Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kalamazoo River (Comstock to Parchment)

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.

From the river, we saw progress on the construction of a new segment of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, as well as the existing trail to Mayors Riverfront Park.

We paddled about 5 miles on the river in less than two hours.  While not wilderness, the float was certainly interesting and we enjoyed seeing another aspect of Kalamazoo. 
Merrill Park
5845 Comstock Ave
Comstock, Michigan 49048

South Wenke Park
5800 Kings Highway
Comstock, Michigan 49048

[addresses are approximate]

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