Paddling provides an opportunity to see some of the most scenic areas of the watershed that are not easily accessible by foot or vehicle in addition to an opportunity to get up close and personal with the unique industrial heritage of the Rouge River. Paddlers should be aware that some stretches of the river are NOT for beginners and that freighters can be encountered on the lower stretch!
Water can run very fast and high, especially after a rain event. When the river runs high, it carries with it a lot of woody debris that can block passage and create dangerous hazards. Sections identified in the map are generally navigable, but that woody debris is prevalent on the river and sections can be challenging.
This information is provided only as a general guide. It is a graphic rendition of what paddlers might experience on the Rouge River. Do not rely on this guide as a navigational tool or to identify all hazards.
Remember that kayaking and canoeing have inherent risks and you are solely responsible for your own safety.
Before heading out, be sure to check local weather, water levels and logjam status. If there has been recent significant rain or snowmelt, check Current Water Levels as the river can become unsafe for paddling due to strong currents and lower water quality. If you are paddling upstream of the confluence of the Lower and Main, check logjam status. If you are paddling the lower industrial stretch to Belanger Park, check weather conditions on the Detroit River.
Paddling alone is unwise. Even the most experienced paddler can run into trouble. Having a buddy along will increase safety.
Make a plan and give it to someone who is staying onshore. Be sure to include the names of the people in your party, time and location of departure, anticipated route and time you expect to get back. Don’t forget to check-in once back so people know you have arrived home safely.
Always wear a properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (life preserver). Wear protective footwear and clothing that can get wet. Expect to be in the water at some point on your trip. Pack personal gear in a waterproof bag, and secure it to your boat to avoid losing items if capsizing occurs. Bring at least two signaling devices, such as whistles, waterproof flashlights and cell phones in waterproof containers.
Not all boats are created equal and not all paddlers should venture out onto the lower industrial section of the Rouge River (downstream of the confluence with the Main) and onto the Detroit River.
Although freighters can appear to be large and lumbering, they move much quicker than expected and may not be able to see smaller watercraft. High wakes trailing behind fast-moving, motorized watercraft are equally dangerous, and collisions can be deadly. Before heading out, check freighter traffic on the map or download the app.
Consider taking a paddlers safety course. Many local outfitters and paddling groups offer classes. Look for classes to enhance your canoeing and kayaking skill level, or join a paddling club to maximize your enjoyment when on the water.
The Detroit River is shared between the U.S. and Canada. U.S. and Canadian vessels, including kayaks and canoes, can freely cross the international boundary to explore neighboring waters. However, landing — anchoring, wading or touching bottom with a paddle — is illegal unless you immediately report your arrival to Canadian Customs. Violation of international border crossing laws can result in severe penalties. Returning from Canadian soil also requires that you report to U.S. Customs.
The water is generally safe for boating if there has been no heavy rain or snowmelt; swimming is not recommended.
The Lower Rouge River Water Trail is a consortium of interested groups and communities and is a project of the Lower Rouge River Water Trail Leadership Committee. Contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org.