Paint - Hemlock Rapids: Hemlock River to Bates Amasa Rd. (5.6 miles)


Paint, Michigan, US

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Hemlock Rapids: Hemlock River to Bates Amasa Rd. (5.6 miles)

Usual Difficulty I-III (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 11 fpm
Max Gradient 32 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Paint River at Crystal Falls
noaa-crym4 2.00 - 3.87 ft I-III 06h48m ~ 3.99 ft (too high)
Likely over 750 cfs. Likely unusually high flows. (We need your input on levels and boatability here. Add a comment or report!) NOAA Gauge (597 sq.mi.drainage) immediately downstream of dam at Crystal Falls (~12.5 miles downstream of take-out); Should provide good data for this reach.


River Description

The access paddle down the Hemlock River has a good number of short rocky stretches. At high water, a few of these may be mildly entertaining rapids. At low water, they will all be (varyingly) boney, frustrating boulder fields to pick your way through, knuckle-walk your boat through, or get out and drag/carry your boat through.

Very shortly after the last (and worst at low water) of the boulder-garden drops, you reach the Paint River. Just downstream of the confluence, you'll encounter Hemlock Rapids (about 1/3 mile long), a brief flatwater stretch (about 1/3 mile long), then Lower Hemlock Rapids (again, about 1/3 mile long). These two rapids contain some pretty fair action, and (at moderate-to-high levels) could be a real hoot. A few spots could develop wicked holes.

Once that action subsides, you are left with about two miles of flatwater to the take-out. Note: DeLormes and topo maps show a road extending upstream from 0.7 miles north of the listed take-out, extending upstream all the way to the end of Lower Hemlock Rapids. Unfortunately, the road and all property along it is privately held, making access via this means extremely unlikely -- count on paddling the flatwater all the way to the listed bridge, where there is plenty of parking and great easy access to the river.

As listed here, the suggested put-in is on the Hemlock River, and the take-out is at the bridge on Bates-Amasa Road. Using this combination makes the shuttle as short and simple as can be -- just follow Bates-Amasa Road for 3.5 miles.

Alternative access points do exist, and may be advisable for low-to-moderate water-level runs to avoid the grungy access on the Hemlock River. Specifically, it appears (I have not verified) one should find reasonable access at a location marked on TopoZone as "Paint Dam (Abandoned)". Total river miles are changed very little (you get about 1.8 miles of flatwater on the Paint instead of about 2.1 miles of flatwater interspersed with very likely grungy boulderbed rapids on the Hemlock River). This does, however, more than double the shuttle length (to at least 8.5 miles).


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-09-09 02:07:42

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-0.9USGS sampling siteN/A
0.0Alternate AccessN/AAccess
2.6Hemlock RapidsII+
3.1Lower Hemlock RapidsIII
27.6Next SectionN/A

Rapid Descriptions

USGS sampling site (Class N/A, Mile -0.9)

USGS lists a site on the Hemlock just above our put-in and cites drainage area of 53 square miles. (For the access paddle-in to the Paint.)



Alternate Access (Class N/A)

Using this access point changes the length of river trip only slightly (actually about 0.3 mile shorter), but doubles the length of the shuttle. Nonetheless, it may be advantageous to use this access when Hemlock River is rather low (I.E., when it will be a bump-and-scrape to get to the confluence). You will have 1.75 miles of flatwater (on the Paint), versus 2.15 miles of bump-and-scrape boulderbed (on the Hemlock).

By my best reckoning, drainage area at this point is in the neighborhood of 412 square miles. Hemlock will add its 53+ sq.miles in before the rapids begin.



Next Section (Class N/A, Mile 27.6)

From our listed take-out for this section, there is nearly 22 river miles to the put-in for the Horserace Rapids section of the Paint. There is s dam about 12.5 miles down from the take-out (just upstream of Crystal Falls, at Fairbanks Road) and there may be a stretch of swiftwater/whitewater (perhaps up to a mile) downstream. The remainder of the 22 miles is flatwater.




User Comments

Users can submit comments.
January 11 2006 (4662 days ago)
FWIW, regarding the comment below, their access (put-in) was an additional 8 miles upstream from
the reach as listed here. In concert with the low summer flow, that accounts for the duration of
their trip. The listed reach should not take anywhere near that length of time.
January 10 2006 (4663 days ago)
Adam VollmarDetails
I did an extended trip that included this stretch in the summer of 2005 when water levels were
extremely low. We dropped in at the campgound off of FS-347 and ended at Bates-Amasa bridge
(CR-643). It took around 5 hours (aside from the rapids, we floated most of the way) but would be
much quicker at higher water. The two sections of Hemlock Rapids were a blast and in the Spring
would be great.


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