Ontonagon River, Mainstream

Ontonagon, Michigan

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A big, sleepy river that winds through scenic woodlands before emptying into Lake Superior. Unlike its rambunctious tributaries, which twist and shout as they rush through Michigan’s craggy northern parts, the mainstream of the Ontonagon River sighs and gurgles contentedly for most of its 24-mile length. The mainstream is formed by the juncture of the East and Middle Branches just upstream of the access site at U.S. 45, and it gets another injection of volume from the West Branch about 1 mile below the put-in. These tributaries combine with other feeder streams to broaden the Ontonagon to 150 feet or more in its upper reaches, a size that it maintains for most of its length before it empties into Lake Superior. But the mainstream’s inconsequential gradient serves to keep rough water to a minimum throughout. Indeed, long stretches of the Ontonagon are so slow that the current is nearly imperceptible. This mild temperament, coupled with the numerous camping and picnicking spots that line its banks, make the mainstream the most family-friendly river in the Ontonagon system.
Paddling Michigan

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Paddling Michigan

by Kevin Hillstrom & Laurie Collier Hillstrom (Falcon Guides)

A big, sleepy river that winds through scenic woodlands before emptying into Lake Superior. Unlike its rambunctious tributaries, which twist and shout as they rush through Michigan’s craggy northern parts, the mainstream of the Ontonagon River sighs and gurgles contentedly for most of its 24-mile length. The mainstream is formed by the juncture of the East and Middle Branches just upstream of the access site at U.S. 45, and it gets another injection of volume from the West Branch about 1 mile below the put-in.

These tributaries combine with other feeder streams to broaden the Ontonagon to 150 feet or more in its upper reaches, a size that it maintains for most of its length before it empties into Lake Superior. But the mainstream’s inconsequential gradient serves to keep rough water to a minimum throughout. Indeed, long stretches of the Ontonagon are so slow that the current is nearly imperceptible. This mild temperament, coupled with the numerous camping and picnicking spots that line its banks, make the mainstream the most family-friendly river in the Ontonagon system.

©  Kevin Hillstrom & Laurie Collier Hillstrom/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing
Nearby City: Ontonagon
Distance: 24
Skill Level: Easy to Moderate
Duration: 7 - 10 hours
Class: Class I
Season: Best May to October
Local Contacts: Ottawa National Forest
Local Maps: USGS Ontonagon North, Ontonagon South, Firesteel
Driving Directions: Directions to Ontonagon River, Mainstream

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Apr 2018