Difficulty I-II
Length 20.5 Miles
Flow Range 100 - 1200 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 2 hours ago 199 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 10:25 am

River Description

Not far beyond our listed take-out, this Sturgeon River (one of many such named rivers in Michigan and beyond) flows into Burt Lake, the outflow from which becomes the Indian River, which almost immediately flows into Mullet Lake. The outflow from that becomes the Cheboygan River, flowing out to the South Channel of the Straits of Mackinac, just East of the Mackinac Bridge. The Sturgeon is a Blue Ribbon trout stream, and is said to be (likely only for marketing hyperbole)"the fastest flowing river in Michigan's lower Peninsula".

Adam Vollmar contributes (2005-11-27):
When the river is high, which it often is, this stretch can be the most fun in the Lower Penninsula.

There are two parks in Wolverine. The one further to the south with swingsets is right where the two branches come together. There's a standing wave at the first park. I've done this stretch a lot and high or low water, it's always there (in high water there's a few others, none will compare to the first however). If you have someone else with you, there's a lookout right next to it. You can drive your car right up to it. I've done this stretch several times and recommend starting at the first park in Wolverine with swing sets and a bathroom and taking out at Indian River. There is great parking in the back area of the McDonalds parking lot and your car will be in view from the river.

John Lee writes (2005-05-26 15:23:23): "Fastest flow in (lower) Michigan. Clean, scenic and sandy bottom. Perfect for novice."   


Rapid Descriptions

Possible Put-in?

Class - N/A Mile - 0
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A covered bridge could provide scenic access for a slightly longer trip. It appears (from satellite views) that the extra distance should be quite similar to the entire listed segment. It also appears that what GoogleMaps shows as 'roads' in this area appears to be doubletrack, and may be private lanes.

Alternate Put-in #1

Class - N/A Mile - 0.9
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From satellite view, there appears to be a dead-end stub of Cornwell Grade Road with (likely) good parking and great river access which could be used as an alternate put-in.

Trowbridge Road

Class - N/A Mile - 1.22
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Another alternate access point may be Trowbridge Road. The North Central State Trail runs right alongside this road, and would provide a great bike shuttle route!

Interstate 75

Class - N/A Mile - 1.66
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At this point you cross under I-75, the major North-South artery connecting Toledo, Ohio and Detroit up to Sault Ste. Marie.

Trowbridge Road

Class - N/A Mile - 2.2
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Another crossing with Trowbridge Road (and the North Central State Trail) could be used as a put-in to cut 2.2 miles off the trip.

Freeway Trail

Class - N/A Mile - 2.62
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Interesting name (as listed on Google) for what appears to be a double-track with a wooden-plank bridge. FWIW, a "Silent Sport Lodge River Cottage" on the river at this location provides a cottage and/or B&B (bed and breakfast) for people who wish to vacation and enjoy the bike trail and river (for fishing and/or paddling).

Sturgeon Valley Campground

Class - N/A Mile - 3.1
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For folks looking to stay in the area (and not looking for the aforementioned B&B option), there is a campground adjacent to the river at this location. (Editorially: The freeway is rather close to the river and both of these facilities, which for some may diminish the rustic feel a bit, depending on sight-lines and how much traffic noise might carry.)

Possible obstruction/feature?

Class - N/A Mile - 3.3
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Aerial view appears to show a possible obstruction of the river just downstream, which could be concerning (as a navigational hazard), or could create minor wave/play opportunity.

Nomisteco Rd

Class - N/A Mile - 4.74
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Again, a double-track with a wooden-plank bridge, which appears to be more properly a private driveway.


Class - N/A Mile - 5.19
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At least at this time, as shown on satellite/aerial views, there appears to be a major snag/deadfall at this location. Whether this specific one exists or not, it points out that deadfall, causing strainers and snags in the river, is likely to be a nearly ever-present problem in various locations on this run. Be ever vigilant (especially if you paddle during higher flows) to avoid getting too close or hung up in these!

Confluence with West Branch

Class - N/A Mile - 5.96
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The confluence with the W.Branch is (by reports) the location of a park and perhaps the best (or only?) playable whitewater features on the run. Good access allows PnP (Park and Play) or put-in for shortened trip from here down to Indian River.

The following video shows (at least parts of) a trip with canoe and recreational/touring kayaks from near this location down to our listed take-out:

USGS Gauge: 192 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - 6.16
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USGS lists their gauge "on right bank at Cedar Street in Wolverine, 0.2 mi downstream from West Branch, and 11.7 mi upstream from mouth" and shows "Elevation of gage is 770 ft."

Historical data lists 10% flow exceeds 290 cfs, 90% flow exceeds 158 cfs, giving a 10/90 ratio of ~1.8, confirming that flows are extremely steady (not 'flashy').


Class - N/A Mile - 7.23
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Again, satellite/aerial view (as of this writing) shows an accumulation of woody debris at this location blocking the right-half of the river. These may accumulate more wood, blocking the whole river or could be flushed out (or cut out) at some point. In either case, we can also assume this location (as numerous others) may be prone to collect wood at any time. Again, alert paddling (especially around tight bends, where you may not be able to see very far ahead) will be required at all times, and especially at elevated flows.

Possible Access

Class - N/A Mile - 7.53
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Aerial/satellite views appear to show a short stub road to a cleared area which would allow parking and access (either take-out or put-in).

Zig-Zag Snag

Class - N/A Mile - 8.3
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A quick zig-zag of the river, and a VERY likely spot to accumulate deadfall (snags/strainers). Indeed, as of the present aerial/satellite views, there appears to be quite an assortment of wood here. OK, OK, I'll stop pointing out every spot which appears to hold wood. Do not take the lack of detail (from here to our take-out) to in any way imply that there aren't just as many more locations where deadfall, strainers, and snags will be a problem! They will lie just as randomly all the way to our listed take-out.

Caught in the act!

Class - N/A Mile - 8.42
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At least as of the present satellite/aerial view, if you zoom-in at this location, you will see what appears to be two people in a tandem-kayak, enjoying an outing on this run!

Haakwood State Forest Campground

Class - N/A Mile - 8.77
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For about a half-mile, along the river-left bank lies the Haakwood State Forest Campground.

Rondo Road

Class - N/A Mile - 10.95
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North Central State Trailhead

Class - N/A Mile - 11.92
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A bridge for the North Central State Trail appears to have a trailhead parking area, which could serve as an alternate landing (for put-in or take-out).

White Road

Class - N/A Mile - 13.91
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More caught in the act

Class - N/A Mile - 15.63
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Again, if you zoom in (at least, as of this writing), you will see that the satellite view has captured three kayaks on the water passing through this area.

White Road

Class - N/A Mile - 17.29
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Caught in the act (of portaging)

Class - N/A Mile - 18.04
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OK, I know I said earlier that I would not continue to point out every deadfall, snag and strainer. However, it is interesting to zoom in here to see a group of boaters (maybe an inflatable and a canoe?) who appear to be pulled ashore in preparation for getting around apparent deadfall and strainers just downstream.

Fisher Woods Road

Class - N/A Mile - 19.13
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It appears there is parking and access available here.

Park-and-Ride Lot / Take-out

Class - N/A Mile - 20.5
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Doris Landry-Kruse
6 years ago

River is a technical fun run. It is narrow, fast and twisty requiring total attention to maintain boat control. Livery states 80% flip rate which must be due to the extraordinary number of sweepers. Did not encounter any serious white water during the summer months of 2013, on two different occasions. Warm lake at the end... a nice swim to relax after 16 miles of paddling.

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Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1211774 04/02/19 Rob updated image position
1207456 04/13/17 Rob add gradient value
1190735 04/14/09 n/a n/a