Landowners are limited in liability by Michigan law for injury of trespassing persons. See Riparian Rights on Michigan Waterways for more information (PDF).
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Limited removal to provide a pathway for canoes and kayaks with guidance from DNR officials to capitalize on fish habitat and limiting bank erosion. The Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail Association (B/SH HWTA) does not clea’ the river from bank to bank. A pathway is cut and trimmed along the route. B/SH HWTA leaders were trained by MDNR persons to cut a 3- to 4-foot pathway wide enough for a canoe or kayak to paddle through. The training made sure B/SH HWTA maintains the fish habitat that exists along the route. The training also taught B/SH HWTA leaders how and where to cut a pathway without causing erosion on either side of the bank.
No "on the land" trees, shrubs, etc. will be removed. The bases of fallen trees will be left intact on the banks.
B/SH HWTA staff will gladly coordinate with adjacent landowners wanting materials from trees and limbs that originated on their property; otherwise, removed trees and limbs will be taken from the river and flood plain, or secured to increase fish habitat or lessen bank erosion.
B/SH HWTA "Rules for Paddlers" will set a tone of respect. Signs will be available from B/SH HWTA for landowners and most of the banks along the Black River are not conducive for people getting out and walking around (steep banks and lots of poison ivy!).
Most of the historical markers will be placed on the bridges at road crossings. A few may be placed at parks, public access sites, etc.
Landowners may arrange with B/SH HWTA to receive private property signs that remind paddlers to stay on the river and off adjacent property.
"Leave No Trace" ethics will be emphasized. Litterbags will be encouraged, and paddlers usually influence other paddlers not to litter. Also, use of the river will limit trash dumping from bridges, as paddlers can be "witnesses".
Paddler organizations have a long heritage of sponsoring "River Clean-up Days" and in keeping with this tradition, we host clean-up days as well as picking up trash on all of our workdays. We do our best to keep this beautiful river clean!
Preservation of fish habitat is inherent to our Mission and Purpose. A natural B/SH HWTA extension to that is to respect the use of the river by hunters during designated seasons. B/SH HWTA materials will advise paddlers to respect others using the river. Major paddling use of the river will be discouraged during prime hunting times.
No portages are planned as part of the development. Following a storm, extensive new obstructions of wind-fallen trees may present the need, temporarily, for portages. Paddlers will be advised to stay as close to the water’s edge as possible until a new pathway can be formed by B/SH HWTA volunteers.
Lions Park in Bangor will be a trailhead along with the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. Various bridge crossings and possibly some privately owned land will be developed as access points.
Some of the access points will be equipped with toilet facilities and picnic areas.
Paddlers in general are an environmentally friendly group of people. The Black River is a slow, shallow river so users looking for a "rush" will have to try another river. Groups of people usually influence the behavior of all in the group and even others on the river. Landowners can observe and report problems and may have a potential for patrolling by the Marine patrol.
Lack of open water and the risk of damage due to submerged logs should limit use of motorized craft. With the wide-open lake in close proximity and the limited width of the pathway should naturally discourage use of these types of craft.
B/SH HWTA’s material will specify "No Camping and No Campfires" along the river. It will also be stated that no state or national forest land adjoins the river.
We’re always looking for volunteers to help with a variety of projects. We host regular workdays to help keep the river open to paddlers.
If you’d like to be added to the workday mailing list, please contact John Mitchell by email, or 269-637-6468. Volunteers do a lot of ’lopping’ and trimming of branches and growth that interferes with the paddle pathway. Experienced "river workers" are also encouraged to serve as a Team Leader for a day.
B/SH HWTA does not ’clear’ the river from bank to bank. A pathway is ’cut and trimmed’ along the route. B/SH HWTA leaders were trained by MDNR persons to cut a 3- to 4-foot pathway wide enough for a canoe or kayak to paddle through. The training made sure B/SH HWTA maintains the fish habitat that exists along the route. The training also taught B/SH HWTA leaders how and where to cut a pathway without causing erosion on either side of the bank.
B/SH HWTA is not a rental group. The best option would be to contact Outpost Sports in South Haven 269-637-5555 or Running Rivers Kayak Rentals in Douglas 269-673-3698.