It was a nice enough day for late September in Michigan. Overcast, yet warm enough to get away with a hoodie or light jacket. My friend and I, finding ourselves with not much to do and a need for nature, headed down to
While wandering through the woods, we came upon one of the canals which run through the island park. Noticing the recently installed kayak launches on these canals, Mike had the (bright) idea to go back, grab his family’s long unused canoe and go for a jaunt around the Isle.
Before we really get started, please know this one will have some length to it. My feelings won’t be hurt any if you skim through.
Casting off at Blue Heron Lagoon (not even bothering to use the kayak launches on the canals which inspired this excursion, since they wouldn’t have helped us get on the river) on the Northeast end of the island, we headed for the Detroit River.
Admittedly, we barely got into the river. Nonetheless, it was very exciting to be on the river, in between two countries, not far from where giant freighters pass every day, in this little two-man fiberglass tub. The water was very calm that day, so we had few worries.
Then we hooked a left and headed sort of Westward, down a……you know what, I’m not sure what the word is for a narrow body of water between two islands, one of which (to the right) is basically a sandbar, so I’ll call it a canal.
Along this canal, you will find the infamous Hipster Beach where all kinds of filth goes on. I somehow didn’t grab a picture of it, so just imagine a dirt clearing on the left bank where nonsense occurs. That’s right, the beach isn’t even sand, it’s dirt.
Anyhow, here’s some cool pics of canal traversal:
Eventually, we came upon this bridge, which leads to the intake for the city’s water treatment plant:
Getting close to the river again, we spied a large Crane in a tree:
Popping back into the river, we took another left and went past the Detroit Yacht Club:
At this point, we can upon the bridge leading to the Yacht Club, which, due to the high water level, we were unable to pass under. We had to pull the canoe out, walk around the bridge and plop it back in. This was our first, but not last, portage.
Paddling the rest of that canal, we ended up at the real beach. It wasn’t very lively, for obvious reasons.
After relaxing on the beach (you know, coconuts, sea shells, Pina Coladas, that sort of thing), we decided to hike the canoe about 100 yards inland, to explore the interior.
That shifty-looking bridge connects the two halves of the old (now overgrown beyond use) golf course. The picture doesn’t really show how high the water is in relation to the bottom of it, suffice to say it was tight enough we hesitated going under.
Onward into the interior canals!
At this point, we came to the Zoo. The Belle Isle Zoo has been closed for many years and is a tragic sight. I won’t get into the how’s and why’s, it’s a real ball of wax.
The elevated walkways, once a joy to walk along, now look like a series of Halloween props and backdrops or maybe something from Jurassic World:
The overgrown fences and concrete embankment along the canal add to the “Oh jeez, a Velociraptor is going to jump out any second” feeling:
Here you can see the roof of the long-deserted visitor center, roughly in the center of the Zoo:
Moving along, we found ourselves behind the island’s maintenance yard and face to face with more creepy abandonment:
Eventually, we ran out of canal and had to head back the way we came. One last neat surprise was waiting for us though, a rather large frog who just sat there and looked at us:
That being said, we loaded the canoe back on the Jeep and headed home!
Thanks for reading along and I hope you enjoyed the pictures of our wacky Belle Isle!