Quicksand in Michigan Streams
Everything I know about quicksand I learned from Tarzan movies. The main thing to know is: bad guys don’t make it out, but good guys and gals always do. If you’re a bad guy, please stop reading. Quicksand on a trout stream is a little different than sand bogs in Africa, but there’s some similarity. They are both camouflaged so you don’t see it until it’s too late and if you make it out alive you’ll have an interesting story to tell even if no one believes you.
Quicksand on a trout stream is harder to see since it’s underwater. The stream bottom appears normal except there is no visible hole (sand covers it) so you don’t know it’s here until you start sinking. In waders it’s pretty scary since swimming doesn’t feel like an option.
I’ve found quicksand on the Pine River in Lake County and the Sturgeon River in the Pigeon River State Game Area. On the Pine, the particular spot I know of is a few bends downstream from Raymond Road. The first time I ran into it I was alone. I scrambled to get out and it was like running in place up a sand dune. It was easy to see the exact spot afterwards because a cloud of light gray silt poured out like smoke. An hour later, walking the bank downstream, the silt was still pouring out.
A couple years later I fished the same stretch with Feral Tweed and mentioned it to him right before we got there (it was hard to forget). I was in the lead and sure enough I stepped into it and the same thing happened. Here again, I didn’t see the hole – it looked just like the rest of the sandy stream bottom. A film of sand over the hole made it invisible.
The Sturgeon River has at least one spot I know of in the section they call the Valley which is upstream of the notorious Ford property. The same thing happens, but without the silt pouring out. How dangerous it is I don’t know. You start sinking and your reactions take over. This spot is near the left bank (fishing upstream) opposite and below a couple giant evergreen trees that lean out over the water from right the bank. If the stream is low it’s easy enough to wade around (since I know the exact spot), but with high water I get out on the bank and get back in above it.
How prevalent and dangerous are these quicksand spots? If you are careful wading, meaning testing each step which you should be doing anyway, then you will likely get off with a small adrenaline rush and some exercise. Best not count on Tarzan to rescue you. He’s busy.
Scary stuff. I fish alone quite often so the idea of quicksand takes my breath away (bad choice of wording, I know). We have a lot of silt around the almost 500 lakes where Peabody coal mines used to be in Western KY. Also very dangerous. I saw a friend of mine have one leg disappear all the way to his hip after taking a step on supposedly solid ground. I’m much more aware of my footing now when I fish in that area.
I was fishing trout at Cooks Run last year and found myself chest deep in this stuff. Cooks run is just outside of Iron River, Michigan. It took very little movement to sink into the sand. Pretty terrifying. Fortunately I was fishing with a friend and he was able to make a bed of limbs and sticks for me to leverage and get out. I literally may have been trapped and died out there if I was alone.
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