Monday, June 28, 2010

Flint River Kayaking

As a Flint kid in the seventies and eighties, you were taught to avoid the Flint River. And I have to admit I was a little nervous about kayaking on it. I was wondering if there was a way to do it without ever coming into contact with the actual river water. Was there any possibility the river might catch on fire? I knew this was totally irrational, but I checked with a few friends and confirmed that the river has a pretty bad reputation among Flint Expatriates who haven't been back in a while.

After a few hours on the River near Flushing yesterday, I now realize how beautiful the Flint River can be. I kayaked with Greg and Pam Palinsky, who spend a lot of time on the water, along with Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition. There have been intense cleanup efforts over the years, and there's abundant wildlife along the banks. (Can you spot the deer in the photo below?) Bald Eagles have been spotted overhead. The fish population is varied and healthy. Last weekend, people were even canoeing in the river near downtown as part of an untraditional triathlon.

At the risk of getting too esoteric, it was a good lesson for me about how you hang on to stereotypes. And how fast things can change.


  1. It probably depends upon where you put in with your water craft... I understand that the water in the Flint river was laced with a huge amount of raw sewage about a week ago while repairs were being made to one of the processing plants. Wish I could remember the gallonage and date of the dump, but it was major-major. Was there anything in the Journal about it? I used to fish and swim in that river when I was a little guy, but it was way out Flushing Rd. beyond the problems of pollution. I loved that river it was beautiful back then.

  2. But were you in Flint, or in Flushing? Do they still have the Flint River Raft races anymore? My cousins and my brother raced in it one year.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at