Otter, W.Br. - Pike Lake Rd to Donken Tapiola Road (7.6 miles)


Otter, W.Br., Michigan, US

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Pike Lake Rd to Donken Tapiola Road (7.6 miles)

Usual Difficulty II(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 7.6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 33 fpm
Max Gradient 67 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
STURGEON RIVER NEAR SIDNAW, MI
usgs-04040500 6.23 - 8.00 ft II(IV) 02h31m ~ 4.78 ft (too low)
Almost certainly too low for reasonable whitewater experience. Reference gauge should give a fair indicator of water in area. Min/Max are purely conjecture, and correlation is not assured. On-site inspection required.


River Description

A 4 mile access and 3.3 mile egress of moving water (broken only by random, very light rapids) nets you an exciting quarter-mile drop sequence.

Just 150' after the confluence with Bruno Creek, the start of the Otter Falls sequence is encountered. This opens with a 5' sloping ledge that serves as fair warning that the main drop is just ahead. Otter Falls is an extended low angle bedrock slide, with two steeper ledges of perhaps 5'-6' in close proximity near the start. This slide sequence extends for perhaps 200 yards before tapering off into light rockbed rapids.

Tauriainen Road (shown on maps) comes in (dead ends) very near this location. We are not sure whether part or all of that road may be private or how likely it is to be passable in early season or after heavy rains. If accessable, (and if the area is not all posted against trespass -- unknown to us at this time) it may alow a carry-up, huck, carry-out option as an alternative for seeing/running this falls sequence without doing a shuttle (and without having to run the (nothing-but-low-grade rapids) access and egress portions of this run. Google satellite view also shows a significant powerline clearing and has it marked as a road (though none is specifically visible, so it is likely a utility easement, and/or 4-wheeler/snomobile trail) coming into to river at 5.4 miles from the listed put-in (I.E., about a mile-and-a-quarter after the falls sequence). Absent one of those options working out, you are faced with an even more featureless paddle out of 3.35 miles. If the listed take-out at Donken Tapiola Road (off Hazel Swamp Road) is inaccessible early season, use Horoscope Road (listed on some maps as "Limestone Mountain Road"). This adds another 2 miles of low-gradient paddling (for a total of 9.6 miles from our listed put-in). Fortunately (if this stretch is paddled), while there are no real features apparent, it does appear to move along much better than the 3.35 miles after the falls.

A good companion piece to this reach may be the W.Br.Sturgeon, which is located about five miles to the south. The W.Br.Sturgeon is a smaller watershed, so if the Otter is low, it's near certainty the W.Br.Sturgeon will be also.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-02-17 16:05:30

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.7Drainage area ~28.4 square miles.N/A
0.8Possible wave/holeII
1.3Very minor ripsI
1.5Possible minor ripsI
2.1Minor rips?I
2.4Minor rips?I
2.8Minor wave trainI
3.5Wave trainI
3.8Ledge/Wave/Hole?II
3.9Confluence, Bruno CreekN/A
4.0Otter FallsIVWaterfall
4.2End of Otter Falls SequenceN/A
4.5Minor ripsN/A
4.6Possible small ledge/wave/holeN/A
5.4Powerline CrossingN/A
9.6Alternate take-outN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

Possible wave/hole (Class II, Mile 0.8)

First apparent (minor) feature.



Very minor rips (Class I, Mile 1.3)

Again, a short stretch of very low-grade rips. (At least it's a break from the otherwise nothing but flat-and-flowing water).



Possible minor rips (Class I, Mile 1.5)

Perhaps a tripping ledge and wave-train.



Minor rips? (Class I, Mile 2.1)

Again, nothing to get too excited about . . . just another very small break from the flatwater.



Minor rips? (Class I, Mile 2.4)

Yup, again.



Minor wave train (Class I, Mile 2.8)

And another. OK, this one may extend a lot longer than the others, but it's otherwise not any more interesting.



Wave train (Class I, Mile 3.5)

And another.



Ledge/Wave/Hole? (Class II, Mile 3.8)

Perhaps a single ledge/wave/hole . . . and then . . . you guessed it . . . very minor rips and waves.



Confluence, Bruno Creek (Class N/A, Mile 3.9)

OK, here's your best signal that you have nearly arrived! Just 150' downstream lies the sequence you have been waiting for!



Otter Falls (Class IV, Mile 4.0)

(See main description for the details.)



End of Otter Falls Sequence (Class N/A, Mile 4.2)

Action dies out at this point, leaving an egress paddle (very similar to the access paddle) of virtually nothing but flat/flowing water and very minor riffles and rips.



Powerline Crossing (Class N/A, Mile 5.4)

Some online mapping shows a 'road' coming in from the SouthEast along these powerlines. It is likely this is merely a dirt single-track. In the event it is passable, this could provide alternate egress, cutting off additional flatwater paddle-out.



Alternate take-out (Class N/A, Mile 9.6)

An alternate take-out (in the perhaps unlikely event someone runs this, and finds the listed take-out inaccessible). Also site of a USGS sampling site, listing drainage at this point as 53.1 square miles.




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