Yellow Dog, Michigan, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||45 fpm|
|Max Gradient||124 fpm|
|YELLOW DOG RIVER NEAR BIG BAY, MI|
|usgs-04043275||4.79 - 6.10 ft||II-V||1y200d03h34m||4.68 ft (too low)|
|Likely too low for good whitewater run. ELF (Extreme Low Flow) run may be possible. Gauge (31.8 sq.mi. drainage) is 8.3 miles upstream of put-in for this reach, however no significant tribs intervene, so gauge should accurately reflect flows.|
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
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.7||Hills Falls (Hair of the Dog)||IV+|
|1.0||Eyeball (Eye of the Dog)||IV|
|1.3||Upper Dog Leg||IV|
|1.3||Lower Dog Leg||IV|
|1.4||Bushy Creek Falls||IV|
|5.1||USGS sampling site||N/A|
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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 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.