A nice little park-and-play about 150 yards long, located at the Main St. bridge in the Village of Dexter, at the west end of town. It comprises four rock weirs and a boulder field where a deteriorating low-head dam was removed in late 2008. The drop on the run is about five feet. The contractor has done a nice bit of work here, creating features designed for sediment control and water quality (aeration) but that provide recreational value as well. This is a very novice-friendly, easy place for new paddlers to build skills as well as a fun surf spot for the more experienced.
Mill Creek flows into the Huron River just downstream of this location, to join the stretch described on the American Whitewater page for the Huron (of Lower Michigan) It's a good place to launch and do both in one run.
The village has completed work as of late 2012, and there is now a very nice park along river right the full length of the run. The put-in is a wide set of steps into the water, and the take-out similar. There is parking both above and below the bridge, including marked canoeist-and-kayaker-only spaces in the lot below the bridge.
The river-right side of the first weir is a really nice side surf at low flows, and a decent spot to do 360s at mid flows. It's a good place to practice ferries, back and forth between the small river left and large river right eddies. At high flows it is fun if you can stay in it, but the eddies flush out so you only get one shot at it. It's flushy at high flows, so as you drop in, paddle like nuts upstream.
Next is a boulder field that extends from just upstream of the bridge all the way under the bridge. For paddling practice, its value is to float through it angled but just at current speed, and maneuver around the rocks. It's very shallow. The boulder field is what makes this stretch Class II; it does require maneuvering, but nothing challenging. On river left at the very top of the boulder field is a one-boat eddy that can be boofed into. It's good practice to try to hit it.
The 2nd weir, right at the downstream edge of the bridge, is somewhat side-surfable on river right, but is hard to stay in at low and medium flows because of its irregular edge. It becomes a good front surf in river center at high flows. The current line here is good for squirts at most levels, and the large eddies on left and right are good practice for beginners to ferry between.
The 3rd and 4th weirs are the best part at normal flows. Third weir flushes out as the flow approaches 400 cfs. The standing wave at 3rd weir can be surfed by the skilful. This wave used to be the larger of the two but now is somewhat smaller and takes care to stay on. Eddies on both sides are good practice, and the ferry between is challenging enough to be worth working on. If you miss it you drop back through the 4th weir. Before the rocks shifted, attainment back up along river left was feasible, but no longer.
The 4th weir has good eddies and a nice ferry back and forth between. It has the best surf wave on the section - possibly the best in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. This wave has gotten significantly larger since the first winter's ice shifted and settled things, and is now a credible practice spot for intermediate boaters. It's wide enough for good carving. Ferry on from the eddy on river left.
If you flip, tuck! The whole rapid is pretty shallow and the rocks are limestone blocks that were placed right off the truck, not smoothed, so they'll whack ya a good 'un if you don't watch 'em. Generally not a problem, but it's definitely somewhere you want to be doing your C-to-C or sweep roll, not a face-exposed move. Swims are harmless - just walk over to the bank and get back in the boat - but only in the pools! The rough-shaped boulders all over the bottom make for some foot pin potential, don't attempt to stand in the current. The pool after the 4th weir's wave train, before the railroad bridge, is deep enough to be a nice place to practice rolls. Stay even with or just below the children's playset on river right if you're going to practice rolls though. There are too many shallow rocks above there.
Take out on the wide set of steps on river right below the 4th weir, and it's a short carry on a paved path back up under the bridge to do it again.
The gauge for this stretch is located some 2 miles upstream. If there is any ice around, partial ice dams form in strainers in a wooded area just below the gauge, causing the gauge to read falsely high.
Local amenities include the park along the river, and within easy (2 minute) walking distance the Dexter Pub, the Riverview Cafe, the Dexter Bakery, Joe and Rosie's Coffee & Tea (with wi-fi) and the local A&W. If you forgot your duct tape, the local ACE hardware is in that 2-minute radius too. The sheriff department office and fire station is the building at the east end of the bridge you just paddled under, in the unlikely event of emergency. (You've read about those sketchy parking areas where cars get broken into? Not a problem here.)
One of the best after-work activities. Unfortunately South-Eastern Michigan lacks much in the way of whitewater, but the level was pretty good on the only play wave around. There aren't good eddies servicing the wave, so if you miss it your first time through you can ether pull yourself back in with a rope or just paddle on down to the smaller 2nd and 3rd waves (2nd not pictured, it's pretty good as well).
This is my first footage with a Canon 5d Mark II -- stock settings on the camera, and no post production touch-up. It took me over a week simply to figure out how to edit this footage, as it's much too big for my Vegas Pro 8. I ended up having to get Adobe Premiere CS5, which edits smoothly with the raw 5d files. It will take me some time to get the hang of Premiere though...
Did a quick run today at 273 cfs. Seems to be about the ideal level. 1st weir wave-hole is just right for doughnuts; surfing at 2nd weir is OK, 3rd is good. 4th is excellent at this level, robust, fast, a bit of surge, requires lots of carving, outstanding practice wave.
Use the USGS gauge on Mill Creek at Parker Rd, 1.5 miles upstream of this site. Detail data can be found at
Permits are not required for this reach.
The site is park-and-play. At the west end of the village, on Main St., is the bridge over Mill Creek. The fire and police station are on the north side at the east end. The gas station is on the south side at the east end. Parking on the south side is on the side street, looking right down the hill to the creek. Parking on the north side is at the take-out, in Warrior Park. It's the driveway between the fire station and the bridge.
2nd weir, high water
Surfing the wave at the 4th weir
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