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Today in 1978, the federal government restricted access to the Pine River

U.S. Forest Service

In the 1970s, people complained the Pine River had become a “canoe freeway.”

Mark Miltner owns Pine River Paddlesports Center and says people like the river because it’s fast.

“It’s just a little livelier than most Michigan rivers,” he says. “It has more personality, has more push, has more fun factor.”

Traffic on the Pine started to grow with Miltner’s uncle, Charles Miltner, an attorney from Cadillac who first rented canoes on the Manistee River. Some customers suggested he also do business on the Pine and he entered into a partnership with the owner of a gas station on M-37.

More canoe liveries followed and at its peak thousands of people would float the river on a busy summer day.

By the late 1970s, the U.S. Forest Service said it was the second most popular river in the United States under federal management. So the service started a permit system that remains in place and limits traffic on the busiest days to 616 watercraft, canoes or kayaks. The decision to implement the decision was signed on February 27th, 1978 and took effect on May 1st that year.

Owners of liveries fought the plan. Mark Miltner does not think the number of people is an issue. He says even twice the traffic that is now allowed would not have a lasting impact on the river or its banks.

“The key human impact to me is the stupidity out there of people abusing alcohol,” Miltner says, “the litter that’s associated with it and the compromising of the enjoyment of the river valley by other users."

A permit system was later instituted on the Pere Marquette. If you want to enjoy a paddle down these rivers on a summer weekend, it’s best to plan it in the winter.


Peter Payette is the Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio.