Doug McDougall last year.
Jody Bennet raised the question as to what I mean when I say they "took to their wheels". They have folding bicycle-wheel rigs that they put under their canoes. When on the water the wheels are lashed to the top of the canoe behind the paddler. When they pull out they unfold the wheel rig and strap it to the underside of the canoe. Then they just grab a rope or handle at the bow and pull the canoe down the road like they were walking their dogs. They have lights and reflectors for safety during after-dark travel like last night.
The seven mile portage is on county roads. They pulled out at the Bowdish Road bridge over Portage Creek and zigzagged over to where Moeckle Road crosses the upper end of the Portage River.. It took until about 10:30 last night.
Larry "Coach" Hoff from Superior Wisconsin uses a trailer-like rig and a folding bicycle that all comes apart and is stored inside the hull behind the seat. I told him he looks like a traveling junkyard. He was in Grand Rapids last night and hopes to make Lake Michigan today. He plans to do the 50 miler Saturday.
Jon Holmes' Spotter makes it look like he is about at Eaton Rapids.

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