The Pine River has a reputation among the paddling community as one of the Lower Peninsula’s fastest, toughest rivers. Having kayaked different stretches of the river many times over the years with Traverse Area Paddle Club members, I’ll second that. It’s fast, fun and keeps you on the edge of your paddling seat.
Last summer I saw the river in a new light when I hiked the Silver Creek Pathway on a sunny, warm early September day. The pathway meanders along the east side of the Pine River and back along the west side, forming a nice loop hike between the river’s Silver Creek Campground and Lincoln Bridge Campground to the north.
The hike isn’t long, a little over 5 miles, but with some moderate climbing at times. The trail flows up and down ridges along the river, offering some stunning panoramic vistas looking up the length of the river from high ridges. At other times you hike alongside the river just a few feet away where you can sometimes see nice-size trout hovering in the swift river current. It’s one of the most popular trout fishing streams in Lower Michigan.
The loop hike became a reality a little over 30 years ago in 1988 when the bridge span at Silver Creek Campground was installed over the Pine. The 80-foot span that crosses the river at Lincoln Bridge Campground was placed in 1985 to create a snowmobile crossing over the river, but today serves a dual purpose for hikers as well as ORVers. Prior to that it was just an out-and-back trail that was first built between two campgrounds along the east side of the Pine in the late 1970s.
I’ve hiked several other river trails over the years, but this one gets you up close to the Pine for about a mile along the west side trail and you are again close to the Lincoln Bridge crossing. Views of long stretches of river from atop the ridges on the eastern side bring many more river views. It’s arguably one of the finest river hikes in our region.
Fishers on the early morning hike were plying the waters with flies around bends in the rivers, hoping to hook rainbow trout, and a few kayakers were also bobbing downriver in light rapids as I watched them from a high bluff.
I sat mesmerized on that same bluff as I watched an eagle in a tree on the other side of the river, which was slightly below me.
The white head kept sweeping back and forth before the big bird suddenly took flight, swooping down along the river then peeling away following the river corridor. I assume it saw a lunch opportunity, which must have eluded its grasp.
I saw a few campers at both camp sites, but nobody out on the hiking trail or along the ORV trails you briefly hike along during the loop route. It was a pleasant day to enjoy a beautiful trail hike along the river. Lulu also thought it was great since she could jump in and out of the river on a warm day. I was content sitting under a big, old shade tree and watching her cavort in the cool, swift waters of the Pine River.