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A trip on the Detroit River: How to stay safe while enjoying local rivers

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Posted at 6:53 AM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 06:53:52-04

Water levels remain higher than normal throughout most of Michigan — that includes area lakes and rivers.

7 Action News hopped in some rental kayaks courtesy of Riverside Kayak Connection, to get a closer look at what the concerns are.

While a major concern is land erosion, a situation we looked into earlier this month, there’s also concern about safety on the water. Area rivers are moving quickly because of the extra water — Riverside Kayak Connection even took the rare step to shutdown their trips out of Elizabeth Park in Trenton.

They’ve been able to keep rides open out of Detroit, Grosse Isle and Wyandotte. Those rides are guided, so you’ll have an expert guiding you — but what if you’re planning a trip on the water alone?

David Howell, president of Friends of the Detroit River told 7 Action News that there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t endanger yourself.

This week we hopped into kayaks out of Lake Erie Metropark, Howell noted that because the Detroit River widens in this area it cuts down on the issues of strong currents you face closer to the city.

Our trip took us to Humbug Park, the only natural shoreline on the American side of the Detroit River. It was a battle more than a decade ago to keep the land from becoming part of a housing project — now it’s a wildlife refuge complete with bald eagles, which we spotted as we paddled.

“It’s right here in our backyard, not enough people consider kayaking on the Detroit River,” said Howell.

While on the water we discussed the best strategies to ensure you can do so safely.

Howell told us that you must check the weather before going out on the Great Lakes, or the rivers that connect them. Changes come quickly, and they can be deadly if you’re not prepared for them. On the Detroit River he recommends a longer kayak to ensure stability, and even though he’s a seasoned veteran he always wears a life jacket.

“You also have to be careful about submerged docks and things,” said Howell as we passed a partially submerged boat that sank many years ago in the river. “So, you have to watch for the things you can’t see so easily.”

In addition to those safety tips, Howell recommends giving a friend a heads up of where you’re traveling and for how long. Having someone realize you haven’t returned to shore is helpful if something occurs that prevents you from sounding a warning and asking for help.

If you’d like to learn more about local kayak trips with guides, you can check out Riverside Kayak Connection. For more information on the wildlife that’s been protected by the Friends of the Detroit River, check out their website.