Sturgeon (Baraga), Michigan, US
|Usual Difficulty||I-II(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||26 fpm|
|Max Gradient||71 fpm|
|STURGEON RIVER NEAR SIDNAW, MI|
|usgs-04040500||400 - 2000 cfs||I-II(IV)||00h48m||158 cfs (too low)|
|Almost certainly too low. Gauge (171 sq.mi. drainage) is right at listed put-in, thus is very accurate for flows in this reach.|
The principal attraction to this reach lies within the first mile and a half, through the
sequence of ledges known as Tibbets Falls. From the Plains Rd bridge, boulderbed
rapids increase as they lead to the "falls" proper. The largest ledge is only around
4-5' in height (so this is really more a rapids than a true falls), but can generate a wicked
hydraulic at higher flows. A steep "S" turn rapid finishes the sequence, followed by
boulderbed that eases off into little more than miles and miles of moving water.
There is parking and a riverside trail (river-right along the whole first 1.5 miles) to access Tibbetts Falls for viewing, scouting, and take-out if a short trip including just the falls is desired. This access/take-out point may be reached by driving north from the listed put-in and turning onto the first dirt road to the left (less than 1/2 mile). From here, look for the second two track road to the left, turn and drive to a small parking area at the end. There is a trail which leads down to the river at this point. In early season expect this road will be impassible or 4WD only.
Beyond the initial (1.2 mile) sequence, the remainder of the reach is primarily flat, with class I-II boulder bed encountered in the final mile or so. Take-out is at Sturgeon Gorge Road Campground or a pull-off just beyond (if campground is closed and impassible).
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.9||Next set of ledges||N/A|
|1.2||End of Tibbets Falls||N/A|
|5.9||Boulder garden rapids||II|
|6.7||Confluence, Perch River||N/A|
|7.0||2200 (Sturgeon Gorge Road) Bridge||N/A|
Just over 3/4ths mile down from Plains Road, immediately after Kelsey Creek comes in river-left, as the Sturgeon takes a sharp right, it encounters a first ledge/wave. River-right may be more aggressive, river-left will skirt most of this spot. This is merely a small hint at what lies ahead.
About 0.1 mile later (as the river takes another slight-right) another 2-3 ledges are encountered. Only a brief break precedes the main event below.
Tibbets Falls is a complex sequence of ledges. At good flows, there will be a wealth of nasty pourovers and holes to avoid (or try to 'punch'). Very few 'clean' lines ('sneaks') will exist. We strongly recommend scouting this (roughly) quarter-mile stretch before putting on, to have a real good concept of what it will take to run (and whether you are really up for it).
Most paddlers will likely take-out here to carry to vehicles (or carry back up for another run of this short intense stretch).
A final bit of gradient and boulder bed to finish the run.
The Perch River comes in river-left.
The rapids continue a ways downstream, so you might as well enjoy it! A campground a quarter-mile downstream makes a far better spot for your drop-vehicle and take-out.