Kayaking the Superfund Sites of the Kalamazoo River

Kayaking the Kalamazoo River

John Fleming and I both had a hankering for some river kayaking because our beloved Lake Michigan is still encased in ice several hundred yards straight out. However that may be changing this week. We met at the downtown Waterstreet Coffee Joint.

I had some tea and a rosemary shortbread cookie.

Waterstreet Coffe Joint Purple Dinosaur with Cookie
Waterstreet Coffe Joint Purple Dinosaur with Cookie

Vanilla Tea in the Shade Waterstreet Coffee Joint
Vanilla Tea in the Shade Waterstreet Coffee Joint

John and I braved the cold and suited up near the big train bridge. We paddled up stream, stopping to take photos of the amazing scenery under bright sunshine, but bitter cold wind.

We eventually came to the small train bridge. Which has a significant log jam on the other side. This causes the current to speed up quite a bit. There was a sizeable eddy to hold in and then a good swift part ahead of the bridge to whip your sea kayak around and then downstream. It was good practice breaking in and out of the eddy line. I also practiced my ferry gliding as well. If you hit it just right you could ferry across, paddle upstream, and then have your bow catch on the current to whip around down stream. Once on the downside if you could have your tail skid out on the eddy and then start over. I only managed to do this perfectly twice. Considering the water quality, we elected not to screw up and wind up capsized. We thought this was quite wise.

John kept on saying Superfund, when we came by something like this:

John Fleming by wrecked school bus on Kalamazoo River

I thought John was saying Superfun. I thought alright, this guy is super positive about everywhere he paddles, that’s awesome! Turns out he meant EPA Superfund. The Allied Paper site is one of many Superfund Sites on the Kalamazoo River.

Check them out, and then wonder why a city that is doing much better in terms of attracting downtown visitors and business would have such a horrible pollution problem. While I am making jokes, I am not really. We could have a beautiful downtown riverfront experience.

We had a Kanoo the Kazoo cleanup effort going on for a while. Chris Mobley and I cleaned up a bunch of tires, plastic bags and fifty gallon drums out of the river. But I think this is really a superficial cleanup of what hard industry did to the river for almost a century. The PCB’s in the soil and the river sediment are the problem, not the trash on the surface. Perhaps some bailout money could be spent really cleaning the river?… Here is the Community Involvement Link from the EPA website.

Check out the photos for the full glory of the Kalamazoo River Superfund Paddle.


  1. HELP….Looking for advice. My wife and I just bought Kayaks and want to know where some hot spots are. We live in Kalamazoo, MI. Please feel free to e-mail us with any ideas. Please let us know what the cost is if any.


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  3. Hey-

    Keep your chin up. Obama just put like 460 million into Great Lakes restoration, saying it was just a start. I’m more worried about Asian Carp from the Chicago shipping canal. Those videos of spooked fish jumping 3′-4′ out of rivers in the Mississippi watershed when motorboats pass make me sick to my stomach. You can pinpoint pollution, you can clean it, and eventually it will work its way through the system, but once one male carp and one female make it into Lake Michigan it’s doomed forever. Chew on that for a while.

  4. Hey man we can totally get you on as a guest blogger with that content. Lithuanian Rocket Scientists with raw sewage photos welcome.

  5. Next time I paddle down Cuyahoga after good rain I’ll take pictures of stuff in the water 🙂