This is one of the definitive South Shore creek runs. First paddled in the seventies, the Silver has long had an annual pilgrimage of faithfuls, hoping to catch this beauty when the snow melts and the ice goes out.
The run begins with Hail Mary (a great challenging rapids in three pitches) and ends with the Cabin Section (an even more demanding stretch which most boaters will enjoy from shore, and even well seasoned boaters will likely appreciate having good safety support in a few key locations). At low-to-moderate flows, this section can easily be parsed into three sequential pitches. At higher flows, the drops tend to 'run together', creating many opportunities for epic tales to be told later around the bar or campfire. And, between these two sequences, you'll find a plentiful assortment of good drops to keep you on your toes.
Many boaters will continue downriver to do the 'Lower Silver' run for a good, full day. And, if they've planned well, will add a run on the Falls River (in L'Anse) as either a warm-up or a 'chaser' to end the day.
Click here for Part 1 of an article from the AW Journal, way back in 1981!
Click here for Part 2 of the article.
The article describes the following: Michigan's, Upper Presque Isle, Lower Presque Isle, Middle Black, Lower Black, Upper Silver, Lower Silver, Falls, and Rock; and Wisconsin's Lower Brunsweiler, Montreal Canyon, and West Branch Montreal.
This is NOT a comprehensive list of the rapids on this reach. We could use some help here. If you know names, have locations (coordinates), or can provide more detailed descriptions for any of the rapids on this reach, we would appreciate your input! Add a comment or report, or email the StreamTeam member for this reach.
USGS lists a sampling site at Arvon Road (take-out for this section) showing drainage area at that point as 34.5 square miles, which is just more than half the drainage at the active gauge at Skanee Road. Thus, flows in this upper section will approach half the flow shown on gauge.
"Hail Mary" is broken down into three pitches. The first pitch starts with a jumbled slide into a nearly 90-degree left turn, followed by a sequence of holes and waves.A short pool brings you to the second pitch: A rocky protuberance separates the flow (at low-to-moderate levels, anyway). To the right, water flows over a shallow shelf and dumps into a wrapping hole (the current from the left line). To the left, a sweet slide accelerates you into the flow dropping in from the right, then (with little pause) accelerates you toward a pretty good sized hole, with diagonal 'feeder waves' funneling you into the maw. Punch the hole hard, angled left to catch the left eddy, or you will be fed (by the outflow) right into an undercut wall.A longer let-up precedes the final pitch. The jagged rock of the riverbed 'humps' down the middle of this pitch. To the left, water spills into a nasty, narrow crease. (You DON'T want to be anywhere near this!) With adequate water, the most opted for route is more-or-less down the center, but more often when I've been there (with low-to-moderate flows), the preferred route has been well to the right. A short initial ledge drops you into a short pool. Sliding out of there, you grunge down toward a wall of rock (right shore), to be diverted sharply to your left. You do your best to avoid banging paddle or right elbow on the wall (or worse, being flipped) as you head toward the hole formed where currents converge (from the left-side slot) as they (hopefully) spit you out downstream.
A great combo drop comes as the river swings to the left. The entrance slides and trips across some ledge/waves, runs headlong toward a large boulder (river-left), then pools briefly before sliding down more medium-angle slides, through a few good wave/holes, before calming a bit below. Don't let up too soon! There is another good combo which follows!
(Map location very approximate)
After a pretty fair relatively flat stretch (maybe a half-mile), this single ledge drop is encountered. The approach is generally quite straight-forward, and there is a good pool below, so this may be a simple drop. However, at good flows, the hole at the base can be quite aggressive, so the recommended line is often a boof on river-right.
This is some serious gradient that you will want to take a good look at. As soon as you see the first 'cabin' (house) on the right, get out to scout the whole section. At low-to-moderate flows, you can easily break it down into three or more distinct pitches, each of which is not that difficult. However, taking the whole sequence together (as will be the case at higher flows), it is a huge chunk of gradient to navigate.
Ran this river yesterday @ 8.0 with a buddy and fellow whitewater rafting guide in our inflatable NRS Outlaws. We were incredibly impressed with this river and found ourselves out classed for the inflatable type boats we were using a few times. We ran the first two pitches of Hail Mary but decided to portage around the final pitch (thanks to the landowners for letting us use their property!). The sections between the bottom of Hail Mary and the top of the Cabin section were incredible and challenging. We spent plenty of time scouting the class four sections in the middle. Those rapids were intense, exciting, and very worthy of good names! Bubblebath does have a large tree down on the river right as you approach the falls, but it is easy to avoid by keeping towards the middle. By the time we reached the cabin section, we were just about out of daylight due to our late start so we chose not to push our luck and portaged using the road behind the cabin. Overall, an absolutely gorgeous portion of white water nestled into the U.P.!
FWIW, strictly in the interests of clarity and correctness, the text of the cited article may be misleading as to the actual events. The initial problem Richard had was being stopped/caught in the hole above "Silver Bullet". I'm pretty sure the report was that repeated attempts were made to throw him a rope while he was in the hole, but he went limp. it was only once he flushed from the hole that his body ended up pinned on the tree. The hole which stopped him should be of concern and should be scouted and evaluated by all boaters before deciding to run the drops in the "Cabin Section".
The Mining Journal, Marquette, MI
POSTED: April 19, 2009
L'ANSE - A Houghton man is dead after a kayaking accident that occurred on the Silver River in Baraga County Friday evening.
Richard Honrath Jr., 47, was pronounced dead at Baraga Memorial Hospital.
Baraga County Sheriff's deputies went to the Silver River in L'Anse Township, shortly after 8:20 p.m. to assist a kayaker who was reportedly "pinned against a tree."
Deputies found Honrath pinned under a tree in fast-moving rapids. He was pulled from the water and taken to the hospital.
Honrath and his partner, Dave Bullock, 38, of downstate St. Johns had entered the Silver River about two miles upstream from where the incident occurred.
Bullock told police that Honrath had rolled and was separated from his kayak. Bullock attempted a rescue with a throw rope, but all attempts failed.
According to Bullock, he and Honrath had been kayaking together for about 15 years and were familiar with the Silver River.
The L'Anse Fire Department, Bay Ambulance, Keweenaw Bay Tribal Police and the L'Anse and Baraga village police departments assisted with the incident.
8 years ago
by Craig Smerda
As of September, 2001, a USGS gauge at Skanee Road is online. That gauge is sufficiently far downstream (after the end of the lower listed whitewater section of this river) that the flow (cfs) reading is probably misleading for this upper reach.
According to at least one boater's report:
8.50' is 'moderate'
8.00' is 'moderately low'
7.43' is runnable, but getting quite scrapey
Gauge analysis based upon USGS gauge data from 2002-2013:
Minimum mean daily flow: 4 cfs (Aug.17-18, 2007)
Maximum peak flow: 3,180 cfs (May 12, 2003)
90% flow: 13 cfs (90% of the time flow equals or exceeds this value)
10% flow: 155 cfs (10% of the time, about 36 days/year, flow equals or exceeds this value)
10/90 ratio: 11.9 (<3 means fairly even flows, >10 means a rather flashy stream)
Using the currently defined range of runnability (7.47'/200 cfs to 9'/695 cfs), expect this to be runnable 27 days per year (on average).
Best months to catch it:
April (runnable days: 14.11 average; low of 2, high of 22),
March (runnable days: 3.67 average; low of 0, high of 9),
October (runnable days: 3.33 average; low of 0, high of 10),
May (runnable days: 3.11 average; low of 0, high of 7),
and it has run in every month but Jan/Feb!
Offseason ('Ice') correlations:
9.00' = 695 cfs
8.75' = 607 cfs
8.50' = 522 cfs
8.25' = 433 cfs
8.00' = 348 cfs
7.75' = 274 cfs
7.50' = 205 cfs
7.40' = 181 cfs
Disclaimer: Be aware that indication of a 'runnable' level by the gauge does not necessarily mean that the river is runnable. In winter, gauge readings may be 'ice affected'. Sections of the river may be impassable due to ice. Use discretion for late fall, winter, and early spring runs.
The 'boaters gauge' is to look at the river downstream of Arvon Road. If it looks a bit rocky ('marginal') you probably have a decent level! If there are no rocks showing, prepare for a beefy run!
Boaters also use a 'measure down' gauge at the bridge at Skanee Road. Measuring down from underside downstream left on NEW bridge there: 72" down appears to equate to -22" on old bridge (I.E. relative minimum level for runnability). Desirable (runnable) levels may be 60" to 69" down, with 70"-73" runnable but getting scrapey. Personally, I like to convert these 'measure down' (more is less, less is more) readings into more positive readings. Subtract your 'measure down' from 72" and record/report that value. Anything below zero is too low (or an ELF run), 0"-3" is low, 3"-12" is good, and anything over 12" is humping honking high.
Also, I have received word that If you measure down from the bottom of the concrete on the bridge on the upstream left side and subtract that number from 14.81 feet, that will give you the gage height (this will correlate very nicely with the USGS gage height that appears on the web).
Permits are not required for this reach.
From Hwy 41 on the south side of L'Anse, a short distance south from the Hilltop Restaurant, turn east on Dynamite Hill Rd. This will twist and turn somewhat, but stay on the main road for about 4 miles. There will be an obvious 'Y' in the road. Bearing to the left will put you on Arvon Rd (same Arvon Rd as used to access the Slate River but opposite end) where no more than 1/2 mile drive brings you to the take-out bridge. Bearing to the right (from the aforementioned 'Y' will put you on Indian Road. Proceeding 1.7 miles, you will bear left to continue onto Silver Road. About a half-mile will bring you to the put-in bridge.
The map below shows the shuttle route, take-out (A) to put-in (B). (The river is flowing Northwards; upwards on the map).
George at Hail Mary
George at Cabin Section
Silver Bullet Bob
Main Drops on the Upper
Cabin Section Silver
Steve runs Hail Mary
Upper and entrance to Lower Cabin Section
Upper Cabin Section
1st Pitch Hail Mary
Rob on 1st picth of Hail Mary
Hail Mary Part 1
Steep drop on upper Silver
Seven foot waterfall on the upper Silver
Entire Cabin section of upper Silver
Cabin section of Upper Silver
Hail Mary, second pitch
Cabin lower sequence
Cabin middle sequence
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