Ride the river to explore beauty and nature

By: Linda Shepard | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 15, 2013

 The Clinton River is a haven for many species of fish and wildlife, and a source of natural beauty.

The Clinton River is a haven for many species of fish and wildlife, and a source of natural beauty.

Photo by Linda Shepard

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The best way to view the beauty of the Clinton River is by kayak or canoe, according to township officials. 

“It is a way to see Mother Nature at her best,” said Pam Reinhardt, township Parks and Recreation administrative clerk. “See the outdoors, the birds and the wildlife that are flourishing there.”

A new event, the Ride the River Bends Challenge, invites canoe and kayak paddlers to travel a 4.6-mile route down the Clinton River Aug. 17.

The Clinton River is more beautiful than ever, Reinhardt said. “Over the years, we have had Clinton River cleanups on a pretty regular basis,” Reinhardt said. “They clean up debris, and the water quality is much better.”

The topography of the Clinton River changes dramatically from Oakland to Macomb County, township officials said. In some areas, the river elevation drops significantly, creating challenging conditions and exciting trips for experienced paddlers.

In Macomb County, the river levels out, creating a flatter and calmer ride for novice paddlers, who will enjoy beautiful sand and shoal beaches along the river edges that are perfect for an afternoon picnic or rest stop.

The Clinton River is also southeast Michigan’s premier trout fishery, fed by Paint and Stony creeks, providing habitat for brown trout, steelhead and more. The river is home to many different types of birds and bird sanctuaries, including the Great Blue Heron Rookery, which is the largest rookery of its kind in the area.

The Ride the River Bends Challenge will begin at the Ryan Road launch near Coyote Joe’s, south of 22 Mile Road, and will travel through River Bends Park and end at Heritage Park in Utica, just south of M-59 on the west side of Van Dyke. The scenic and challenging river ride is recommended for ages 18 and older, according to township officials.

After the river ride, participants will receive an event T-shirt and are invited to enjoy burgers and hotdogs cooked at Chief Gene Shepherd Park on 23 Mile Road, east of Dequindre.

Ground was broken for the new Chief Gene Shepherd Park in June, Reinhardt said. The park sits on the site of the former Soccer City, named in honor of the late Shelby Township Fire Chief Gene Shepherd. “Hopefully, this is the first of many events we will hold there,” Reinhardt said.

Check-in for Ride the River Bends Challenge is 8:30 a.m. at Heritage Park. Entry fee is $25 per person with a kayak or canoe, or $60 per person with a kayak or canoe rental. All fees include a donation to Shelby Township Special Olympics.

Participants who bring their own vessel may provide their own transportation to the launch site or take the Parks and Recreation Department shuttle bus.

“The Shelby Township Parks and Recreation Committee is looking forward to hosting this event as a great way to explore the beauty of the Clinton River and River Bends Park, and to introduce the new Chief Gene Shepherd Park to the community,” said Joe Youngblood, Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department Director, in a statement. “The event is a project that committee members have put a great deal of effort into.”

The registration deadline for the Ride the River Bends Challenge is Aug. 14. Register at www.shelbytwp.org/departments/prm or call (586) 731-0300.