Tecumseh Paddling Company aims to get people onto the River Raisin
It was during a visit to Tecumseh to see his father that Mark Johnson brought along his kayak and began to explore the River Raisin.
“It was so beautiful I thought, ‘Why aren’t there more people out here utilizing this river?’” Mark said.
The Canton, Ohio, native knows rivers, as he and his wife, Jennifer, operated a whitewater river guide service in West Virginia for the past 15 years. Both had spent time in Tecumseh over the past few years visiting Ron Johnson and his wife, Jane. Mark said both his dad and his mom, Marjorie, who passed away 11 years ago, were Tecumseh High School graduates, and after Ron remarried and retired, the couple moved back to Tecumseh.
“Tecumseh is such an active community,” said Jennifer. “There’s always something going on here.”
The couple became interested in river rafting after taking several vacations to the West Virginia area. Mark said he started out as a photographer. He was often the one with the camera capturing the looks on other people’s faces as their boats bobbed through the rapids. He made a business of selling the photographs to tourists.
“One day I was doing that and I realized I was tired of just watching everybody else have fun, so I started training to be a guide,” he said.
“He’s also addicted to the adrenaline rush, especially where we were at,” said Jennifer, and Mark admits the fact. “There’s nothing like having your boat flip upside down in the river and having to swim for it,” he said.
But after exploring the River Raisin, the couple was taken with its beauty and potential and decided to move here to set up The Tecumseh Paddling Company, based in the lower level of the Tecumseh Community Center. They just completed setting up their office on Monday, July 1, but started rentals a couple of weeks ago. Tecumseh Paddling Company rents canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, rowboats and paddle boards.
“The paddle boards are like a large surf board and you stand up to paddle them,” said Mark.
The rentals can be used on Red Mill or Globe Mill pond, or the “loop” that community volunteers cleared a year or so ago, or for an excursion. The Johnsons will shuttle a group to Tate Park in Clinton, drop them off, and see them four or five hours later back at the community center. Guided river trips are also available.
“We’ve already had a few people take advantage of our services,” said Mark.
The couple is intrigued with the various facets of the River Raisin and discovering some of its pristine stretches excites them.
“It’s an interesting river, curvy and twisty with a lot of wildlife out there,” said Mark. “One day I was paddling down the river and I heard what sounded like a baby lamb, so I started making the same sound,” he added. “Pretty soon, a fawn stepped into the water just a few feet away from me. But its mother heard me, too, and was rushing toward us. I’ve seen lots of deer, and also mink and turkeys and eagles.”
One of the big challenges with the River Raisin is its many log jams, especially down into Raisin Township along Sutton Road. The Johnsons hope to help open those areas for river excursions in the future, but know they face a big challenge that local groups have attempted to work on for years.
“Every time we go out we take chainsaws,” said Mark. “What we really want is to get people out on the water, so people in the community can enjoy this great resource they have in their own back yard.”
The couple expects Tecumseh Paddling Company to be open through October, and hope that people will come out and take advantage of their services. While offering river excursions and rentals encompasses a seasonal business, it’s one they both enjoy. They typically spend winters in Fort Meyers, Fla., working in a restaurant.
“It’s nice to have a change while we earn some money down there,” said Jennifer.
Tecumseh Paddling Company is currently open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. as the owners test the hours to see what will work best in Tecumseh. Large groups should call ahead, however, the Johnsons invite people to just “drop in.” The phone number is 423.2700. Rentals average $15-35 depending on the type of craft and experience desired.