The Clinton River, in South East Michigan is a great place to spend an afternoon on the water. The Clinton River starts in northern Oakland County and flows out into Lake St Clair. Clinton River Canoe and Kayak offers river trips between 1 and 6 hours. Trips range in difficulty from easy to class 3 rapids. We signed up for the Clinton River kayak 2 hour general paddle from Clinton River Canoe and Kayak. This tour goes down the river through Dodge Park in Sterling Heights. This is their most beginner level tour.
Clinton River Kayaking
The Clinton River is 83 miles long from it’s headwaters to it’s out flow at Lake St Clair. Much of it is navigable by Kayak or Canoe. It ranges from calm waters to Class 3 Rapids. There are maps available online at the Clinton River Watershed Council website. There are several public kayak and canoe launch facilities throughout the river. The river is piped under the city of Pontiac so you can’t kayak the entire length.
Clinton River Canoe And Kayak 2 Hour Paddle
Clinton River Canoe and Kayak offers various river trips on the Clinton River. Their regular trips are 1-3 hours on the river running through Utica and Sterling Heights. They offer canoes and single kayaks. They do not have tandem kayaks for rent. We have taken the 2 hour leisure paddle a couple of times now and enjoyed it both times.
The kayaks are 9-10 feet and are sit on and sit in depending on which one you get. Most of them do not have padded seats to sit on. I have never done a 3 hour paddle on these but my butt is usually telling me 2 hours is long enough by the end. Keep this in mind before signing up for a longer trip.
Their shop is located off of Utica road north of Metropolitan Parkway. They have plenty of parking. The 2 hour tours begin at their facility. They use a bus to take you upstream and you finish back where you’re parked at. There is no time limit or rush to get back. They like you to finish before 7pm.
The cost for the 2 hour paddle is $35 for a solo kayak or $45 for a canoe. Canoes can hold 2 adults plus a child.
The route for the 2 hour paddle
The 2 hour leisure paddle starts at a park in Sterling Heights around 19 mile road. You end back at the Clinton River Canoe and Kayak facility at Utica Rd and Metropolitan Parkway. The river route is about 4 miles long. Our tour started at 2pm and we were back around 5pm including the shuttle ride and wait to launch. There are markers along the river so you can judge where you are at and know when the haul out ramp is coming up. It is at marker 24. You start at marker 7.
Skill level for 2 hour paddle
The 2 hour general paddle is suitable for anyone with at least a tiny bit of kayaking experience. I would not recommend it for someone who has never paddled before. If you can at least turn and go straight with a kayak on flat water you will be fine.
There is some current on the Clinton River. I would guess it is flowing 2 to 5 mph for much of this section of the river. The river is 20 to 30 feet wide and winding. A canoe can turn sideways in the river with some room to spare most of the time.
If you have never kayaked at all before, you will spend your first mile bouncing off the shore and getting caught in branches until youu figure it out. If it’s your first time you are better off taking a canoe with a more experienced paddler.
River current and large branches on the side
There are lots of large trees and branches fallen in the river. These seem to act like giant kayak suckers pulling you into them. It’s not that difficult to get your kayak stuck on branches an logs. The good thing is that it’s easy to push back and get yourself going again.
There are several logs and tight turns immediately after launching at the start of the trip. Many people get caught in these so don’t feel bad if you do.
There are a few sections during the 2 hour paddle with small rapids. On the Clinton River Canoe and Kayak website, they claim that only 2 to 5% of boats flip over in this section. If you focus on what you are doing you will easily get through them and stay dry. Paddle your kayak straight through them.
On this last trip I was one of the 2 to 5%. I was trying to take pictures of my wife going through the rapids and let my kayak drift into it. I drifted sideways onto a rock and my kayak flipped. No big deal. The water was a nice and refreshing feeling. Pull your kayak to the side, dump out the water, and off you go.
The Clinton River passes through Dodge Park and around a few homes and bridges. The scenery is wooded with large trees except for one powerline cut you pass through. There are some bridges and a couple nice houses along the way also. There are many large old trees along the river with exposed roots that are interesting as well.
We saw the occasional group of ducks in the river and sitting on the banks. There were lots of squirrels in the trees. We didn’t encounter any swans or geese on this day.
Haul out at the end
After crossing marker 23 you will come to the haul out ramp. On this trip, there were people from Clinton River Canoe and Kayak at the ramp to help people get up the ramp. They were nice and dragged the kayaks back up the hill. On our prior trip, there was no one there and we had to drag the kayaks up the hill ourselves. On our last trip, it started pouring rain halfway through until almost the end. That may have been the reason everyone went home and there was no one to help at the end.
We enjoyed our time on our Clinton River kayak 2 hour paddle. It was our second time and we plan on going again next summer. Clinton River Canoe and Kayak runs a good low cost trip. Now that we have a few general paddles under our belts we might try out the adventure paddle with more rapids.
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About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions. I decided to start Gear Craver as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.