Float Away on the Upper Manistee: the Itinerary

Day 2

From somewhere beyond the CCC Campground to just beyond M-66 Bridge: 20ish miles.

By late morning I’d already hit Upper Sharon Bridge—the river speeds up just before, which is great fun—and as the river widens, bigger and bigger islands appear in the river’s center. I found myself wishing I had camped on one of them, but placated my yearnings with the next best thing: lunch. I pulled up on a giant island oasis that comes just before a sharp river bend to the right. Here, the low island had a sandy shore and shallows that suddenly dropped to nearly four feet deep. It was perfect for picnicking, wading, swimming and fishing, which explains how I spent nearly three hours here, very happily.

After lunch, I hit Lower Sharon Bridge, coasted a lot, fished some and, because last night’s last-minute campsite had me nervous, recalculated my planned stopping point about 3 billion times.

Mostly, I planned to take out just beyond the M-66 bridge where a former state forest campground waits, but I made it there well before dark so decided I could paddle on a wee bit farther. It was a fabulous decision: The river sped up, miles of grassy banks dotted with trees were around every bend, and by 6 p.m. I had found a beautiful spot with a slightly high bank but a sweet swimming/fishing hole. I set up camp; no houses or cabins were in sight.

Day 3

Just beyond M-66 Bridge to somewhere between Coster Road and Lucas Road Bridges: 14ish miles.

I remember this stretch as pretty darn quiet, ever slowing and serene. The banks grow steeper and higher, and it feels much of the time like you’re in the valley of a canyon. Along the way, just before the Coster Road Bridge, some homes and cottages appear, then a public access site, and then all goes quiet and peaceful again. Somewhere along here I set up camp on a peninsula-like bank that jutted out into a severe bend in the river, thinking I would be able to watch the river come and go on both sides from my hammock view.

It was a great idea, until the sky opened up, and I had to toss a tarp over the line strung above my hammock. Of course, then I started worrying about being struck by lightning, seeing as I was dangling between two trees on a mostly open bank, so I got out in the rain, untied and retied my hammock farther inland under the shelter of cedars … and then it stopped raining. Surprise.

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