The serenity and beauty of the season make the winter float special, according to those who’ve done it. For those who want to take the plunge, there are now winter float trips on the Jordan and Sturgeon rivers.
THE MAJESTIC JORDAN
“That was really special; the solitude, the quiet except for the gurgling river,” said a trio of women from Grand Rapids who had come north to try a winter raft trip on the Jordan River. “We’ll be back to do it again and bring friends.”
That’s the kind of thing veteran guide Scott Harper says he hears pretty often.
“We see a lot of repeat business,” said Harper, who has run trips for 20 years with his wife Kay through Jordan Valley Outfitters. “Many come back with friends. Once they make the trip, they discover winter is a special time. The beauty and peace and quiet this time of year are extra special.”
A favorite time to take clients is when the snow is falling, he said.
“It’s like being in a snow globe,” he said.
“It’s especially beautiful this winter with all the extra snow clinging to the trees.”
Trips begin at Jordan Valley Outfitters in East Jordan, where clients are transported to the Graves Crossing put-in. The trip includes a stop on a little island for a snack and hot beverage. Along the way you will probably see waterfowl and may see beaver, mink, deer and an occasional coyote and eagle.
Take out is two hours downriver at Webster Road.
“The large raft, which hauls up to six people, works its way down the river pretty easily,” Harper said. “I mostly steer and will occasionally ask passengers to paddle for a few strokes around a tight bend. Most of the time they are enjoying the scenery and taking pictures.”
Winter raft trips depart the store Friday to Monday at 10am, 1pm and 4pm weekly through March 16. The cost is $40 per adult and $32 for children age nine and younger. Reservations are required by calling (231) 536-0006, or log onto jvoutfitters.com.
THE MIGHTY STURGEON
Big Bear Adventures in Indian River offers winter float trips on the feisty Sturgeon River, one of the Lower Peninsula’s faster flowing streams.
“We’ve been offering winter raft trips for over 10 years and the number keeps increasing,” said guide Jamie Porter on a recent excursion. “Winter is one of my favorite times of year to be on the river. You see a lot more wildlife because you can see further into the forest and snow highlights their movement. It’s also more peaceful. In summer you have a lot more traffic on the river.”
Porter said raptors and other large birds often make appearances.
“I’ve had turkeys fly over our heads from one back to the other. That’s always good for a little excitement,” he said. “Eagles are often seen in trees along the river during winter looking for food, especially late season when it may be the only open water around.”
The large six-person rubber raft deftly navigates the quick current, tight bends and leaning trees and sweepers the river is known for. Passengers are required to paddle occasionally during the four-mile, 90-minute float to help steer around sharp bends and obstructions.
Big Bear Adventures is located on Straits Highway across from the entrance to Burt Lake State Park. Winter float trips take place daily all winter long at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm. Call (231) 238-8181 or visit bigbearadventures.com for reservations and more information.