On Labor Day weekend, we wanted to go kayaking but kept procrastinating until it was too late for an out-of-town destination. Since we still wanted to get on the water, we decided to try a stretch of the nearby Kalamazoo River: from Comstock to Parchment. Comstock has a few different river access points and without planning it, we tried two of them. We dropped a kayak at Merrill Park and then left a car on Commerce Lane in Parchment. Driving back to the start, I took a different route and ended up on the wrong side of the river. Because of construction on the River Street bridge, we would have needed to make a long detour to get back to Merrill Park. Instead, we launched across the river at South Wenke Park and ferried the kayak back.
As I expected, this section of the Kalamazoo River was more industrial than the river between Parchment and D Avenue. The first mile or so was mostly natural, with just a few buildings visible from the water. As we approached Kalamazoo, we paddled past the former Georgia Pacific paper mill site, where the EPA is capping a landfill designed to keep PCBs out of the river. Sights along this stretch of the river included Kalamazoo's sewage treatment plant, a Grand Elk railyard, and various other industrial buildings. Numerous bridges crossed the river and in places the shoreline was walled with oxidized steel. Despite all of this, there was a surprising amount of wildlife: turtles, ducks & geese, kingfishers, a half dozen Great Blue Herons, and even a pair of Osprey.
I teach economics at Kalamazoo College. My wife is also an economist. We were on sabbatical in Europe for the 2014-15 academic year. (Salamanca, Spain, followed by Oxford, UK.) We were in Uruguay for the 2006-7 academic year.