Cutting the River - Safety Work on the Pine

Cutting the River - Safety Work on the Pine

Part of the inherent beauty of the Pine is its sandy banks, the trees overhanging the river, and its narrow, winding nature. However, this also means that cutting and clearing the trees out of the river is a constant job on the Pine to make it safe and navigable for paddlers. Other rivers, such as the Big Manistee, rarely need to be maintained because of how wide and open the river is. This is not the case with the Pine. We are often asked about the safety work on the river, so we thought we would write an article sharing more details.

The safety work on the river is done by a small group of talented, local men – the main river cutters are Andrew Shankland, Josh Taylor, Rylie Gates and Jacob Miltner. They are paid for their skilled labor by the Pine River Canoe Livery Association, otherwise known as P.R.C.L.A. P.R.C.L.A. is a voluntary association of the liveries on the Pine – Bosmans, Horinas, Pine River Paddlesports Center and Sportsman’s Port. We all pay our dues to P.R.C.L.A., which then goes to pay the men for their work of cutting the river.

P.R.C.L.A. pays to have the Pine River from Briar Patch down to Low Bridge cleared and maintained. We used to also service Edgetts to Briar Patch, but the landing at Edgetts got so bad that the association deemed that it wasn’t worth it to keep that section of river open.

The river safety work starts in the spring, usually mid-late April. When we start the clearing work is dependent on both weather and water levels. Preferably it is in the 50’s or 60’s when the teams are out there cutting the river – they always get wet and the water is cold! They also prefer the water levels to be below 300 CFS to start cutting. This means that they must wait for the water to come down from the spring flooding. If they cut the river once at slightly higher levels (300-350 CFS), it can be better for floating big things out. However, if they do this, they will have to go back through the section a second time once the water drops to normal summer levels to get what they call ‘low-water debris’. In the more popular sections like Dobson to Peterson and Peterson to Low Bridge, they usually go out once in higher water and once in lower water to make sure the busiest sections are good to go for the influx of summer paddlers.

People often think that the river cutters take a raft or a drift boat out for the safety work, but no, they take a good old canoe. We have one Old Town Discovery 158 that is designated as a work canoe – it has taken quite a beating over the years, including chunks taken out of it by a chainsaw! They also usually take three chainsaws, two handsaws, and two pairs of pruners. Additionally, they bring along a trauma kit that includes QuikClot powder, tourniquets, and bandages. If an accident happens when they’re on the river, they want to make sure they are prepared.

After the spring cutting is done and the river is cleared from Briar Patch to Low Bridge, there are always new trees that come into the river in the summer. Typically, the cutting teams must go out around 6 – 8 more times for maintenance through the summer and fall. This all totals up to around 200-man hours spent cutting the river each year.

It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to keep the Pine River open and navigable for all users. If you frequently bring your own watercraft to the Pine and would like to contribute to this safety work, you can do so by donating through Patreon at: you for your support!

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