Saturday, April 20, 2013

How High's the Water

It's been raining a little bit and the river has been raising. So when I headed to town yesterday I grabbed the camera to take a few photos.  Looking at all of that water reminded me of a song. Click on the video below so you can get on the same page as me.

Now that I've got you the right frame of mind, let's continue.

I've lived near the Cass River most of my life. Most of the time it's hardly big enough to call a river. With a depth in this area of about knee-deep in most places. With its slow pace and many rocky rapids, you can't even canoe much of it in the summer. About the only time it looks like a real river is during spring runoff or after a bad storm.

So we have this.....

instead of this.

And this.....

instead of this.

Now the next photo got me to remembering a tale about a couple of "young men" not long out of high school. It was about 40 years ago, and these two hooligans who thought they were so smart and fearless, decided to canoe the Cass after one of these storms. After a night of sucking suds, there hung over minds told them that since it stopped raining and turned into a beautiful day, that they should go canoeing. So they went down to the river to see what it looked like.

This was pretty much what they saw, only the water was even higher. The water was only about 3 feet below the bridge. So they went back and loaded a canoe up on one of their cars, and brought both of their cars back to the river, parked the one without the canoe by the bridge, and drove about 4 miles up river to launch the canoe.

Evidently these two idiots thought it would be great fun to get in a little white-water canoeing. However they neglected to take into consideration that the speed of the river turned their canoe into little more than the rest of the debris floating down the turbulent water. They had a very difficult time trying to avoid logs, limbs and other junk that was caught in the path of the onrush.

Some of what used to be curves of the river, now took them on a high-speed trip through the flooded woods, fending off trees and snags with their canoe paddles. Then they came up to what should have been a hairpin turn and all of a sudden ran aground. They had hit an underwater boulder that shouldn't have been there. The force of the water pushed half of the canoe up on the rock and they were stranded there. The water was so deep that they couldn't touch bottom with their paddles to work themselves off the rock. After a few attempts which almost capsized the canoe and spinning around on that rock like a compass needle, they finally managed to get loose, going backwards down the river.

Before they knew it, the bridge came in sight, along with the realization that the water had risen since they had last been there. Now there was only about a foot and a half separating the water from the bottom of the bridge. They paddled for all they were worth, but couldn't get out of the mainstream of the wild river. Quickly the bridge was upon them and all they could do was duck down in the bottom of the canoe and grab onto their life vests, (which of course they weren't wearing), and pray that they could make it under the bridge.

The bow and stern of the canoe scraped along the bottom of the bridge. The noise and darkness under the bridge seemed to last forever, but soon they shot out from underneath. They were able to get their canoe under control and finally break from the mainstream at the next curve of the river.

After they finally landed the canoe, and their knees stopped shaking, they had to walk back to get the car. They had made the whole trip in less than half an hour.

Word of their escapade got around town, and a lot of folks just didn't believe it. But I have seen the marks on the bottom of the bridge when I have waded underneath it fishing. What at first were two bright aluminum scrapes on the cement faded over the years to a dull grey.

It's been many years since I was under that bridge, I wonder if the marks are still there.

I know they are still on my canoe.


Scott Buehrly said...

Oh uncle Gary, I thought the other day man it would be nice to canoe the river while it was high, but the realized its too high, to fast, to cold, I am too out of shape, and finally I don't drink or else I would have first hand experience with this. Lol. Love the story

GreyWolf said...

Thanks Scott. Well, I have wanted to take that trip again many times. I have canoed the river when it was high but not as fast or as high as it was that trip. I will never forget one year chasing a monster pike through the woods in my canoe. The water was clear and Me and Jeff threw every lure we had at that big old pike while we tried following it through the flood waters.

warren said...

I think you were as high as the water! Crazy! Funny how you don't think of all of the angles, especially when you are young, drunk and/or in love. Anyhow, I hope you have learned and are now staying somewhat dry!

GreyWolf said...

Warren: I wish I had been drunk instead of hung-over....I probably would have enjoyed the experience more.