I’ve done columns in past winters on taking guided raft trips down the Sturgeon and Jordan rivers. Winter float trips offer a different look at northern Michigan, offering solitude and quiet beauty along area rivers shrouded in snow.

I normally try to get in a winter raft trip every year.

I was excited to recently learn that for the first time winter rafting trips are being offered on the Pine River through Pine River Paddlesports.

The Pine has a reputation for being northern Michigan’s feisty river with lots of standing waves, rock beds and plenty of riffles, which is much of the lower river. They have chosen a section on the upper river that is still fast, but without the rock beds, waves and riffles. It’s still just as scenic passing underneath tall banks and forested hillsides devoid of any cottages.

The new rafting excursion is proving to be popular, according to Jacob Miltner, who along with his wife Alaney, run the popular livery. This is their 50th year in the business, which was started by Jacob’s father Mark. The younger Miltner grew up in the business. It’s the oldest livery serving the Pine River. The first float I did on the Pine was in the mid-70s before moving to northern Michigan. It was a summer trip with friends from the Dayton, Ohio ski club, where I lived at the time. We rented canoes from Pine River Paddlesports.

“We’ve been thinking of adding the winter schedule to the business, and this year with all the interest in outdoor activities decided to do it,” Miltner explained as we floated down the river. “We’ve already got trips scheduled into next month. Weekends are proving to be very popular. Midweek isn’t as busy at this time.”

Gliding along, at times ducking under branches of overhanging cedar, snow covered banks illuminate the darkly wooded shoreline.

The only sound, when we were quiet, was the gurgle of rushing water as it swept along the gravely river bed and around obstacles, namely fallen trees and submerged logs. The water was clean and cold.

Since it was a midweek trip my goldendoodle Lulu was able to go with me on the float, which is a nice addition that other area river floats don’t offer.

She really enjoyed the trip. Her nose was constantly twitching with all the new river scents she wasn’t used to smelling. She got excited when a hawk took off from a tree along the bank just above us.

The float trip runs from Walker Bridge down to Lincoln Bridge, which takes about an hour and 15 minutes. The spellbinding scenery makes the trip pass almost too quickly.

“We’ve been thinking of adding the winter schedule to the business, and this year with all the interest in outdoor activities decided to do it.” Jacob Miltner, Pine River Paddlesports

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