Putting in below a dam, where the entire flow of the river is diverted through a pipe and spews forth to drop 50' (+/-) into the channel below, is definitely a unique setting. (Note: More recent satellite view appears to show the pipe may be gone, replaced by a simple 'overflow channel' spilling down the canyon wall below the dam. Can anyone verify or refute this?) Action starts quickly with a blind zig-zag with mixed boulder-bed, wrapping waves, and a couple bedrock intrusions. The channel narrows and splits, with snags and bushwhacking ('kung-fu paddling') very likely to be encountered in the next quarter-to-half-mile. The pace quickly builds until you reach a wild sequence of falls.
There is no obvious indicator that one is approaching the first falls, just continous whitewater winding through the woods, so be on your toes. Some may choose to run, but (due to the gradient and the wood it has always contained in the most inopportune locations) most will likely portage about a half mile of river. (River left may be best for good view of the falls. While 'first timers' may wish to stay close to the river to view the action they are bypassing, the easiest portage is to climb well up the hill to a path leading to a dirt/sand road. Proceed downstream to another small path which leads back to the river below the falls. You miss the views, but you skip some bushwhacking and repeated up-and-down hill climbs.)
For those who choose to stay on (or close to) the river, there are several very runnable falls (for advanced paddlers, if wood does not preclude). The first set of falls begins with about a 10ft slide. About 50 yards downsteam starts a series of ledges that culminates in a 7-8ft ledge that is pure bliss to run. The ledge can be run nearly anywhere, but right-of-center offers the most height and fun.
Be very careful after this ledge because less than 20 yards downstream, around a small bend, is a 25ft class V+ drop. There is only a small pool separating it from the next 20ft stair step drop. It is possible to put-in below the upper drop to run either side of the lower drop. The right side is a stair-step that ends up being a very clean line (in spite of how it looks). The left side is a twisting right hook that leads to the bottom step. This step is horseshoe shaped and will create a sticky hole at higher flows.
Below here the gradient starts to ease back just a bit. About an 1/8 of a mile downstream one will encounter another ledge which merits scouting. This should be run left of center, down a twisted double-step. There is a large sharp rock just right of center that could be very hazardous. About a 1/4 mile further you will see Morgan Creek falls on the left. Take out and run this drop (if it has enough water, and trips your trigger) -- it is a fun slide into a shallow pool.
NOTE: It doesn't take much rain to get this stretch of river pumping and can likely provide year around creeking. One can easily carry into the falls and take out at Morgan Creek for a short but very fun run.
Be always on the watch for strainers, since this river seldom gets a chance to 'flush' wood out. The section of braided channel immediately upstream of Cty 553 (and Marquette Mountain Ski Area) is likely to be the worst, often with no good passage through here. Take-out river right as soon as the channels split and you see the ski area, to carry 100 yards to the parking lot.
Many boaters will wish to continue the run to the lake. See Lower Carp for that reach. From the end of the 'falls' section of the upper run (the likely portage), to the end of the gradient on the lower run, there is almost three miles of river at 133FPM, with no 'big drops', just continuous (interrupted only by the aforementioned braided snag-filled portage at CR553) intimate technical boating!
The falls are very attractive when not seen from a boating perspective. To view them, turn west on the dirt road about 0.2 miles north of the Cty 553 bridge over the Carp and drive 1.5 miles to a small pull-off where the penstock for the abandoned hydro project is visible. Cross the creek and walk uphill (SE) along the penstock for about a third of a mile and then cut left through the woods. The falls should be audible from this point. The double drop is the largest of the sequence but there are two smaller ones upstream a short distance.
USGS lists a sampling site at the bridge just upstream of the impoundment here, showing drainage area at that point of 62 square miles.
Aerial/satellite views for much of this river are obscured by heavy foliage (due in large part to apparently having been taken midsummer with trees in full leaf. As a result, it is exceedingly difficult to locate or identify many features. Therefore, the following list is highly tentative and incomplete! Do not rely on this for accuracy, but rather, be very cautious when boating this river, as the class V falls loom downstream.
(Precise location uncertain due to obscured satellite view.) At somewhere near a mile into the run (+/-) you encounter the serious gradient. At least parts of this are definite class V territory. Needless to say, time to get out and scout. We'll forego any description, since (at this level) it is up to you to assess what is there and whether you and your team are up to running part or all of this.
Description and photos are available at: Go Waterfalling.
Additional photos at: Waterfalls of the Keweenaw.
A fine string of waves leads to a split ledge. There is a pointed rock in the landing zone down the center, so a river-left line (down a two-step ledge) is preferred.
Morgan Creek comes in from river-left, tripping across Morgan Falls. Generally, this is worth a view, but is not likely to be runnable. Morgan is a small creek, the falls is not that large, likely to be pretty boney, and drops into a fairly shallow pool. However, if you find it with adequate water, and are inclined, go for it!
A description and photos of this drop are available at: Waterfalls of the Keweenaw.
The river tends to break into braided channels through trees as it approaches the ski area parking lots. Massive amounts of wood tends to accumulate here. There may be an open channel through this mess, but at least as likely, you'll cut your losses (the first time you need to get out of your boat to get around something) if you just head up shore and carry across the parking lot to your vehicle. Or, far more likely, you'll be doing the lower run as well, so carry to somewhere near the highway bridge, where you can find open channel to continue downriver.
In the interest of full disclosure, the 'run length' has been set to the full distance to the 553 bridge, just for the perhaps unlikely event that some channel through this area might exist (after flooding, for instance).
Ran this section at 130 cfs on 5/20/17 had a blast! It was a little bony in our alpackaraft (lightweight low draft inflatable kayak) don't know if u could do it in a kayak at this level the packrafts are Mich more forgiving when it comes to hitting rocks. Videos on youtube
Flow is moderated by dams upstream of run thus increasing the window of runnability slightly.
Visual from CR553 bridge (near Marquette Mountain Ski Area, at listed take-out for upper section, put-in for lower section) or visual inspection of rapids below dam at put-in.
At high flows, this run will be a real hands-full, and boaters should proceed with caution as there are many twists and turns, and the river is prone to having deadfall and snags since it seldom gets a chance to 'flush'. Boaters must be ready to catch 'one-boat-eddies'. With low-to-moderate flows the run is much more forgiving.
Best month to catch it is April, May (about half as likely), October and November (about half that likely), or immediately after heavy summer thunderstorms.
Gauge/flow analysis (based on gauge data 1961-07-01 through 1986-11-30): Drainage area at gauge (@Hwy.41) is 51.4 square miles. Minimum mean daily flow was 3.9 cfs (1969.07.29-30), 90% of time flow exceeds 29 cfs, 10% of time flow exceeds 103 cfs, maximum mean daily flow during gauge period was 853 cfs (1985.04.20), making a 10/90 ratio of 3.55 ('flashy-ness': under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy').
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Carp (Mqt) Entrance Rapid
Carp (Mqt) Put-in
Drop 1 Upper Carp: Marquette, MI
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