Slate - C) 'Lower Slate': Silver Road to Skanee Road (3.1 miles)

Slate, Michigan, US


C) 'Lower Slate': Silver Road to Skanee Road (3.1 miles)

Usual Difficulty III-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Length 3.1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 130 fpm
Max Gradient 182 fpm

Nice slide!

Nice slide!
Photo of Steve by Mark Mastalski taken 04/02/03 @ 10' 4-1/2

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Slate At Take-out
virtual-129598 150 - 450 cfs III-IV(V) 00h41m ~ 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.
usgs-04043150 8.58 - 9.39 ft III-IV(V) 00h39m ~ 6.96 ft (too low)

River Description

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!):

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-03-24 19:48:04

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
2.1Kukucks FallsIVPhoto
2.3Slide FallsII+Photo
2.4Ecstasy FallsIVPhoto
2.7Slate FallsIVWaterfall Photo
3.2USGS siteN/A

Rapid Descriptions

Kukucks Falls (Class IV, Mile 2.1)

Kuckuk's Plunge

Kuckuk's Plunge
Photo of Tom O'Keefe and Guy Babbitt by Steve "Guido" Corsi taken 04/07/97

Land a good boof into this shallow pool. (Fortunately, the shape of the lip almost makes it automatic.)

Slide Falls (Class II+, Mile 2.3)

Nice slide!

Nice slide!
Photo of Steve by Mark Mastalski taken 04/02/03 @ 10' 4-1/2

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!)

Ecstasy Falls (Class IV, Mile 2.4)

Ecstasy Falls

Ecstasy Falls
Photo of Bill O'Brien by Mark Mastalski taken 04/02/03 @ 10' 4-1/2

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!

Slate Falls (Class IV, Mile 2.7)

Slate Falls

Slate Falls
Photo of Nick (TheCrazyEnglishman) by Jesse Becker taken 04/02/06 @ Medium

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 site (Class N/A, Mile 3.2)

USGS lists a site at Skanee Road showing drainage at that point as 18.3 square miles.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 30 2011 (2788 days ago)
x (1)
George Kaider I agree with better hit this one first because it could be gone the
next day. Overall, it is an experience that you won't forget. Deep canyon like feel that reminds me
of out West paddling in Montana. Better check for wood first at the base of Slate Falls. We did not
do so last year and only because most of our group pulled off the river, saw the log, and hike back
into the canyon to blow faint whistles at myself, Barry, and Mike did we NOT run the drop and
probably saved our lives or at least prevented major injury. We also had a swim that allowed time
to pass for the rest of our group to get back an warn us. It was like divine intervention that all
of the circumstances came together, which prevented us from running the falls. It was a huge pine
tree with massive spikes from broken branches everywhere - so it would have left a few
December 2 2009 (3332 days ago)
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). See George Kaider's comment for a 'near miss' in this regard.
June 16 2005 (4962 days ago)
Brock RoyerDetails
From my experience, this is the first creek in the L'Anse area to loose its water so make sure you
hit it first if it is on your list!