A beautiful sunny day is forecast, and you decide it’s perfect for a float down an area river. In better times you just organized a shuttle with friends and proceeded as a group. However, at my age I’m still avoiding crowds and close proximity to others outside of immediate family. I’m reluctant to climb into a vehicle with other people, even friends, right now.
One way I’ve found around that is falling back on another longtime passion, which is biking. By combining the two summertime outdoor activities, a pedal and paddle, it offers a good workout and gives you a lot of flexibility for river paddling. You don’t have to rely on a group outing or trying to match schedules with others when you want to paddle, and it allows you to go on the spur of the moment, which allows you to take advantage of that sunny day. Just throw your bike and kayak or canoe on the vehicle and go.
Two of the best area rivers for this type of activity are the Boardman and Lower Platte, which offer easy access points for spotting a vehicle and kayak or canoe with a short bike ride between.
The Boardman is close to home, and it allows several choices for pedal and paddle opportunities. Paddling the upper portion from The Forks, with its nice put-in just a half-mile south of Supply Road, down to Scheck’s Forest Campground or on to the Brown Bridge takeout offers a float through a valley of high banks and heavily forested terrain with few cottages. The river ranges in size from 20 to 40 feet with a moderate to quick current. I never get tired of paddling this section.
You utilize Brown Bridge Road (dirt) from The Forks, which crosses the river at Scheck’s and continues on to the Brown Bridge landing. It’s a little under 7 miles total distance with Schecks about halfway. You will need a mountain bike. The river float is around the same distance.
Summer, however, can be busy with rental canoes and tubes from Ranch Rudolf. During the summer with long daylight hours, I often go after 4 p.m. That’s the last run for the Ranch, and after 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. you will often find deer coming down to the river for a drink.
If you are quiet it isn’t hard to slip up on them. I’ve floated around a corner and been almost face-to-face with them.
You can also put in at Brown Bridge Landing and paddle down to Shumsky Road Public Access, about a 6-mile float.
There are several stretches of undeveloped land along this portion of the river, but cottages, homes and private bridges crossing the river are frequent.
Despite the homesteads, which pass quickly, it’s still a scenic float. You take a small portion of Brown Bridge Road and River Road to reach Shumsky. It’s 4 miles and all paved. The river float in this case is longer at around 6 miles.
Another favorite pedal and paddle combo offers a float down the scenic lower Platte River through low dunes to Lake Michigan.
The bike ride, all paved road, is short, around two-and-half miles, and the float trip is around four miles.
This tranquil float passes through National Park lands on its way to the big lake. The shallow river valley, mostly 2- to 5 feet deep, passes through a small lake and hardwood hills before entering a stretch of small sand dunes prior to reaching the big lake. The normally slow current is almost non-existent this year, because of the high lake levels.
Summer can be busy with float traffic including lots of tubers. With summer’s late daylight hours you’re best to go after five p.m., which is the latest Riverside Canoes will be putting float trips on the river. I like to use the township parking area and takeout on their ramp, which I find more convenient. The cost for using their lot is $5. I use the National Lakeshore put-in, which is quite nice and has a bike rack where you can lock your bike. On the Boardman trips I hide the bike in nearby woods locking it securely to a large tree.
By combining the two summertime outdoor activities,
a pedal and paddle, it offers a good workout and gives
you a lot of flexibility for river paddling.