With soaring unemployment and an economy Milton Friedman could only shake his head at, visiting Detroit isn’t on many people’s bucket list these days. But if you’re into non-motorized boating, you may want to give Motor City a second look.
“Ten years ago you never saw a canoe or kayak anywhere,” says Kelly Rosen of local outfitter and retailer Riverside Kayak. “Now the Detroit River is way more popular for paddling. You see people with boats on their cars everywhere.”
Classic trips on the now-cleaner-than-ever Detroit River, which connects the Great Lakes system to the St. Lawrence Seaway, include two- to three-hour paddles downtown around Belle Isle and through the East Side Canals from Maheras Gentry Park. The trips highlight the river’s history, from boot-legging to car building, with each stroke taking you by everything from refurbished canal houses to area mansions, including that of early 1900s automobile pioneer Charles Fisher. The trips also spotlight the river’s ecological comeback, with abundant eagles’ nests a testament to the region’s recuperating aquatic life. “When I was a kid, no one went to the river at all,” says Rosen. “Now I swim in it all the time.”
Get your fill of the Eastside Canal and you can also head downstream to the Pine Street put-in in nearby Wyandotte and tour Elizabeth Park in Trenton. Riverside Kayak is also creating a tour of historic forts along the river that you can tour by kayak. Just treat local currents with the respect fort dwellers gave their adversaries. –EB
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