Slate, Michigan, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||130 fpm|
|Max Gradient||182 fpm|
|Slate At Take-out|
|virtual-129598||150 - 450 cfs||III-IV(V)||00h51m||~ 0 cfs (too low)|
|Almost certainly too low for reasonable run. Virtual gauge based on Silver (drainage area 64.7 sq.mi.) versus Slate (18.3 sq.mi. at Skanee Rd), or .2828*Silver. Correlation is not assured.|
|SILVER RIVER NEAR L'ANSE, MI|
|usgs-04043150||8.58 - 9.39 ft||III-IV(V)||00h49m||~ 7.15 ft (too low)|
This run, coupled with the upper Slate, is considered by some boaters to be some of the
U.P.'s finest spring boating. It has excellent back-woods scenery, a real small creek feel,
and a bunch of great drops.
This section can be combined with the upper, but be advised that two miles of river between our listed take-out for upper and the gravel road (put-in for this lower reach) has no real rapids, and is likely to contain many snags which may require limbos, log-boofs, and portages to get under, over, or around. It's a tough call whether its more hassle to 'double-shuttle' or suffer the flatwater and snags to combine the sections. It should be noted that the lower reach also contains a significant flat stretch with an even worse problem of deadfall than the upper reach. On some occasions, we've had to walk as much as a quarter-mile before finding the river passable again. In spite of this, most who have boated the reach will put up with this, for the incredible experience which this run has to offer for an experienced team of boaters.
This lower run is completely different in character, and a serious notch up in difficulty and potential consequence, compared to the upper. The majority of the drops are ledges and slides. Many verticals land in shallow pools, making a good 'boof' mandatory. Transverse splines of rock often divert water (and boaters) diagonally across the river. The river twists and turns in an ever deeper canyon, often making scouting or portaging difficult to impossible. In particular, the walls around the final drop (Slate River Falls) are quite steep, and as water levels rise, there will be precious few eddies before the falls.
It is strongly advised that all boaters (before putting on the river) hike a trail up the river-right ridge (from the parking area at Skanee Road) to have a look at Slate Falls and its approach to:
(a) make sure it is clear of logs and snags (logs which had crossed the whole face of the falls for years 'disappeared' during 2003 -- how long it will remain clear is anyone's guess!),
(b) make a decision about if and how they plan on running it, and
(c) firmly implant an image in their brain of the approach to the falls, that they will recognize it when they approach it on the river.
If you choose not to run the canyon section, the easiest option is to take out (river right) directly after Smooth Creamy Thigh, a delightful 40' slide dropping about 15' (See "slide" photo). As the river twists to the right, it drops deeper and deeper into the canyon, and the walls get increasingly steep. The further downriver (toward Slate Falls) you go, the higher and steeper your climb out will be if you are not running the falls. There is a path around the entire canyon section, high on the top of the ridge.
Driving Directions: From downtown L'Anse, MI, head northeast on Skanee Road 11 miles to Arvon Road. Turn right (south) and proceed 2 miles to a crossroad. Turn left (east), and proceed to the river. (Note: when DeLorme's and other maps show this road going through the river, take that quite literally. There is a 'ford' in the stream, which obviously will be impassible in times of high water. Not a problem, since you are only going TO the river.)
Shuttle Information: Length (each way): 3 miles, Estimated Time (each Way): 7 minutes
Check out a couple runs of Slate River Falls:
The following beautiful fall solitude shows a good number of the falls at low water (which gives you a great view of the geology which you'll be dealing with!):
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
Land a good boof into this shallow pool. (Fortunately, the shape of the lip almost makes it automatic.)
Immediately after a sharp left turn, the river slides down a smooth sheet of rock. Near the bottom of the slide, both sides drop off sharply, while the middle keeps the smooth slide. (Most folks try their best to aim down the middle!)
Just around the bend from the Slide Falls, a fine straightaway of ledges begins, dropping you deeper and deeper into the canyon. If you are not running Slate River Falls (or if it is unrunnable because of wood or ?), you have to decide how far down this staircase to go, as you will have to climb back up to the rim trail to hike out. Otherwise . . . enjoy!
It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to scout Slate Falls before putting on this run. For years, huge trees blocked any chance to run the falls. Those have cleared, but others could flush in at any time (after high-water events).
Running the wonderful sequence of ledge-drops leading into the falls takes you into a deep gorge. At low-to-moderate flows, it is possible to paddle nearly to the lip of the falls and beach a boat to scout and/or take photos/video of your group running the drop. At moderate-to-higher flows there may be few eddies, and (since the final approach to the falls has steep banks) getting out of the river will be difficult. Portage around the falls is difficult (ropes are recommended). Exit from this gorge is a strenuous climb up a high steep bank. Thus, if you are not interested (or able) to run the falls, it may be wiser to forego the entire sequence, getting out where the river takes a sharp right-hand bend and begins it's ledgey descent. A quite reasonable trail from there will take you to the top of the ridge for the hike out.
USGS lists a site at Skanee Road showing drainage at that point as 18.3 square miles.