Aug '04 Update/Access
The listed put in for this reach, Steiger's bridge, is privately owned, as are the roads leading up to it. In Spring '04, paddlers were informed that, due to liability concerns on the part of the owner, the road would be closed to public usage. Access to Steiger's bridge may be gated and unavailable. Alternate options are:
A) "Full" Presque run, doing the Upper Presque at Underwood Tower Road and continuing down to paddle this reach. Total length of the combined reaches is 15.7 miles,
B) Doing the Copper Creek to the Presque, which unfortunately comes in below 'the canyon' (Triple Drop and Nakomis), or
C) Hiking in (a LONG hike, trespassing on the gated road).
This is a classic run, once considered "cutting edge" whitewater. Triple Drop, Nakomis, Lepisto, and Iagoo Falls are the major drops. There is much great play water after the gorge, particularly at higher water levels (above 7.5', when Triple Drop and Nakomis will likely be portaged).
Early runs of this, most groups took out at the South Boundary Road Bridge, however, the final mile to the lake contains some interesting, big, runnable (for experts) drops, and is now often done as a 'first choice' run. (See Bottom Presque for description and photos.) Those not choosing to run that bottom mile will want to at least enjoy the views from overlooks and footbridge in the park.
Click here for Part 1 of an article from the AW Journal, way back in 1981!
Click here for Part 2 of the article.
The article describes the following: Michigan's, Upper Presque Isle, Lower Presque Isle, Middle Black, Lower Black, Upper Silver, Lower Silver, Falls, and Rock; and Wisconsin's Lower Brunsweiler, Montreal Canyon, and West Branch Montreal.
About a quarter-mile into the light rapids, a large rock splits the flow, with a bit of a ledge/drop either side. Passage is possible either side, but you'll likely want to give the rock wide berth, as it forms a sticky hole at some flows. This rock also serves as your signal that 'The Canyon' lies just ahead, with the two meatiest drops of the run: Triple Drop and Nakomis.
This begins the 'the canyon'. Less-confident or less-skilled paddlers will be well served to portage this sequence. At high flows, even well-experienced kayakers take to the shore.
The main drop of Nakomis has a decent eddy above it. Strong, confident paddlers may boat all of the approach and catch the eddy (to stage and run the main drop, or to portage it). Less skilled or confident paddlers may start their portage further up. At high flows, it is not uncommon to portage from above Triple Drop and put in below Nakomis.
Lepisto Falls is not that much of a drop, but can be nearly as troublesome for boaters as some of the larger falls. The river spills over a hump of bedrock which has been scoured and sculpted into some weird folds. At most 'normal' flows, there will be an exposed area of bedrock midstream where you can beach the boats to scout the drop. The river is fairly wide here, so it can be difficult to be certain of your line: Too close toward the exposed area and you may piton into a scoured back-cut in the bedrock (as a string of boaters, each following the prior one's line, did back in the days of long boats, resulting in a number of badly sprained ankles). Too far from the exposed area and you head into a wave/hole in front of an exposed rock midway down. Run between the two, and you're good. However, at the base of the sliding drop, a potentially quite 'keepy' hole (depending upon the flow) awaits.
For those not wishing to deal with the potential consequences of the route(s) just described, there is at least one good sneak. Head way to river-right, where the flow (if I recall correctly, from many, many years back) drops down a more jumbled rapids.
This is similar (in general appearance) to Lepisto, but without the folded back-cut bedrock. The flow spills across a river-wide transverse hump of rock. Depending on flow and precisely where you 'attack' this, you may encounter a fairly significant wave/hole.
This may be named after the Indian legend of Iagoo, (that's i-a-g-o-o) the story teller. One good source for more about this legend is http://scienceviews.com/indian/fairytales2.html
USGS lists a site at S.Boundary Road citing drainage at that point as 358 square miles, or ~1.8*Black at its gauge.
Ran the Presque on 05/18/2014 at 3.43 ft on the black gauge corresponding to 2 out of 5 on the boat buster gauge located on south boundary road bridge. This probably corresponds to about 7-7.5 on the old gauge. Access to Steigers Bridge is still restricted (unless you don't mind breaking the law) so we ran the full Presque. We put it by driving about .2 miles North on the Underwood tower off M-28 till we hit a ATV trail and walk another 100 yards till you hit a broken down bridge on the river. The best was to get to the take-out on South Boundary road bridge or beach next to the lake is to drive back out on M-28 and driving down to Wakefield and taking N country road 519 to S Boundary road/beach. There is a shortcut to get on North Country road 519 by following the back country logging roads but at this time it was gated 10 ft from the road.
All the drops in the canyon section can be scouted on river left by scrambling up to an ATV trails that runs along side. This is also a good trail to be on in case you lose gear and need to hike out. It joins up with North country hiking trail and will drop you off right at the take out (for Middle Presque) on South Boundary road.
Triple drop started with punching a sticky powerful hole at the center where it flushed the most. It's a little challenging to setup a perfect line but is possible even for intermediate boaters. Immediately following this is a 8 foot steep slide/fall on shallow rocks, you definitely want to be in you're boat when you go over this one. The first hole is deep and does flush so if you do get stuck try to be persistent in getting out before pulling the skirt because of the consequences of what lies downstream.
At the level we ran at, the Eddy below Nokomis was very surgy and fed the disoriented boater straight into the munchy hole. It would be really hard to swim out of the boil. Less experienced paddlers would be served well to portage it because of possible consequences. If you decide to run it, safety rope is highly recommended. It's also advised to have more experienced boated setup much further downstream to collect the yard sale resulting from the swim. The 20 boat eddy that is mentioned in the previous comment does exist but only recommended for confident boaters because of the consequences of a possible slip. If you do end up slipping try to be as far left as possible, this is the only place were Nakomis flushed even a little. We eddied out one drop above Nakomis.
The bottom right of Lepisto falls was very shallow,sticky and violent. One of our members got sucked back and was endered before getting a bloody knuckle beat down on the shallow rocks. Up and over or left of the folded bed rock was a cleaner line.
Iagoo Falls was a series of three back to back bony slides with sticky holes at the bottom there a flushy easy to setup line for all and there's reasonable time in between falls at a couple of roll attempts before you get grated on the rocks.
One: I have heard rumors of epic hikeouts and found out after I hiked in that a great trail hits Copper Creek and brings you back to civilization. So, if for some reason you do have to get off the river make your way to Copper Creek confluence (the creek enters the Presque about 1/2-3/4 mile downstream of Nokomis and 1/2 mile upstream of LePisto) and walk the bank until you reach a path and go right. It will save you hours vs. trying to use a compass and just hiking one direction out through the woods.
Two: The south boundary road bridge gauge at 7.0 (October 2005) is a medium to high level. The Black was at 3.5 (780cfs) and didn't really drop during our time on the water. I remember a run in 2003 at 7.6 that seemed like about the same level
Three: You do not need to start your portage for Nokomis at triple drop. If you decide you are not up for running triple drop then more than likely you are going to walk Nokomis as well. However boat the distance between the two rapids instead of walking it! In fact there is quite a nice rapid along with a 1/4 mile of river between triple drop and Nokomis. There is a GIANT 20 boat eddy on river left above Nokomis. This will save tons of time and energy and give you an additional fun rapid!
I hope this info helps!
* Online gauge referenced is on the Black. Watersheds are close, parallel and relatively similar in nature. Max/min are estimates.
The Presque Isle tends to hold it's water a bit better than the Black, so may be boatable when Black is below it's minimum. Additionally, since the river is significantly constricted in 'the canyon', these drops may be boated by those willing to pick and scrape their way down the rest of the run to get to them.
Anyone who boats this reach is encouraged to add a 'comment' below with additional gauge information and/or correlations.
Disclaimer: Be aware that indication of a 'runnable' level does not necessarily mean that the river is runnable. In winter, gauge readings may be 'ice affected'. Sections of the river may be impassable due to ice. Use discretion for winter and early spring runs.
Paddlers gauge is painted on middle bridge pier at South Boundary Road. Gauge is at a wide spot in the river. Small changes in level here become big changes in the gorge, (inches become feet!) so there is a relatively narrow range of runnability.
Rough interpretations for the paddler's gauge are:
6.5' - low
6.75' to 7.25' - medium
above 7.5' - high
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Going right at Big Rock
Nokomis is coming
A worthy adversary
Triple Drop (Second Drop)
Open boating the Presque Isle (MI)
Dropping into the froth
Nokomis on the Presque Isle (MI)
Good day on the Presque Isle (MI)
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