Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kayaking up Rain Creek

When we came to the island over a decade ago, you almost never saw a kayak or canoe on the lake. This could be a habit brought over from the old days when the lake was all fishing shacks, and anyone with an oar in the hand was assumed not to be able to afford a motor! Now of course, times are changing, and lots of folks are appreciating the pleasures of rowing on Manitou.

The best of it comes when kayaking Rain Creek. This creek, which feeds Manitou from the South, has its own delta just short of the lake, which almost rules out anything with more than three inches draft.

Now it's time to get into the laws of physics a bit. Kayaks are displacement hulls--they don't plane on top of the lake, but part the water. While paddling hard will, for a short time, increase your speed through the water, there comes a point where the laws of physics kick in and your boat will, with added force and speed, start to sink lower and lower. With each inch of drop, you pick up more wetted surface area, more drag, until you become a submarine (that's why sailors get really nervous when a speed boat offers them a tow). The moral of this story is simply that kayaking was meant to be enjoyed with a light touch on the oars. If you want a real workout, you can get it--but you won't go that much faster! The only other thing to remember is to keep your upper body over the boat (same as on a bike), and the joys of running up Rain Creek can be yours.

First you need to paddle along the east shore of Manitou heading south. Keep going until you see the delta formed by Rain Creek. You will find the Burton place boat house on your left, and then, just past the Burton house, you will see the Japanese sculpture placed by the Burtons for the wedding of their daughter, Linda (the senior Burton's are no longer with us, and the torch is passed to a new owner). About midway between the boat house and the arch, on the opposite side of the delta, you will find the mouth of Rain Creek. You have to watch the water carefully, looking for the clear areas between the lilly pads, as this is where the water is deep enough to cross, and begin your journey on the creek.

As you move up the creek, you will find a fork next to the wooden braces of an abandoned duck blind. A beaver lodge is also at this junction, but it appears to be abandoned as well. Take the left fork, and move on up until you get to a lagoon solid with lily pads. Here, you need to bear right while putting a fair amount of effort on the oars to pass through.

From this point, you should have a nice journey upstream, the distance you can travel being dependent on the height of the water. The beaver have dropped a lot of logs over the stream, and it takes a lot of rain to move the water level high enough so you can pass over them. I made it all the way to the dam at Millark a few years ago, but it took torrential rains and the paddle back was a bit hair-raising, as the current was furious and it would try to throw you into barbed wire fencing as the stream was well over its banks. Still, it was a lot of satisfaction to hear the roar of the water over the dam spillway and to know that you'd done the entire length of the river.

See you on the water!