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!

Hit the Water in Michigan with These Extreme Sports

Summertime in Michigan means many things, but typically the most popular and memorable activities happen on the water. Between swimming, boating and fishing, there are countless ways to relax while taking in the Great Lakes state.

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, however, check out these five thrilling sports that can serve as the highlight of the season.

1. Shipwreck Diving

Since Michigan is surrounded by large bodies of water, it is one of the best places to explore shipwrecks. Experience history firsthand by visiting one of the many sites where you can visit ships now resting on the lake floor. Even if you aren’t a diver, there are options for charter tours with glass bottoms perfect for making memories while staying dry.

Explore shipwrecks resting at the bottom of the Great Lakes

Suggested locations: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Alpena), Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve (Traverse City) and the Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve (Port Sanilac).

 2. Kiteboarding

Want to try something new and exhilarating? Look no further than kiteboarding. Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing and paragliding, among others, into one extreme sport. This sport is made possible through a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard.

Kiteboarding lets you harness the water and the air in one great sport

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @thawanderer88

Suggested locations: St. Clair Shores, Traverse City and East Tawas.

 3. Sea (Lake) Kayaking

A “silent sport,” kayaking speaks to our souls. Explore sea caves, channels and coves or travel pristine rivers, enjoying the serenity of a peaceful paddle or the thrill of riding heart-stopping rapids. Kayaking is also your best chance to experience the spectacular seasonal scenery and abundant wildlife of the water’s edge. Sea kayaking is more rigorous than regular kayaking, so expect a healthy arm workout when heading out onto one of the Great Lakes.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the U.P. is an ideal sea kayaking adventure

Photo Courtesy of Courtney Kotewa

Suggested locations: Port Austin and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising).

4. Parasailing

This high-flying experience is the thrill of a lifetime. Take in the sights of your surroundings as a giant parachute sends you soaring hundreds of feet above the water. Through parasailing, you’re able to see many unique Michigan destinations from an aerial perspective while being refreshed by the splashing freshwater below.

See the Mackinac Bridge from above through a parasailing adventure

Photo Courtesy of Mackinaw Parasailing

Suggested locations: Mackinaw City and Harbor Springs.

5. Great Lakes surfing

Surf’s up! Though it is believed that Great Lakes breakers were first surfed nearly a century ago, and possibly much earlier by native peoples, the first significant wave of participants arrived in the 1960s. The west coast surf craze was leaking into Middle America, and small surfing communities sprouted across the Great Lakes. Michigan was at the forefront and today, surfing on the ‘Third Coast’ is more popular than ever. The waves are typically small in the summer, which makes it the perfect time to learn to surf. The big waves and prime surfing time is during the fall, winter and spring.

St. Joseph offers great surfing for both beginners and veterans depending on the season

Photo Courtesy of Josh Nowicki

Suggested locations: New Buffalo and St. Joseph.

Which of these extreme water sports have you tried? Share with us by commenting below!

Here’s Where to Go and What to Do in Cheboygan

Summertime in Michigan is unlike anything else. Between the waves, beaches and trails, you’re sure to make memories that will last a lifetime. There are many areas in particular that make for incredible summer fun, and Cheboygan is near the top of the list. Read more on a few areas, and things to do, when visiting Northeast Michigan this summer and let us know what else you love to do when visiting the area!

Welcome to Cheboygan

At the confluence of the Cheboygan River and Lake Huron sits a community far and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Located on the picturesque Straits of Mackinac, Cheboygan is the gateway to the famous “Inland Waterway” – a navigable series of waterways encompassing three rivers, three lakes and 40+ miles of inland boating pleasure. A cruise from the mouth of the Cheboygan River into Lake Huron can take you to Bois Blanc or Mackinac Islands, both a leisurely boat ride away.

The Cheboygan area is a boaters paradise

Photo Courtesy of Missy Koszegi

Cheboygan offers opportunities for fishing, hiking, cross country skiing, kayaking, hunting, and numerous other outdoor activities. For those that prefer to stay indoors, our local merchants will warmly welcome you to a variety of novelty shops, retail outlets, entertainment facilities, casual and fine dining, and much more. You will find that our way of life here is warm, genteel, and inviting.  Locals will be glad to show you around, give you recommendations, and make your experience memorable.  Base your “up north” vacation here and be in the center of all that the area has to offer.

Explore Indian River

Indian River is at the center of all that makes Northern Michigan a treasured vacation destination and place to call home. Indian River, named after the river which flows through it, is nestled between Burt Lake and Mullett Lake along the 40 mile long Inland Waterway. Conveniently located off I-75, 25 miles south of the Mackinaw Bridge, Indian River is a place that visitors of all ages find many pleasures to enjoy during any season of the year. Truly Nature’s Mecca, Indian River is the ideal location to boat, fish, hunt, camp, bike, golf, kayak, canoe, raft, tube, stand up paddle board, sail, snowmobile, Off-Road Vehicles (ORV), motorcycle, ski, bird watch, mushroom hunt, hike, skate, dine, and shop. By water or by land, quiet sport or motor, fun with nature is certain with so many activities available to you.

Indian River's waterways are perfect for summertime fun

Photo Courtesy of Indian River Chamber of Commerce

Discover Mackinaw City

Historic Mackinaw City is one of Michigan’s leading vacation destinations. From world-famous fudge to the impressive beauty of the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinaw City, this “Up North” region offers plenty for visitors. Mackinaw City offers incomparable natural beauty, historical museums, state and local parks and forests, two marinas, boutique shopping, free music concerts, laser light shows, fine dining, and of course, that famous fudge. The Mackinaw City area is the place to come if you appreciate the beauty of nature, adventure and old-fashioned hospitality. Mackinaw City is renowned for its summer beauty, but all four seasons provide countless breathtaking views and numerous activities for all ages. There are beautiful sunrises over Lake Huron, gorgeous sunsets over Lake Michigan, and acres of unspoiled woods filled with numerous wildflowers in the summer and brilliant colors of the fall palette. Marked trails are perfect for hiking, biking, and geocaching.

Mackinaw City is a perfect destination to catch sight of the Mackinac Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Straits Area Printing

Experience the world-famous inland waterway

Northern Michigan’s Inland Waterway offers you a boating trip unlike any in the world. The approximately 42 mile trip takes you through three rivers and three lakes and surrounds you with some of the most beautiful scenery and captivating communities in Michigan. A voyage on the Inland Waterway can begin at the north end in Cheboygan, the middle in Indian River or the south end in Conway. Boat launches are conveniently located at many places along the route. The trip can be made in a day or over a weekend, with the communities of Cheboygan, Topinabee, Aloha, Indian River, Alanson, Oden and Conway all located on the water. Dining, lodging, supplies, and banking facilities can be found in most of these communities. Numerous marinas also dot the Inland Waterway where marine fuel, boat rentals, and ships stores are situated for your convenience. Whether you choose to make the Inland Waterway journey in a day or make it a weekend, you will see a side of Northern Michigan that cannot be seen along a highway or freeway. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a boating excursion unlike any other!

The cool water in Indian River provides a great time for boating, swimming and watersports

Photo Courtesy of Indian River Chamber of Commerce

Ride along the area’s incredible trail system

The Cheboygan area is blessed with one of the finest multi-purpose trail systems in the United States.  Michigan has a larger rails-to-trails system than any other state in the nation, and Cheboygan County has more of those trails than any other county in Michigan. The highly acclaimed North Central State Trail and the newly finished North Eastern State Trail (Mackinaw City to Alpena) are more and more the destinations of choice when it comes to groomed trails for cyclists and hikers alike. And the trails intersect right in Cheboygan. The Black Mountain Recreation Area offers a vast network of marked trails for hiking, ATV excursions, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. With over 30 miles available for hiking, 60 miles for off road vehicles, and 80 groomed miles for snowmobiling, the area is ideal for any type of outdoor adventure. Parking and trail access at Black Mountain are conveniently located.

Don't miss exploring the winding trails in the Cheboygan area

Photo Courtesy of Top of Michigan Trails Council

What is your favorite thing to do in the Cheboygan area? Share with us by commenting below!