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Rafting on the River…for work!

On Wednesday afternoon I joined a group of paddlers (all women!) to test drive a few rafts down the river with the idea of developing senior programming for the City of Ann Arbor and possibly in concert with the UM Turner Geriatric Center. Yep, I never thought of rafting the river but it is a great way to get small children and senior citizens out on the river safely while providing some education and guidance about the river.

It was a gorgeous sunny day to take the trip from Argo livery to Gallup Park.  Gallup Park canoe livery and launch is under construction but you can take out at the boat launch just a bit downstream.  Unfortunately the river in this section was considerably impacted by some odd operations at Barton Dam so the water level dropped off.  Where we were expecting about 400-500 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water in the river; we were greeted with only a mere 200 cfs.  This made the ride through the Argo Cascades very bumpy and wet and then past the cascades, it meant a lot of walking and pulling the raft over rocky bottom.

We were the only boats on the river and it provided us an opportunity to see many birds.  We saw two osprey as they hunted their way down the river from Riverside Park in Ann Arbor to downstream of Island Park.  And we saw numerous blue herons (its hard to tell if you are seeing the same 2 over and over again, or new ones).  They enjoy perching on logs or taller branches overlooking  the river.  Despite the river being very low, the water clarity was great and being up on a raft allowed a better vantage point to see the tons of fish and river bottom.  The section below Island Park back by Fuller fields seems like a great, remote fishing spot.

In terms of senior programming, we had a few findings:

  • the Argo Gallup trip is too long for seniors to sit without back support and being jostled.  A shorter trip (maybe Argo to Island Park–our new launch!) was a better offering than the longer trip to Gallup;
  • getting in and out of the raft using the docks works very well for creaky bones and limited mobility;
  • one camp chair fits in the middle of the raft for someone in need of back support;
  • an experienced and “youthful” river guide is needed to steer the boat and assist entry and exit;
  • we would need to set a lower limit of water in the river (probably 400-500 cfs) so you can stay in the boat the whole trip!;
  • and finally, we need to tie in a pre-raft class at Turner as part of the programming.

If you have ideas about river trip programming for seniors please let me know as we will be developing our ideas over the winter.

I’m sorry I have no pictures of the trip, but my phone was in the drybag the whole time!  Highly advised when you go through the Cascades in low water.

Not quite this....

Not quite this….

but more like this!

but more like this!

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5 Responses to “Rafting on the River…for work!”

  • Marty Baldwin:

    This is very interesting news. I would be interested in this project, rafting the river next year Please keep me informed. I have kayaked several rivers in Michigan in previous years with groups of friends. Marty Baldwin

  • rebecca horvath:

    I’m 78 and would still love to canoe down to Gallup from Argo, but have no partner except when my son comes to visit. It would be nice to have a partnering with younger people for us old folks who can still paddle.

  • Eunice Burns:

    Last week I was a passenger, not a paddler, on a wonderful canoe trip on part of the river between Dexter and Ann Arbor. At 90, the hardest part was getting into and out of the boat but, with help, I made it. Others should have that opportunity.

  • Mary Hathaway:

    I enjoyed this trip with my kids and grandkids this past summer. We were pleased with the option to choose rafts, as most of us are not experienced paddlers. We all fit on 2 rafts. It was jolly. One crew sang and improvised on the theme of “Row, row, row your boat”, both crews exchanged puns and jokes. Occasionally there was a flurry of competitive paddling. When we disembarked at Gallup, plenty of strong arms helped my creaky joints out of the boat. Making this kind of experience available to more Grannies is a great idea.

  • Teresa Roberts:

    Please put my name on your list of contacts for when this program is offered to the public. I am 64 and would love to participate in activities such as these but don’t because I have no friends who are interested. I’d love to join a group of people, even strangers, who have the same interests.


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