Michigan’s Seven Best Paddling Trips

Guest blogger Jennifer Hamilton of the Awesome Mitten shares seven of the best destinations for paddling in Michigan. Read from her below and find more places to visit on michigan.org.

Summer may be rapidly coming to a close, but there is still plenty of time for a kayak trip in one of Michigan’s famous bodies of water. Whether you are seeking lakes or rivers, I have had the pleasure of polling fellow Awesome Mitten writers and compiling a list of Michigan’s favorite waterways.

1) Onekama to Arcadia via Lake Michigan – This is probably one of the most peaceful waterway treks in our Great Lakes State. Travelers have the opportunity to view Arcadia Bluffs from the water as they paddle by and scope out potential golfing opportunities. Since this area is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, there are great dune adventures to have at almost every point along the way if you want to stop and picnic.

2) The Backwaters at Tippy Dam – The Backwaters at Tippy Dam are for the adventurous hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife. Great fishing is available here if you are seeking walleye or small-mouthed bass. Experienced fishermen say that the panfish are abundant as well. Due to the wooded surroundings, there is a good chance that visitors will spot at least one eagle during their adventure. The peacefulness of these Backwaters is great for an escape from civilization and to truly get a Northern Michigan experience.

3) Canals of Detroit – While Detroit may not be the first place you think of to enjoy a water-filled experience; one particular Awesome Mitten-er offers a unique perspective on its waterways. Ms. Joanna Dueweke swears by touring Detroit’s canals via kayak or stand-up paddleboard. It’s a great way to enjoy the historical buildings and homes from a completely different point of view than the general public. Some of the best and most convenient places to launch are at Alter Road, St. Jean, or Belle Isle.

Turnip Rock, photographed by Lars Jensen

4) Turnip Rock Port Austin – If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing Turnip Rock via Lake Huron, I insist that you head there immediately. This enormous rock received its turnip connotation from thousands of years of erosion from storm waves. Now, it is an island with a few trees and little other vegetation. The land nearby is all privately owned, so the only way to view it is by waterway or trekking across a frozen Lake Huron in the winter. It is quite the comedic, awe-inspiring landmark, located at the tip of Michigan’s thumb.

5) The Platte River – The Platte River is a personal favorite and though it may not be a secret, it is worth a mention to remind you to traverse its calm, strangely warm waters. The Platte is a great place to take families as it is easy to navigate and always warm enough to tube if kayaks are not readily available. As part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, it is no surprise that the Platte River is absolutely stunning. Its ending pours out into Lake Michigan with a mini peninsula jutting out between the two, dividing the playful river and the wild waves.

6) Huron River near Ann Arbor – This is the only state-designated Country Scenic Natural River in Southeast Michigan. It is a huge river that covers five counties, with each portion being strikingly worthwhile. During various portions of the river, floaters can expect to come across an abundance of dams; there are 96 total, to be exact. Many of these dams were built for mill or hydroelectric power, making them fairly large. Due to the size of these dams, many new lakes have formed along the Huron River, making for exciting sites to see almost every portion of the way.

7) Two Hearted River, Eastern Upper Peninsula – Any river that has a beer named after it clearly needs to be traversed. It is a fairly short river that empties into Lake Superior, and it does a great job of capturing the Upper Peninsula’s natural beauty. At the mouth of the river, travelers can see a Michigan Historic Marker; formally known as the Two-Hearted Life Saving Station, which then became part of the United States Coast Guard in 1915. The Two-Hearted River is exceptionally famous for a great place to leisurely fish, probably while enjoying a nice Two-Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery.

Jennifer Hamilton is a feature writer for The Awesome Mitten. Jennifer lives in Traverse City where she works for Addiction Treatment Services and is earning her Master of Social Work and Master of Arts in Alcohol and Drug Addiction.

Do you have a favorite Michigan paddling trip that’s not on the list? Share with us below!

7 Michigan Myths to Tell Around the Campfire

Whether they start with “I heard that…” or “my friend knew someone who…” urban legends have been a part of growing up for generations. Some are meant to entertain, others are meant to teach a lesson, and many others are more than a little spooky. One thing remains consistent: they are too unbelievable to take seriously, yet too believable to dismiss. Guest blogger Joel Heckaman from The Awesome Mitten put together this list of 7 myths and urban legends in Michigan that you can explore for yourself this summer.

1. The Singing Sands of Bete Grise

On the south side of the Keweenaw Peninsula is a beautiful beach that contains more than meets the eye. The legend is that a Native American woman lost her love to Lake Superior and, because she spent the rest of her life on the beach crying and calling out to him, the white sand still calls to him to this day. You can reawaken her voice by making the sand sing with the palm of your hand, by patting or brushing the surface. However, it only works if you’re on the beach at Bete Grise. Take the sand anywhere else, and it loses its voice.

A sunset at the Keweenaw Peninsula

Photo Courtesy of Amy Shook

2. Le Griffon Shipwreck 

Between the Upper Peninsula and Green Bay, there is a chain of small islands in Lake Michigan. Somewhere in this area (no one knows for sure) is a mysterious shipwreck that is considered a historic “holy grail.” The first full-size cargo ship to sail the inner Great Lakes, Le Griffon was built by explorer Robert de La Salle in 1679. The ship was a work of art, featuring a majestic griffin (half lion, half eagle) figurehead on its front and an eagle on its stern.

Le Griffon started her maiden voyage up the Niagara River to Lake Erie, gave Lake St. Clair its name while passing into Lake Huron, and stopped in Mackinaw City for Sunday Mass before landing at Washington Island, at the mouth of the Green Bay. There, the crew loaded the ship to the brim with valuable furs and other goods, while La Salle stayed ashore to make plans for further exploration west. Le Griffon departed for a return trip to Niagara slightly more than a month after its initial departure.

Woodcut of Le Griffon from "Nouvelle Decouverte."

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, the ship and crew were never seen or heard from again. Many assumed that Le Griffon was lost during a fierce storm shortly after leaving port. Others reported that the ship was boarded and burned down or destroyed. This could have been the work of rival fur traders, local Native American tribes, or nearby Jesuits, all of whom were threatened by La Salle’s plans for westward expansion. La Salle believed that the weary crew, who had been forced to build the ship in harsh winter conditions with limited resources and under the constant threat of attack, had finally been convinced to mutiny by the untrustworthy pilot. He figured that they made off with the cargo before sinking the ship. We may never know what happened to Le Griffon, and the only clues lie in remains that may never be found.

3. Torch Lake Monster

With all this talk of bizarre things on or in the water, it makes you wonder what else might be down there. One famous lake monster, somewhere in the deep, clear waters of Torch Lake, has been preying on unsuspecting visitors and campers of YMCA Camp Hayo-Went-Ha for generations. Dave Foley, a counselor at the camp in the 1960s and ‘70s, takes credit for starting the myth, which was later popularized in a song by fellow counselor and folk musician Bob Thurston. “One eye is brown, one eye is blue / His body covered all in icky green goo,” the lyrics sang. The presence of 50-pound muskies in the lake likely contributed to his tale. But another legend speaks of a sea panther, claiming that Torch Lake contains a monster with the head of a cat and the body of a lizard. Did Foley make up a monster story to entertain campers, only to stumble upon something even scarier?

4. Old Presque Isle Light

Let’s take a step out of the water for a moment and visit another one of Michigan’s great defining features: lighthouses. Ships traveling between the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Huron need to make a turn at Presque Isle, on the northeast corner of the Lower Peninsula. Old Presque Isle Light was built in 1840 to help guide safe passage, but it deteriorated quickly. In less than 30 years, it was replaced by New Presque Isle Light slightly farther north, which is still in operation today.

Old Presque Isle Light has been known to shine at night without electricity or a bulb

Photo Courtesy of Joel Heckaman

Old Presque Isle Light was refurbished as a museum in 1977, with George and Lorraine Parris hired as the original caretakers. They loved their role so much, George didn’t want to leave, even after his death in 1991. Lorraine first saw the lighthouse fully lit in 1992, despite all of the wiring being removed or disconnected for decades. Since then, sailors, pilots, and spectators from across the harbor have reported seeing the yellow glow, long after the bulb was removed from the lens. Many have also seen a figure in the lantern room, and others report mysteriously helpful coincidences around the lighthouse. The Coast Guard does not have an official explanation, but it sounds like George is still enjoying the lighthouse while helping visitors from the other side.

5. Paulding Light

Another inexplicable light shines in Paulding, a town near Sleepy Hollow on the west edge of the Upper Peninsula. Heavy woods surround the area, and a stretch of northbound Old US-45 ends abruptly at a sign from the U.S. Forestry Service. “This is the location from which the famous Paulding Light can be observed,” it reads. “Legend explains its presence as a railroad brakeman’s ghost, destined to remain forever at the sight of his untimely death.” Power lines and a service road cut straight through the trees as far back as the hills will let you see, and it’s in this clearing that sightings of the Paulding Light have happened almost nightly since 1966. Some explain the light with different ghost stories, while others contend it’s swamp gas or car headlights. Until you see it for yourself, there’s no way to be sure.

6. Dogman 

One of the most popular urban legends in Michigan involves a tall, dog-like creature with piercing eyes and a screaming howl. Neither a werewolf nor Bigfoot, instead you’ll find Dogman roaming the northern woods of the Lower Peninsula. Steve Cook, then a DJ at a Traverse City radio station, claims that he started the myth when he made up a song about Dogmen titled “The Legend” as an April Fool’s Day joke in 1987.

A potential photo of Dogman in the Upper Peninsula in 1968

Photo courtesy of CR Productions

Cook clearly underestimated this legend, as people quickly started calling in to corroborate the stories of their encounters. One man recalled an incident with the beast from 1938, when he was approached by a pack of dogs. Several scattered when he fired his rifle into the air, but one simply stood up tall and glared at him before sprinting away. The first reports of Dogman date back to 1887, when two lumberjacks saw a creature with a man’s body and a dog’s head, but there are also similar reports from French fur traders dating as far back as the early 1800s.

An unusual animal attack in the nearby town of Luther in 1997 seemed to confirm Cook’s prediction of a ten-year cycle for Dogman attacks, but video evidence of an attack in 2007 turned out to be a hoax. With the next round of Dogman sightings expected in 2017, will modern technology finally allow us to capture proof of this beast when it appears… and will you be brave enough to face it when it does?

7. True Love’s Kiss

Not wanting to leave you too freaked out about our great state, our list ends with an urban legend that will make you feel good. At least three universities have versions of this story, and it’s likely that many more have something similar.

At Michigan State University, the gorgeous Beaumont Tower stands above the trees in the middle of north campus. The spot itself has its own historic value, but today’s legend involves a kiss in the courtyard. A couple who kisses at this spot, either in the tower’s shadow or at the stroke of midnight, is destined to marry. One is only a “true Spartan” once they have kissed under the tower.

Each entrance to the University of Michigan’s Diag has its own charm, but the Engineering Arch has a special romantic importance. The legend is that college sweethearts who kiss under the arch at midnight will be destined to marry. This is more common as mythology than practice, but it’s a popular place for alumni to go for wedding or engagement photos.

The CMU seal is one of the most iconic landmarks on campus

Photo Courtesy of Central Michigan University

The seven-foot tall Central Michigan University seal has stood in front of Warriner Hall for generations. For just as long, there has been a legend that anyone who kisses their lover in front of the seal, at the stroke of midnight and under a full moon, will be together forever and destined to marry. And just when you thought you were done with ghost stories… the myth involves two star-crossed lovers who were supposed to meet under the seal at midnight to run away to get secretly married. The girl arrived early to wait eagerly, while the night kept getting colder and colder. The boy’s car broke down, and he was delayed several hours. He arrived to find her still there, frozen to death, determined to wait for him until the very end. As he cried and scooped her into his arms, he kissed her one last time and died of a broken heart. It’s said that the lovers were reunited in the afterlife, and their spirits visit the seal at midnight to bless lovers at their alma mater.


What stories, myths, and urban legends did everyone tell where you grew up? Let us know in the comments!

Joel Heckaman is a longtime Michigan resident who loves the culture, scenery, beer and music of the mitten state. He is a Michigan State University alumnus and founder of the Middle of the Mitten local music festival. He is also a social media professional with experience working with MSU, UM, TEDxDetroit, the Big Three and other proud Michigan brands. You can find him talking about many of these things, as well as cheering on the Spartans and Red Wings, on Twitter and LinkedIn.

4 Things You Need to Know About Detroit’s Eastern Market

Each week, thousands flock to Eastern Market to enjoy one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States. The market, and the adjacent district, are rare finds in a global economy – a local food district with more than 250 independent vendors and merchants processing, wholesaling and retailing food. Learn more on this unique market via Joanna Dueweke of The Awesome Mitten

Most people are familiar with the bustling farmers market that overtakes Eastern Market each Saturday morning. It is the location of an enduring art scene, growing restaurant  district, and burgeoning retail location. It’s difficult to create an exhaustive list of everything going on in the market because things are always changing, events are always happening and locals are always full of surprises. In fact, Eastern Market is probably one of the only places in Detroit that doesn’t get much sleep. Monday through Friday, the wholesale market starts at midnight and runs until 6 a.m., supplying restaurants and consumers alike that are interested in buying bulk produce.

Markets aside, Eastern Market offers Detroiters, tourists and people from the region a place to celebrate the city’s legacy. Compiled here is just a few of the exciting things you can find at one of the oldest and largest year-round markets in the United States.

Multiple sheds make up the Eastern Market Corporation’s complex, but there is more to the district than just the markets that happen throughout the week.

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

1. Art is for Everybody

In the fall of 2015, Eastern Market Corporation, 1xRun and Inner State Gallery worked together to bring over 45 local and international artists to paint large-scale murals throughout the district for ‘Murals in the Market’. For people that have visited Eastern Market before, it is obvious that outdoor art is integral to the culture of the market’s landscape. However, Murals in the Market offered a unique opportunity for businesses and arts supporters to sponsor an individual piece from their favorite artist. Now, the art is a lasting reminder of the collective investment in the market and those that use it as a place of commerce, a place to live, and a place to play.


Murals (left to right) created by Ouizi (adopted by Sara Boyd) and Ryan Doyle, both presented by 1xRun and owned by Sweiss Imports.

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

2. Food That’s Prepared for You

Eastern Market is absolutely known for its produce and meat markets, but it is also known for and gaining traction with the restauranteurs and their avid followers. Although many of these places have been in the market for years, there are a couple newcomers that are rounding out the district’s offerings:

Bert’s Warehouse

Almost as iconic as Eastern Market itself, Bert’s Warehouse is a popular jazz bar and soul food restaurant that doubles as a concert venue. Bert Dearing, owner of Bert’s Warehouse, has been around for the last 29 years and has seen the many changes of Detroit first-hand. Make sure you check out the ribs, jazz, and other great events that happen in the theater!

Bert’s Warehouse is a great place to find BBQ on Saturdays during the farmers’ market. They have a full lineup of jazz and other musical acts on the weekends.

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

La Rondinella

Recently, La Rondinella joined the Eastern Market family offering northern Italian fare for very reasonable prices. As an ode to his family’s heritage, Dave Mancini, owner of Supino Pizzeria, is creating an amazing experience for market-goers. Now, Eastern Market visitors have their choice of some of the tastiest pizza in Detroit next door to some of the tastiest Italian in the city.

La Rondinella is new to the Eastern Market team, but is already wowing people with an excellent food and wine menu joined by a superb lineup of craft drinks

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

Cutter’s Bar and Grille

Name for the meat cutters that opened the bar, Cutter’s is a staple in Eastern Market that’s often overlooked. Although it might look like your average Detroit dive bar from the outside, the bar offers some of the best burgers around. It’s a little off the beaten path, but this is a spot to check out any day of the week for great food and awesome drinks in a relaxed atmosphere. Another bonus is that this spot is a great stop while visitors explore the many murals nestled throughout the district.

It’s an unassuming exterior, but the mouthwatering burgers and happy hour menu are not to be missed.

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

Russell Street Deli

Known for its delicious sandwiches and fantastic soups that are now being sold as wholesale items in places like Whole Foods, Russell Street Deli is an important stakeholder in the Eastern Market restaurant family. The business is now over 25 years old, and Ben Hall and Jason Murphy, owners of Russell Street, began as dishwashers in the 1990s. Customers can eat well knowing that Hall and Murphy care about their employees because they pay well over normal pay level for restaurant workers and work to provide benefits like healthcare and retirement plans.

Open for breakfast and lunch, Russell Street Deli is a great place to stop any day of the week in Eastern Market

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

3. There’s More Than Just Food

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More and more, retail is becoming a part of the fabric that makes Eastern Market function. Interestingly, the juxtaposition of places like DeVries & Co 1887 and DETROIT VS EVERYBODY (DVE) proves just how multifaceted the district is in its offerings and its customers. Not only can shoppers find almost any cheese they might desire at historic DeVries, but they can also represent their love for the city at outfitters like DVE and Division Street Boutique where the infamous Detroit Hustles Harder shirts are sold. If that’s not enough, there are letterpress shops like Signal Return and Salt & Cedar offering paper goods and classes for aspiring artisans.


DeVries & Co. 1887 offers the nostalgia that visitors desire when exploring all that is historic in Eastern Market

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

 4. Outdoor Adventures

Officially opened in 2009, the Dequindre Cut connects the Riverfront with Mack Avenue and travels through Eastern Market. Built atop the former Grand Trunk Railroad line, the trail is 20-feet wide providing room for pedestrians and bikers, and it is lined by street art commissioned by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. During the second phase of the project (connecting Gratiot to Mack Avenue), the Dequindre Cut passes through Eastern Market and is adjacent to the newly created Detroit Market Garden. A project of Greening Detroit with funding from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, the garden is a display of what can happen to a previously abandoned city block where stakeholders can learn how small-scale agriculture positively affects an urban environment.

Looking north, the Dequindre Cut is adjacent to the revitalized Detroit Market Garden and heads toward the growing bike thoroughfare

Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

What are your favorite “characters” of Eastern Market? Tell us in the comments below!


A writer and editor for The Awesome Mitten for the last five years, Joanna Dueweke is a proud Detroit resident and Traverse City-expat. Although the beaches of Belle Isle will never compare to the shores of Lake Michigan, Joanna is happy to live and work in a city like Detroit. When she’s not creating content for The Awesome Mitten, Joanna is playing soccer in the Detroit City Futbol League, organizing any number of community events including Detroit SOUP, cheering on the Detroit Tigers, or enjoying what the city has to offer.