The Shiawassee River Watershed meanders through 6 counties in Michigan, from the Detroit suburbs to the Saginaw River and eventually the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron for a grand total of 110 miles in length. The Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail begins in the village of Holly and ends in the town of Argentine. One popular length of trail is a run from the town of Fenton to the town of Linden, paddling dam to dam. Fenton is likely the largest town in this stretch of the river, and it boasts several restaurants and Crust, Michigan's best bakery according to MLive Magazine. The small town of Linden is not without it's own downtown eateries and attactions, and it hosts a kayak rental along the riverside. Both locations sport a look of the northern Michigan towns that were founded near a river and a mill pond.
Leaving from the base of the dam in Fenton, behind the Fenton Fire Hall, the river quickly speeds down a small stretch of rapids to wind behind the municipal buildings of Fenton and local parks. Continuing to paddle through town, the river shoots under railroad tracks and a couple of bridges to arrive at Bush Park, about 1 mile from the start (one of 13 portage sites on the water trail). Bush Park provides flushing toilets and shelters for picnicking and breaks.
Heading north along the river, the path becomes slightly more wooded and passes behind some homes and wetlands where former U.S. Army Corps of Engineer structures can be observed (1.8 miles from start). Take note and use caution if the water level is low; there are several logs and debris piles in the river that may require exit from the kayak/canoe to portage over and across. The Shiawassee River is a shallow river to start, so dry seasons may make the excursion difficult. After about 3.5 miles, the river empties into Lake Ponemah and then Tupper Lake before funneling back down for entry into Linden. Lake Ponemah is a large round lake with several small islands where paddlers can stop for a rest. Take care, though; the central-most island has a duck blind facing northeast, so during hunting season, be sure to wear orange.
Entering into Linden with about 1 mile to go, the river is at a slower pace than in Fenton. The kayak will pass several homes and wetland areas that are abundant with blue heron and egret. After passing under another railroad bridge, the old mill house, now the library of Linden, can be seen in the distance standing tall and white against the backdrop of town. Approaching into Linden, the entry/exit point for watercraft is located just in front of the mill house/library to the left. Take care not to stray too far right of the library because the dam is located here with a stark drop of more than 10 feet. Continuing on the river trail requires a portage from the exit point and around to the park that is located across the river from the library over the dam's bridge.
This section of the Shiawassee River Trail affords an easily accessbile and family-friendly water sport adventure in the backyard of many Michiganders. It is not remote by any means, but take care because the landscape is fragile and much work has been done by local communities and universities to preserve this gem of nature.