Difficulty II-V
Length Miles
Gauge YELLOW DOG RIVER NEAR BIG BAY, MI
Flow Range 4.79 - 6.10 FT
Flow Rate as of: 1 year ago 4.68 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 10:29 am

River Description


A handful of lesser (generally unnamed) rapids intersperse seven awesome significant drops. At least six of the seven warrant scouting and likely safety setup. All drops have been run (when free of wood, and when flows are good/optimum), but many paddlers are likely to portage or sneak at least two or three at most water levels. Also be aware that all the gradient is up front, leaving you with a long flatwater paddle-out. Even so, I doubt you'll be disappointed in the beauty and challenge of this run.

Check out a run of the first drop! (Running this drop is NOT generally recommended for most boaters!)



Or . . . here's another good video showing most of the drops. FWIW, if you watch the timeline:
0:00-0:33 = Hills Falls, left line
0:33-0:55 = Hills Falls, right line
0:55-1:52 = Eyeball
1:52-2:06 = Gullet
2:06-2:15 = Upper Dogleg (with wood, precluding run)
2:15-2:35 = Lower Dogleg
2:35-2:43 = Lower Dogleg, right side view
2:43-3:23 = Bushy Creek Falls
3:23-3:52 = Junkyard

Rapid Descriptions

Hills Falls (Hair of the Dog)

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.7

It is perhaps unfortunate that one of the bigger, scarier drops is the first you'll encounter. No real warmup other than flatwater. There are lines here . . . at the right flows . . . but there are plenty of ways for it to go bad, too. Many of the early runs of this didn't go quite 'as planned', so there's no shame in deciding to portage, though increasing numbers of paddlers now run this.

Shortly downstream you will encounter a potentially sticky, potentially playable ledge, Jaws II (the sequel is seldom as good as the original). (If you've done the Nolichucky, you'll know what I'm referring to.) Just downstream is another sloping ledge drop, which can generally be run pretty much anywhere, though it is likely to be scrapey down the center.

Eyeball (Eye of the Dog)

Class - IV Mile - 1

(Lat/Lng and location on map are approximate. Resolution on satellite view is not sufficient to be certain.)

As you come around a left bend, you'll see a series of offset holes, and a narrowing in the distance. Get out (river left) to scout. Hoofers used to call this 'Obedience School' (as the photo is captioned), but we talked to locals and found that they called it 'Eyeball'. The series of short ledges, waves, and holes leads to a diagonally pitching ledge with a huge erratic boulder (the Eyeball) perched precariously, blocking the right side of the drop. A right-shore "hollow" (the "eye-socket") exists behind the rock. From upstream, most of the flow is diverted to the right, toward the boulder (which develops a pretty fair pillow), before being redirected left into a mushy, funky hole, then over a ledge into another slightly more well formed hole and a good pool below. While not that big a drop, it has never failed to get my heart racing. I've seen boaters certain they are on a line to head down the left side, only to find themselves suddenly shoved across to the right, finding themselves eyeball to eyeball with The Eyeball. 

Gullet

Class - III+ Mile - 1.1

Trailing rapids from the prior drop quickly lead to a right hand bend and Gullet (scout left), where the river drops over an irregular sloping ledge. The right side stays higher, then drops off (forward and diagonally left) mostly onto shallow angular rock. River left (between the left shore-rock and the diagonally sloping river right bedrock) forms a deepening "V," funneling into a (not keepy) hole, some "funny water," and a final ledge/hole. Some play may be possible here, though the water temperature when this is runnable and desire to keep muscles "fresh" for the remainder of the run usually dissuades us from much dallying.

Upper Dog Leg

Class - IV Mile - 1.25

The next drop, Dog Leg, is the longest combination on the run. The river swings to the right (scout left), over a short ledge to a brief pool, then a 4' sloping ledge into a hole. The strong outflow from there leads straight into a huge boulder in the center of the channel. This boulder tends to catch logs, which (almost as often as not) preclude running Upper Dogleg. The right side (beside and below) is a jumble of rocks (pretty impassible). The left side has a shallow ledge extending from shore (parallel to the current leading to the rock) over which the flow tumbles, and is directed onto another rock to "trip over" as you finish Upper Dog Leg.

Lower Dog Leg

Class - IV Mile - 1.28

A brief bit of slackwater leads to Lower Dog Leg. A rocky island splits off a narrow (unrunnable, at most flows) channel to the right. The left channel is wide enough to allow a few good routes to run this double ledge combination.

Bushy Creek Falls

Class - IV Mile - 1.4

Another brief paddle brings you to a tight left bend and a falls (scout left). There is conflicting information about the correct name here. The topo maps label 'Brushy Creek' entering downstream on river-left, but road maps list 'Bushy Creek Truck Trail' and most references to the falls say 'Bushy Creek Falls'. (My guess is the topo maps label is a typo.) A couple short ledges and a brief pool precede a narrow slot. The river is stuffed between the rocks and into a couple violent holes before racing through the pool below. Numerous pourovers and rocky protuberances (for pitons) exist. "Other than that, it's a fairly straight-forward drop." (My preferred route so far has always been down the left . . . far left . . . walking.)

Junkyard

Class - IV Mile - 1.8

Shortly downstream, you will reach another sharp bend to the left, and hear the rush of Junkyard (scout left). From the pool above, the river turns left as it slides through offset waves. It is then twisted right, through diagonal waves and holes, jumps off a 3' ledge, then twists left again, and spills across jagged, irregular rock before jumping off a final uneven ledge into the pool below. This always looks big and mean (as a junkyard dog, hence the name).

Wag

Class - III+ Mile - 1.9

Not far downstream, the river again bends to the left and jumps over Wag (scout right, if so inclined). This short (~3') ledge may be boofed to the right, though be aware it may be a hard landing (piton). Center is ok, though there are some rocks to contend with as well, and far left is an easy slide through a wrapping wave into strong current along a wall of rock rising from the river. From here the current quickly diminishes, and the only action for the (roughly) 3 mile paddle-out is dodging shoals and strainers (and talk of how good the first beer at Vierling will be).

USGS sampling site

Class - N/A Mile - 5.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

USGS lists a site at Co.Rd.550 showing drainage at this point as 63.6 square miles. That is exactly twice the drainage as the present gauge upstream. Most of this inflow happens as you proceed down this lower reach.

Comments

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Chris Arnold
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12 years ago

May 19, 2006
The USGS gauge read approximately 130cfs. The gauge on the bridge was not found for comparison. I would say the level was on the good side of low, we ran all of the drops with the exception of the first.

May 20, 2006
The USGS gauge read approximately 105cfs. All drops were run, but getting scrappy. I wouldn't recommend paddling below this level. I think it would be possible but things would be very scrappy.

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David McGovern
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14 years ago

We paddled this on 4-25-04, and here's some notes. A gauge was painted on the upstream, river right I-beam at the put in. It read 1.3 feet, which was near but not quite minimum. 1.1 might be too low. Thanks to Jim Paul for adding this, as the I beam with the 3 bolts was nowhere to be found. There was a lot of wood until the first big drop, which had it's approach blocked. We carried past the wood and did a bumpy slide on river left to finish the drop. All other drops were clear and all were run. There was no more major wood until the flatwater runout came, and several logjam portages were needed. This is a great run.
Dave McG

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9 years ago

Incredible river with very big drops. Some tight lines, but all manageable. Ran Hills Falls, but few have. It has a very small landing zone and you cannot miss or it would be a bad day. This is a must-paddle river in the UP. Don't miss it. I feel it is every good as anything around Lanse', if not better.

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Jonathan Sisley
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3 years ago

Kayaking the Dog https://youtu.be/4rGVlXZSIMI

Gage Descriptions

As of November, 2004, a USGS gauge exists at the recommended put-in for the upper reach of this river, 8.3 miles (the full upper run) upstream of the put-in for this section. There are very few tributaries, so the gauge should serve quite well as in indicator for this, the more popular Lower Yellow Dog, run.

A boaters gauge has been painted at the CR510 (put-in) bridge on the upstream right side vertical support wall, and can easily be read from standing on the bridge and looking down at the gauge. Levels around 1' are near minimum.

The old Paddler's gauge at this location was three bolts in an I-beam. Only one showing (or no bolts, but lower than top of I-beam) is optimum. It has been run as low as the bottom bolt, though most paddlers will prefer the middle (or even top) bolt as their 'minimum'.

Reported datapoints
April 10, 2005. New boater's gauge was 2.0'. USGS gauge was approximately 5.65'.
April 22, 2005. New boater's gauge was 1.0'. USGS gauge was approximately 4.7'.
(The 'bolt gauge' had two bolts showing, a fairly low water level, near 'minimum'.)

Stage/Gaige correlation (subject to change):
5.5 230 cfs
5.4 205 cfs
5.3 180 cfs
5.2 158 cfs
5.1 137 cfs
5.0 120 cfs
4.9 105 cfs
4.8  91 cfs


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Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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Alerts

News

article main photo

Help Preserve the Yellow Dog (MI)

2016-03-03 01:48:00-05
Thomas O'Keefe

Every spring paddlers in the Midwest make their annual pilgrimage to enjoy a few weeks of great whitewater on the creeks that flow into Lake Superior. One of these creeks is the Yellow Dog in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve is working to purchase private forest land along the river and make it a Community Forest. The goal is within reach and the paddling community can make a critical contribution.

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Matt Muir

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Rob