Bear - Petoskey: Sheridan Street to Lake (1.15 mile)

Bear, Michigan, US


Petoskey: Sheridan Street to Lake (1.15 mile) (Bear River Valley Recreation Area)

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 66 fpm
Max Gradient 66 fpm

steel channel

steel channel
Photo of Ben Robinson by Grant Goeman taken march @ medium/high

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-04127800 175 - 1000 cfs II-III 01h00m ~ 201 cfs (running)
Likely low, possibly boatable. (Ref.gauge must be confirmed with visual inspection.) Reference gauge (Jordan River, 18 mi. Southwest) has 68 sq.mi. drainage. Bear is about 73 sq.mi. so should be fairly similar flow. Correlations are not assured

River Description

Quick Facts:

Location: Downtown Petoskey.
Shuttle Length: 1.3 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: Boulderbed and short-ledge gradient within often human-modified banks (quarry rock and metal plate).

More information can be found at: including posted observations of the Sheridan bridge gauge.

Put-in is approximately 657' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 581' elevation (Lake Michigan mean level).
Thus total elevation change is approximately 76'.

Removal (early 1990's) of a series of dams in town allowed a fine bit of gradient to be revealed. The city acted quickly to establish a park with walking trails in the area formerly inundated by the dams. The stream has been confined by cement walls and large rock rubble (at least in places, to stabilize the banks), as it cascades across shallow ledges on it's way to Little Traverse Bay.

Be aware that this area is very popular for fishing as well, so your boating may be contested.

PUT IN at the Sheridan Street bridge. On US-31, Sheridan Street is at the traffic light between K-Mart and Dairy Queen. There is a parking area for the Bear River Valley Recreation Area on the downstream side of the bridge on river left.  There is a path near the river all the way to Lake Michigan.  It is an easy walk if you don't have a shuttle.
TAKE OUT is either at the pond above the Lamprey Dam (Lake Street) or at the harbor on Lake Michigan, depending on whether or not you want to run the lamprey dam, the steel channel and the fishermen. There is usually ample parking.

Checking the visual gauge at Lake Street also puts you where you need to be for the car shuttle, and also gives you an idea of how many fishermen there are. Most fishermen are good about pulling up their lines, but there are some who may refuse and leave their lines in the water.

Generally, the river is a fast bubbling ride down a rip-rap channel with few eddies or play spots. This is, by far, the best white water in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, (which isn't saying much.) The main drawbacks are scraping bottom in all but high water levels and fishermen at the bottom. Due to the rip-rap nature of the river bottom, swims on this river can be hazardous; a non-boater was nearly killed by foot entrapment. If you end up out of your boat at the top of the run, you might have a long bumpy ride before you can get out of the river.

Starting at Sheridan Street culverts and proceeding to Bridge Street bridge the river is flat with views of industrial plants. The water starts to move fast right under the Bridge Street bridge.

The white water starts with a nice wave train until the first sharp right turn. The outside of the turn occasionally has debris and strainers, so most boaters try to run to the inside (right) of the turn. Then the river flattens out over bumpy rip-rap and flows under a foot bridge. Less than 100 yards past the footbridge is "The Old Dam."

The Old Dam is the toughest feature on the river (Class III drop). The best line is 1/3 over from river left with your boat pointing river right. This will take you over the tongue of water and usually you will blow through the small hole at the bottom.

There is a strong, but small eddy on river left that can pull you back into the hole, and there is a definite piton danger on river right. However, river right pour over can be run sideways, which puts you into a great position to side surf the hole.

Another 50 yards or so down from the Old Dam are a couple of good standing waves that develop at high water.

There is a nice big eddy on river right that is a good place to stop and regroup. From here to the Lamprey Dam is shallow rock bottom. In the short stretch between the large US 31 bridge and the Lamprey Dam is a pond of slow water. This is a good place to get out and scout the Lamprey Dam and remaining short run to the lake that flows through a steel seawalled channel.

The Lamprey Dam is a straight forward drop that can be run anywhere. A favorite line is driving river right to catch the large eddy on river right just below the Lamprey Dam. Beneath the center of Lake Street bridge there is a slight side surfing hole that can bobble some people after their drop off the Dam. The remaining steel channel to the lake is a straight forward flush at higher levels, and can be an adequate play spot at lower water levels if you're in a small enough boat.

(Our thanks to Andrew Geffert for the description of this reach.)

Check out a fine helmet-cam documentary of the run.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-06-16 16:38:23

Rapid Descriptions

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