My love affair with kayaking began when I learned about kayak touring – multi-day paddling trips carrying camping gear in the kayak. I was an experienced hiker and backpacker, and the idea that I could use a kayak to explore rivers was entrancing.
Before the fall season comes to a close, Kristin Bienert, Michigan Travel Ideas editor, sneaks in one last canoe trip on the Sturgeon River in Northern Michigan. Enjoy this adventure with Pure Michigan Connect!
My voice trembles a little as I talk to the Northern Michigan outfitter, who is assessing my canoe skills. Pati, the owner of Big Bear Adventures, politely suggests I go with a guide. I guess my childhood experience of paddling at Girl Scout camp every summer isn’t going to cut it on the Sturgeon River, the fastest in the lower-peninsula.
On June 13, 2009, I woke up in a tent overlooking Port Austin harbor. The water was glass and the day was already hot. Twenty five other tents were set up around me. The park had become a large rustic campground for kayakers from around the Midwest and Canada. We had all come together for the 2nd Annual Port Austin Kayak Rendezvous in celebration of the Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail.
At 10am, 60-70 of us gathered at the shore with our kayaks. It was an amazing sight to watch the mass of kayakers paddle out of the harbor heading toward Point Aux Barques.
Point Aux Barques is at the very tip of the thumb. It has magnificent rock formations, sea stacks and sea caves. It has been called a mini Pictured Rocks. Boats can’t get to it so it is a perfect kayak destination. Along the way we told stories and shared paddling experiences. Once at our destination we paused to enjoy the scenery and share a snack.
From there some paddlers headed out to the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse. Others paddled back along the shore. Some of us were treated to an eagle flying over head and a deer that meandered out of the woods.
Later that afternoon some kayakers headed out for a short paddle to Broken Rocks. This is an area where huge boulders were left behind by the glaciers. Others stayed on shore and watched a kayak safety demonstration.
That evening most of us went to dinner together at a local restaurant. After dinner, the sunset was amazing and many could not resist one last paddle for the day. We entertained ourselves throughout the evening with contra dancing and a bon fire followed by a sound night sleep. It was a perfect day.
Chris Boyle, member and former Vice President of the Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail. Chris is currently paddling the entire trail compiling an inventory. He has completed ¾ of the trail as of this date. He also owns a kayak rental shop in Port Austin that services the trail.