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!

Pure Michigan Paddlesports

Though our Pure Michigan summer is coming to a close, there is still time to enjoy the great outdoors on one of Michigan’s many lakes or rivers.  Whether it be solo, or with friends or family, take an end of the summer kayaking or canoeing trip to enjoy the beauty of Pure Michigan.  With over 250 locations to choose from, paddlesport locations can be found throughout the upper and lower peninsulas.

Below are just a few suggestions on where to start. Pick a location and paddle your way to Pure Michigan! For a more complete list of Michigan locations to kayak or canoe, visit michigan.org.    

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula off of Lake Superior.  Whether you Kayak or canoe on the lakeshore or on one of Pictured Lake’s many inland lakes or streams, a variety of sceneries can be viewed.  Multicolored sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, sand dunes and forests make up Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, providing an unforgettable view while partaking in a paddlesport of choice.

Onaway State Park

Located on Black Lake, Onaway State Park features a variety of rugged and picturesque landscapes.  Sand cobblestone beaches and large, unique rock out-croppings in addition to a diverse variety of trees and wildlife provide paddlesporters a diverse view from the water.  Located ten miles east of the park is Ocqueoc Falls, which is the largest waterfall in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. A variety of rivers and lakes are also located nearby.

Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail  

This water trail connecting Bangor and South Haven encompasses 21 miles of river to kayak or canoe in.  The water trail, which is made up of the Black River, has multiple access points. Whether you are a beginner paddler or experienced paddler, the Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water trail has stretches that can be enjoyed by skill level.

Seven Lakes State Park

This state park contains about 230 acres of water with several miles of shoreline.  The results of a dam, the state park which once contained seven small lakes is now made up of one large lake, providing canoers and kayakers plenty of open water to paddle in.  Seven Lakes State Park offers its visitors a diverse assortment of topography and ecosystems.

Great Lakes Eco-Adventure Center

Located in the town of Indian River, Great Lakes Eco-Adventure Center is an epicenter of Northern Michigan outdoor activity. This homebase of Indian River is situated on the famous Inland Waterway, which includes a 38 mile chain of rivers and lakes cutting across Northern Lower Michigan from Petoskey to Lake Huron. Perfect for kayaking, this location offers kayak rentals as well as guided tours. The center also provides skills classes, if looking for improving your kayaking abilities. 

Did you go on a canoeing or kayaking trip in Michigan this summer? Where did you go?

Kanoe the Kazoo

CanoeBinder Park Zoo presents its annual paddling event on July 25. Kanoe the Kazoo has introduced over 1,000 people to the beauty and recreational opportunities provided by the Kalamazoo River and its tributary streams and lakes. All trips are designed for fun and discovery with some instruction on the ecology of the river, streams, lakes and wetlands, riparian values and watershed management. Advance registration is a must, and bring your own canoe or kayak to secure your day afloat.

This very green event makes us appreciate even more the fresh waters of Pure Michigan.