Likely good boatable range. (We need your comments and reports about gauge correlation and boatable flows.) 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
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
More information can be found at: http://www.northernmichiganpaddlingclub.com/ 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
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
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
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
(Our thanks to Andrew Geffert for the description of this reach.)
Check out a fine helmet-cam documentary of the run.
@Bear Petoskey: Sheridan Street to Lake (1.15 mile), MI(479.96KB .jpeg)
@Bear Petoskey: Sheridan Street to Lake (1.15 mile), MI(478.36KB .jpeg)
Visual only. Just below Lake Street Bridge, at the center of the river, there are two large boulders that are usually visible. Just river right is a triangular rock. If the triangular rock is covered with water, there is enough water to run the river. If the rock is not covered, the river is too boney to bother.
Cited gauge is Jordan River at East Jordan, which is about 18 miles West and South. It has a watershed of 68 sq.mi. at it's gauge (while Bear is about 73 sq.mi.). Current minimum is based upon the 10% flow. As always, correlations are not assured.