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Northwestern Michigan
River Guide


Details for paddling many rivers in
northwestern lower Michigan.

Last Update: 7-22-2016

Jim Stamm • 231-882-5673

Send Email • Beulah, MI, 49617

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Details for many rivers in northwestern Lower Michigan
for paddlers (canoers, kayakers, and the like) or anyone
boating these beautiful waterways. Most are within
an hour of Traverse City.

That is, the longer, major rivers in Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, western
Crawford, southwestern Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, northern Lake,
Leelanau, Manistee, northwestern Missaukee, and Wexford Counties.

(And a few fun creeks in Benzie, Leelanau, and Manistee Counties.)

Michigan is blessed with more than 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, we
are fortunate to have so many of these in northwestern lower Michigan!

Please let me know if you have anything to add, change, or suggest to the
information below. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this page!!



Click on image
for larger view



RIVERS & CREEKS COVERED

Recommendations For Your Paddle Trip

Notes about the details on this page:

  • Lengths are river miles.
  • Lengths and any road distances given are close estimates and may vary slightly from what's given.
  • The time given:
    • is paddle time on the water,
    • is one-way unless otherwise stated,
    • does not include any stops,
    • is a close estimate,
    • can change due to many factors, such as water's depth/speed, how much you paddle vs. float, the boat you're using.. If you float a lot, add at least an extra 30% to the paddle time.
  • Maps are links to Google Maps where you have your choice of satellite view, road map view, or a combination. You can zoom in and out, move around, and so on.
  • Map of river links point to fixed snapshots showing the river trip's start and end points, the path the river takes, and give a good idea of where that river section is.
  • For most access sites, the symbol denotes a link to a location where you can access the river (and find parking in many cases) on Google Maps. There you can view the location as a road map, a satellite image, or in terrain view.
  • If no restroom facility is mentioned for an access site, to be safe, assume none is present – so "prepare" ahead of time. And some facilities are closed during the off-season.

Know Your River Before Paddling

Rivers change – from year to year, season to season, and even within a few days, or hours (after severe weather, for example). And aspects around them can change, as well.

Always know beforehand the difficulty and current conditions of the section of the river you about to paddle. Be sure you are able to handle those conditions and any known challenges of the river, and be ready to learn "on the job."

Before you go, make sure you know:

  • The current height and speed of the river.
  • If there are any log jams or piles of tree-fall that require significant manuevering around or portaging.
  • If there are any bridges. Are they platform or culvert bridges?
  • If there are any low platform bridges, and can you and all in your party get under them.
  • If there are any culvert bridges, and are those culverts completely clear, both inside and several feet before the entrance and after the exit.
  • If there are any other (known or recently developed) obstructions or impediments.
  • If a portage is possible if required.
  • To bring at least one bow-saw along. Know where and when it's wise to cut, and when it's not.

Scout your bridges – If the section of river you are planning on paddling has culvert bridges or low platform bridges, it is highly recommended to scout those before starting your trip. Then once on the water, always look through the culverts and under the bridges before entering to make sure it’s clear all the way through and well past the culvert or bridge. Can all in your party make through it easily? Be prepared to portage, just in case.

Tree-fall – On just about any section of any river you can encounter tree-fall and log jams that force you to maneuver around, scooch over, or portage. Be prepared for that. This is less likely on very highly-traveled river sections and wider rivers. (Local liveries, guide services, and helpful groups and individuals will clear some sections occassionally.)

Is a portage possible? – As mentioned, you may have to portage at a place you are not expecting. At least if by a road or bridge that you can access by car, you can scout these out ahead of time. With unexpected tree-fall, log jams, or other obstructions across the river forcing a portage, you'll have to take a chance and hope a relatively easy portage is possible. This is why having a saw along can be a real god-send...

Take a saw – And on all but the widest rivers, it's not required, but is recommended (and at times very handy) to take at least one bow saw (or large pruning saw or tree saw) and a few people who don't mind doing a little cutting. We've avoided several "messy" portages with about 10 minutes of work trimming a path through treefall that spans the river, Know that you are also helping fellow paddlers (and yourself) for years to come!


Areas within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL):

The use of any area in the SBDNL requires a national park pass. The following areas covered on this Web page are in the National Lakeshore: Otter Creek, most of the Lower Platte River, and most of Shalda Creek. See here for more details about SBDNL passes.

Areas requiring a Michigan Recreational Passport:

Many DNR-run areas like state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, boating access sites, and non-motorized trailhead parking lots require a Michigan Recreational Passport to use the area. There are only a few such areas in our region. If such a passport is required, it's mentioned in the details for the area. Also, see these Web pages for:
• details about Michigan Recreational Passports
• all Boating Access Sites (BAS) requiring a Recreation Passport
• all places where a Michigan Recreational Passport is needed

Benzie County Anglers, Paddlers, and Boaters:

For all those interested in canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or otherwise exploring by boat Benzie County's many rivers, inland lakes, and creeks, please check out this book: A Guide to Benzie County Michigan Rivers, Lakes, and Creeks. It's a handy reference guide to 32 of the county's 58 inland lakes, 2 of its 4 rivers, and 5 of its many creeks. That is, ALL the navigable and publicly accessible inland water in the county!

Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties Anglers, Paddlers, and Boaters:

For all those interested in canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or otherwise exploring by boat the inland rivers and lakes of Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties, please check out this book: A Guide to the Rivers and Lakes of Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties, Michigan. It covers all 65 of those counties' publicly and easily accessible inland lakes, the in-county pieces of the five rivers in those two counties, and ALL of the access points to those lakes and rivers. A handy book for all recreational users, especially those paddling and fishing by boat.

Other Books:

These two books also cover several northwestern Michigan rivers to one degree or another:

Do a search at Amazon for paddling Michigan (and other similar searches) and you will find even more books!

Others' Experiences:

See this page at Paddling.net to read first-hand accounts of other paddlers' experence on these and other Michigan rivers.

Also see the Michigan Paddlesports Directory Web site for more details on may of Michigan's waterways and rivers.

At the Traverse Area Paddle Club site you'll find trip reports from others doing many of these rivers.

Links to Liveries:

Related Links:

  • Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) — The private, not-for-profit CRA has one goal — to preserve and protect northern Michigan’s waterways, wildlife, and forests for future generations. They restore and protect over 700 miles of rivers, 5,000 miles of tributaries, and diverse forests throughout 4 million acres in 13 counties of northern Michigan.

  • River Restoration in Northern Michigan – information about river watersheds, the road stream crossing sites for a river and all its tributaries, streambank erosion sites, BMP (best management practices), and more. Maintained by the Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA).




BEAR CREEK (aka Big Bear Creek)

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NOTES:

  • Bear Creek starts WSW of Copemish in northeastern Manistee County where First Creek meets Second Creek. It flows west then turns south, picking up many creeks along the way, including Third Creek, Greens Creek, Little Bear Creek out of Bear Lake, Lemon Creek, Halls Creek, Horseshoe Creek, Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, Cedar Creek, Podunk Creek, and Boswell Creek. It crosses 9 Mile Road just west of Kaleva. Just west of Brethren it crosses under Coates Highway and flows through the Spirit of the Woods Conservation Club property. From there it heads south a little more and then turns west and flows to the Manistee River.

  • In its latter portions, although quite large for a creek (about the size of the Betise River), it's not traveled very much, presumably due to the lack of public access. And so it's not kept perfectly clear of tree-fall and other obstructions. There are a few paddlers and fisherfolk that keep at least a narrow path open from time to time. But expect new tree-fall – bring your bow-saw and/or expect to portage a time or two.

  • If it was made more accessible and kept clear, it would very likely be an excellent fishing and paddling waterway.
Section Length Time Map More details
Coates Highway to Manistee River 7.3 miles to River Road

— OR —

7.7 miles to the Manistee River, then 0.5 miles upriver on the Manistee to the boat ramp.
3 to 4 hours (paddle time) to River Road.

Add another 45 minutes if you go to the Manistee River and paddle upriver to the boat ramp.

And expect more time for: a small mistake ot two in the channels, portages, saw time, breaks, etc.
Map
of this section
Upriver from Coates Highway, there are many roads that cross the river, some with perhaps fair access through the brush. But there are no "official" public access sites that I can find. And, because the river is not used much by paddlers and boat fishermen, expect a strong likelihood of uncleared tree-fall logjams both in the river and above the bridges. So expect to need to portage at any bridges.

The only easy and "official" public access sites that I can find are the Spirit of the Woods Conservation Club (which is open to the public) on Coates Highway west of Brethren, and the USFS Bear River access site for the Manistee River. See ACCESS below.

THE RIVER:

Trip report from John Heiam from 6-24-2013, complete with photos.

Below is my trip report from 6-8-2014...

All in our group agreed, the portion of the "creek" from Coates Highway to the Manistee River was one of the wildest and prettiest rivers we've been on. You'll travel through a beautiful tunnel of trees most of the time.

There was no evidence of human activity along the shore, and only two 7-Up bottles seen at the river's edge along the way gave any sign of human life.

Except for the 0.8 miles at the start in the Spirit of the Woods property, and a short section just below that, the river resides in public property. You can see that at the Google Map for this river.

This section of the creek is generally the size of many local rivers, such as the middle Betsie River. But it could be 80 feet wide or split into channels just 15 feet wide. The depth seen on our trip in June 2014 (after a long winter) ranged from 6" to over four feet. There were clear signs on the banks the river was at least 2 feet deeper in the recent months.

The speed of the river was like any local river, perhaps 2.5 mph. The river bottom was mostly sand, with some muck along the shore, especially in the second part of the trip.

I think June may be the best month for paddling this river. If you go earlier, the water may be quite high, fast, and cold. And there may be log jams and uncut tree-fall. Later in the summer, the river may be lower causing you to encounter more submerged stumps and logs and run aground in shallow areas. We saw that in August of 2013 — below and just above River Road one really had to pick one's path to find a way through. (But maybe later in the summer more folks will have cut a path by then...?)

We were lucky and encountered only one spot where we had to do a little sawing — where large tree was across the river — we had to saw a few small branches to get through. And for those of us that followed the main channel, we had only one spot where we had to portage – where a large tree spanned the entire width of the river with no easy passage over it or through its branches. (A chain-saw would have made easy work of the branches.) The irony was, the only portage was 1/4 mile from the end of the trip! The rest of the time there was always at least a narrow path through the logs and tree-fall.

As there are only occassional paddlers seen here and no liveries serving the area, the tree-fall and log jams are cleared or cut through only by other paddlers or fisherfolk. Thank you to all who have gone before and cut that path!

Unlike what John Heiam reported from 2013, we did not have to "beat the bushes" — there was only occassional light shubbery and overgrowth on the river. However if you have to portage, the banks can be a few feet tall and the brush can be thick to pull your boat through.

There were a few trees in the river we had to scooch over -- easily done in higher water. Later in the summer, it make be a little more work.

One should always do this river expecting tree-fall and logjams to climb over or portage around. It helps to have at least one bow-saw, and a chainsaw may help avoid a portage and help clear a path for others in your group to get through.

This river does take solid intermediate skills to get through some of the clearings, so it is not for beginners. But most folks with a reasonable amount of experience should make it just fine. And like most rivers, there were occasional submerged logs and stumps to avoid... some harder to see than others. Polarized sunglasses help. So be on the look-out.

It may be hard to find a "lunch" spot on the shore. It you see a good landing, take it! The banks can be a few feet tall. We found a nice location to easily exit boats from the water near a small backwater pond. Watch for sandbars along the shore, they may be your best bet.

Bear Creek should be called "Rootbeer River" as its color looks like rootbeer due to all the tannins in it from nearby vegetation. At least that's true later in the summer when it's not as murky from run-off and suspended silt and other material.

On the second half of the trip, the river divided and rejoined itself many times. Stay together! (You may get separated from your group for the rest of the trip!) It was interesting to try to guess the main / best channel. But we made only one mistake, and it did not take us long to correct. Often, but not always, look for the fastest moving channel, or the channel with the most water.

Our trip took 4 hours on the water, John Heiam reported 3 hours. We did not paddle hard at all -- one reason -- we could not be sure what to expect around each bend. So our time was a "float time" — about right given the speed of the current.

Once past the River Road bridge, you can get out on the left bank and walk 200 feet to the parking lot. See this at Google Maps. If you have some energy left, paddle the last 0.4 miles of Bear Creek to where it joins with the Manistee River, then paddle upriver 0.5 miles to the boat ramp. The mouth of the creek can be quite shallow, and paddling upriver on the Manistee may be more of a challenge than you might think, as it runs deeper and faster than the creek and there's a good chance for a head wind.

ACCESS:

Spirit of the Woods access — carry-in access down a short path. Park at the first parking lot – it's before you get to the clubhouse. Then 200 feet to the east you can put in just below a very small dam/falls. This photo from John Heiam shows the launch site below the small dam. There's a restroom near the main parking lot just past the clubhouse. (By the way, the Spirit of the Woods Conservation Club is open to public. If you want explore more of that area, see here: Spirit of the Woods area.)

Directions — From the main intersection in Brethren — High Bridge Road and Graf Road (aka Brethren Hwy and eastbound Coates Hwy) — go north 0.5 miles to westbound Coates Highway. Turn left (west) and go 1.3 miles to Spirit of the Woods Road on the left (southwest) side of the road. Turn left (southwest) and go 0.2 miles to the parking lots.

NOTE: There are no intermediate access points or bridges.

Bear Creek access at River Road. Once past the River Road bridge, you have a choice:

Bear Creek at River Road access — the easy choice — just the River Road bridge you can get out on the left bank and walk 200 feet to the parking lot for the USFS's Manistee River Bear Creek access site

Bear Creek USFS access — the more-work choice — from the River Road bridge, paddle 0.4 miles to where Bear Creek joins with the Manistee River, then paddle upriver 0.5 miles to the concrete boat ramp. Pleny of parking, and restroom.

Note: the the USFS's Manistee River Bear Creek access site is a U.S. fee area. A pass (available for a small fee) is required to use the area. The pass is good for all USFS areas.

Shuttle roads: River Road, Kettmer Road, Coates Highway, and the Spirit of the Woods access road.

BEAR RIVER

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NOTES:

The 15.4-mile-long Bear River is a small, scenic, clear-water, and slow-moving river that winds through pristine wilderness in Charlevoix and Emmett Counties south of Petoskey.

The river starts in Charlevoix County at the east end of Walloon Lake near the village of the same name, flows east a few miles, then angles NNW through southwestern Emmett County and Bear Creek Township to Petoskey and empties into the Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. It is the largest tributary of that bay.

Most of the river is easy and slow-moving with a leisurely current and gentle turns that are ideal for families seeking peaceful canoeing or kayaking and wildlife viewing. According to the Record Eagle — " Individuals with basic canoe skills can enjoy this gently flowing river while glimpsing wildlife such as beaver, otter, (ducks), and the official state reptile, the Painted Turtle. Various species of trout (e.g. brook and rainbow) live in the cool waters. Along the shoreline watch for deer, rabbits, and on rare occasions, even a black bear." There are numerous put-in locations along the river. Even when the river is two-feet above its normal hieght, the current is still rather gentle.

Note, however, that near the end of the river, the city of Petoskey had removed three dams, creating a 1.5 mile stretch of class 2.5 to 4 whitewater. (Rapids classification of 2.5 on a scale of 1.6. During periods of rain, the river can turn into a 3-4 class rapids.) This is the Bear River Valley Whitewater Park and is part of the Bear River Valley Recreation Area. The river drops 80 feet during the whitewater run. A number of features have been added to the river including large boulders, roll overs, ledges, logs, and tight squeezes. The rapids begin just beyond the Sheridan Street bridge and run for roughly 1.5 miles through the spectacular park, then end at the mouth of the Bear River on the Little Traverse Bay. These two Web pages show videos of this whitewater section:

For more information, see or contact:

Section Length Time Map More details
The whole river – Walloon Lake to Lake Michigan (combines all 3 sections below) 15.4 miles   Map of area

Map of river #1

Map of river #2


Map of entire river trip
 

On Walloon Lake       WALLOON LAKE:

Technically, one could put in at the Windsor Street access to Walloon Lake and paddle in the lake 1200 feet south to the start of Bear River at Walloon Lake where it goes under Business Route 75 (S. Shore Drive). But getting under the bridge here is not possible in high water, and getting over the small retainers in the lake might be difficult at normal water level.

But on the east side of the road is Melrose Township Park, where there is carry-in access (see the next section).

ACCESS:

Windsor Street access to Walloon Lake — public boat ramp and dock in Walloon Lake Village. There's a $6 ramp fee, but that should not apply for carrying in a kayak. Public parking on the east side of S. Shore Drive From here it's just 1200 feet to the south to the start of Bear River.

Section 1. Walloon Lake to Bear River Road 6.3 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.7 miles from the start of the river at Walloon Lake to US-131.

• 1.1 miles to River Road.

• 2.5 miles to Springvale Road.
If this section is possible, maybe 2.5 to 3 hours. Map of area THE RIVER:

The first section of the river, from Walloon Lake to Bear River Road, may not be easy to paddle. Is the river here full of tangles and treefall? It's a low-lying area with lots bush and short trees, so it's likely there are not large logs in the river, anyway. If need be, put in at the Bear River Road, then paddle upriver to see how far you can get. (To be investigated.)

The start of the river is at the east end of Walloon Lake (at Business Route 75 (S. Shore Drive) just south of village of Walloon Lake. On the east side of the road is Melrose Township Park where there's carry-in access. Along the way, there's also carry-in access on the north side of the river via River Road. The water was plenty deep enough at both places in April highwater. What about the rest of the summer?

There's no access at Springvale Road.

ACCESS:

Melrose Township Park — carry-in access down a short path off the turn-around at the east end of the part. There's a small parking area and restrooms nearby.

River Road — carry-in access on the north side of the river. Road-end parking only, no restroom. (From Walloon Lake, take S. Shore Drive east, it becomes Springvale, and a section of River Road goes south from that at an S-turn to the access point.)

Bear River Road — carry-in access at the northwest corner. There's a tiny off-road parking area on the north side of the road. No restroom.

Shuttle roads: Assuming one can do this whole section – Bear River Road, River Road (south), amd Springvale Road — which becomes South Shore Drive).

Section 2. Bear River Road to Sheridan Road 7.6 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 2.8 miles to Evergreen Trail.

• 4.0 miles to Click Road.

• 4.7 miles to McDougal Road.

• 5.4 miles to River Road Sport Complex.

• 7.1 miles to Standish Avenue.

• 7.3 to railroad bridge past Standish Avenue.
A little over 3 hours. Map of area

THE RIVER:

The common paddle trip is from Bear River Road to Sheridan Road. As mentioned in the general notes above, this section of river is said to be slow-moving with a leisurely current and gentle turns ideal for those seeking peaceful paddling experience.

At a steady paddle speed of 2.5 miles an hour, it should take just over 3 hours.

ACCESS:

Start point access – Start at the Bear River Road bridge access — see Section 1 above.

Intermediate access points, if needed...

Evergreen Trail — good carry-in access at the NE and SW corners. Roadside parking only. (More parking a few hundred feet to the east on the north side of the road.) No restroom.

There's no access at Click Road.

There is only just fair access along the side of McDougal Road just before the bridge. Could be used if needed. No parking.

McDougal Road — carry-in access a few hundred past the bridge, But it's privately owned by Bear River Canoe Livery and is for their customers only.

River Road Sport Complex — carry-in access via a few wooden steps on the west side of the river, plenty of parking. Restrooms nearby.

Riverbend Park at Standish Avenue — walk-in access down a short and shallow grassy slope. Parking, restroom.

Sheridan Road southwest — carry-in access just before the bridge on the west side of river. Park on the north side of Sheridan Road at the DPW.

End point access:

Sheridan Road northwest access — carry-in access just past the bridge on the west side of river at the "City Garage" — Petoskey Department of Public Works. Parking lot.

WARNING: Flatwater (non-whitewwater) paddlers must take out at or before Sheridan Road. (Beginning whitewater paddlers can enter here.)

Shuttle roads: Sheridan Road, Clarion Avenue which becomes River Road south of Petoskey, and Bear River Road.


Section 3. Sheridan Road to US-31 / Mitchel Street 1.5 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.5 miles to the bridge at Bridge Street / Porter Street.

• 0.65 miles to footbridge #1.

• 1.35 miles to footbridge #2.
Less than 1/2 an hour. Map of area

THE RIVER:

This section is for whitewater paddlers only.

The final 1.5 miles of the paddle-able section of this river, from Sheridan Road to Little Traverse Bay, is the Bear River Valley Whitewater Park.

We recommened walking the path along the west side of the river in the Whitewater Park and out to the marina to scout the river and to get to know all the access points.

ACCESS:

Start point access
– Start at the Sheridan Road northwest access — see Section 2 above.

Intermediate access points, if needed...

Bridge Street / Porter Street – there's carry-in access for whitewater paddlers somewhere here near the bridge. The access point might be here before the bridge. Park at the Petoskey DPW on the north side of Sheridan street and walk to the access point. (To be investigated.)

NOTE: The Northern Michigan Paddling Club recommends that beginning whitewater paddlers exit here.

Branch Street – there's carry-in access somewhere here via a stairway. (To be investigated.)

Ione Street – there's carry-in access somewhere here near footbridge #1 south of the street a few hundred feet. There's parking on Ione Street. (To be investigated.)

End point access areas:

Those not wanting to do the dam and the final portion of the river should exit at one of these access areas:

US-31 / Mitchell Street southwest corner, near footbridge #2

US-31 / Mitchell Street northwest corner — is there river access here? (To be investigated.)

Shuttle roads: Quaintance Ave, Lake Street, Petoskey Street, Michigan Street, Emmet Street, and Sheridan Road.



Note: A few hundred feet north of US-31 / Mitchell Street (and just before the Lake Street bridge is the Lake Street Dam. Beyond that the river is very rocky for another few hundred feet before emptying into Little Traverse Bay at the Petoskey City Marina. For sure only advanced boaters should take-on this short but very rough section. The end point here is the beach near Quinlan Street.

Beach near Quinlan Street parking.

Shuttle roads: Quinlan Street, Wachtel Ave, Lake Street, Petoskey Street, Michigan Street, Emmet Street, and Sheridan Road.


BETSIE CREEK (aka Cedar Hedge Creek)

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NOTES:

  • Though the name Betsie Creek is not on any maps, it's used by some locals, and fits perfectly for the creek.
  • This is also known by some as Cedar Hedge Creek.
  • Found in western central Grand Traverse County, the creek starts at Cedar Hedge Lake (northwest of Interlochen) then flows south, going under US-31, through Tullers Lake, under an old railroad and Riley Road, and then joins the Betsie River north of Green Lake.
  • It's only 2.65 miles long, but you might want to, or need to, do it in segments.
  • It's a slow-moving creek, very easy to paddle upstream, even in high water.
  • The whole creek is a more adventurous trip. If you don't mind paddling upriver, and having to maneuver around and/or scooch over a log now and then, you should enjoy this trip. It's in a lovely, wild, unspoiled area.
Cedar Hedge Lake to Old railroad bridge (combined trip of sections 1 and 2 below) 1.65 miles One-way trip — around an hour if conditions are favorable. Map of area A lovely, wild, unspoiled area.
Section 1. Cedar Hedge Lake to US-31 0.75 miles

Along the way, it's 200 feet to the culvert for Harmony Drive..
Round trip — less that 1.5 hours if conditions are favorable. Map of area

Map of creek

Satellite view of creek
THE CREEK:

A more adventurous trip. If you don't mind having to maneuver around and/or scooch over a log now and then, you should enjoy this trip. It's a lovely, wild, unspoiled area.

You'll want to do this creek in higher water. In low water you likely won't get far very far. At high water, you can go all the way to US-31, and beyond. A bow saw was required to trim a few small limbs in the way.

From the boat launch on Cedar Hedge Lake, paddle about 450 feet to the southeast to the start of the creek. Just as you start the trip, at 200 feet, there's a culvert for the far west end of Harmony Drive, a small road about the size of a private driveway. It has prop boards in the middle, but kayks fit for sure (canoes might be able to bump through). If you ship your paddle, you can easily push yourself through by hand.

Lots of beaver activity was seen, but no dams. We guess that the Cedar Hedge Lake residents take efforts to remove the dams to control the lake level.

The trip is short enough, consider adding it the the next section below.

ACCESS:

Cedar Hedge Lake access – DNR access with small, concrete boat ramp, short dock, parking, and restroom.

Betsie Creek — US-31 access – fair carry-in access at the northwest and southeast corners. No parking , no restroom. The south side of US-31 here is all state land.

Shuttle road
s: Cedar Hedge Lake access Road, Gonder Road, and US-31.

Section 2. US-31 to Old railroad bridge 0.9 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.2 miles to Tullers Lake.

• 0.5 miles to a former lake.
One-way trip — less an hour if conditions are favorable. Map of area

Map of creek to Riley Road
THE CREEK:

A more adventurous trip. If you don't mind having to maneuver around and/or scooch over a log now and then, you should enjoy this trip. It's a lovely, wild, unspoiled area.

At the old railroad bridge, there's a small concrete culvert there with a grate, believed to be the original culvert put there by the railroad. You'll need to portage here if going on to Riley Road.

ACCESS:

Betsie Creek — Old railroad bridge accesss, northwest corner – carry-in access down a short path at the northwest corner. No parking, no restroom.

Shuttle roads: Old railroad, Artist Avenue, 3rd Street, Griner Pkwy, and US-31. NOTE: A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for driving on the old railroad.

Section 3.
Old railroad bridge to Riley Road
0.5 miles One-way trip — half an hour of less if conditions are favorable. Map of area

Map of creek from US-31
THE CREEK:

A more adventurous trip. If you don't mind having to maneuver around and/or scooch over a log now and then, you should enjoy this trip. It's a lovely, wild, unspoiled area.

ACCESS:

Betsie Creek — Old railroad bridge accesss, south side – carry-in access at a few places on the south side of the bridge. No parking, no restroom.

Betsie Creek — Riley Road access – only just fair carry-in access at the northwest corner. No parking, no restroom. (NOTE: You will very likely NOT get through the two culverts there, so this access cannot be used to go (south) downstream.

Shuttle roads: Riley Road, Artist Avenue, and the old railroad. NOTE: A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for driving on the old railroad.

Section 4. Riley Road to the Betsie River 0.5 miles. But add 0.7 miles for the Betsie River and 0.2 miles for Green Lake, so a one-way trip is 1.4 miles. Round trip — perhaps a little over 2 hours if conditions are favorable. Map of area

Map of creek

(For a map of the river on this trip, see the upper
most section of Betsie River
.)
THE CREEK:

A more adventurous trip. If you don't mind paddling upriver and having to maneuver around and/or scooch over a log now and then, you should enjoy this trip. It's a lovely, wild, unspoiled area.

Access is not good at Riley Road. There's no decent access on three corners, and it's only fair on the northwest corner. But during highwater, you will not get through the two culverts there. And you may not even be able to at normal or low water levels. So to do the last segment of this creek, start in Green Lake and go upstream on the Betsie River, then come up the creek to Riley Road (if you can).

Starting at the Diamond Park Road access on Green Lake, you'll go north along the shore to the start of the Betsie River. At 400 feet is Diamond Park Road bridge, and at 0.2 miles is where "Bridge Creek" joins the river on the left (west). At 0.7 miles up the Betsie River is where Betsie Creek joins the river on the left (north). Go up the creek, it's 0.5 miles to Riley Road.

You'll want to do this in higher water. In low water you won't get far at all up the creek. At average water levels, it's hard to say. At high water, we got to within about 800 feet of Riley Road. (But we did not mind since there no access on the south side of Riley Road. And the trip going downstream was easy and fun, and then we did not have to shuttle cars.). A bow saw was required to trim a few small limbs in the way.

ACCESS:

Betsie Creek — Riley Road access – only just fair carry-in access at the northwest corner. You will very likely NOT get through the two culverts there, so this access cannot be used to go under the road. On the south side of the road, there is no decent access. So going downstream (south) from here would be difficult. No parking, no restroom.

Green Lake — Diamond Park Road access – carry-in access at the road's end. Parking for just one or two cars. No restroom.

BETSIE RIVER

Back to River List


NOTES:

  • Technically, the Betsie River may start northeast of Saunders Lake (southwest of Bass Lake) in northwestern Grand Traverse County – northwest of Ellis Lake and the town of Interlochen, and WSW of Grawn.
  • Officially, the Betsie River starts in Duck Lake in western central Grand Traverse County, east of Interlochen.
  • The main paddle-able portion of the river starts at Green Lake in western central Grand Traverse County, west of Interlochen – see section 1.
  • Note that details are provided for the river far above Green Lake – see Upper sections A-G.
  • The navigable portion from Green Lake runs generally east to west across the southern half of Benzie County, dips briefly into northern Mansitee County in the middle, and ends at Betsie Bay on Lake Michigan.
  • Map of Betsie River and details from the DNR – This map starts at Grass Lake Dam (ignoring the section from Green Lake) and shows the some of the river’s tributaries. (PDF document)
  • The average gradient is 5 feet per mile. On some upper portions the drop is greater. For the initial and final few miles the drop is less.
  • The total length of the river is 60 miles (from Duck Lake), but main navigable portion is 54 miles long (about 18 to 27 hours paddle time).

  • Paddle times are based on a steady paddle speed of 2.5 miles an hour. Your paddle time may vary based on height and speed of the river, how fast you paddle, and the boat you're using. 2 miles per hour is common if you don't paddle steadily, especially on longer sections/trips. If you float a lot add at least an extra 30% to the paddle time.
  • With the building of the Grass Lake Dam, the water in the Betsie River above the dam, Grass Lake, Grass Lake Creek, Pickerel Creek, and the Twin Lakes was raised a few feet. This makes for easy traveling but there’s no solid shore on any of these bodies of water. What might appear to be land is really a floating mat of loosely interwoven vegetation. So plan accordingly for lunch break, rest stops, etc.
  • Avoid the lower sections (Homestead Dam on down) during the thick of salmon season (most of September) to avoid conflicts with anglers in and along the water.
  • These lower, more-popular fishing sections can have more hook and line hazards hanging from the trees than average.
  • Near the end of summer, be mindful of the river's height. If there's not been much rain, the river can be shallow allowing you to do the "knuckle walk" a lot, especially in the upper sections.
Section Length Time Map More details

Saunders Lake to Duck Lake (combination of sections A, B, C, and D below) 3.5 miles   Map of area

Map of river
The very early portions of CREEK (RIVER)

Technically, the Betsie River may actually start northeast of Saunders Lake (southwest of Bass Lake). Somewhere very close to, and likely just a little north of, the river's source is the meeting area of three watersheds, those of the Boardman River, Platte River, and Betsie River.

It's the inlet to Saunders lake that may be the actual source of the Betsie River. After flowing through Saunders Lake, it passes through a large beaver lake, Ellis and Tonawanda Lakes, and then empties into Duck Lake. This adds another 3.5 miles to the length of the river, not including the 0.6 miles in Duck Lake between the river's mouth (Tonawanda Creek) and the beginning of the next section of river which starts at the Duck Lake Dam.

Upper Section A — "Beaver" lake – between Saunders Lake and Ellis Lake     Map of area

THE WATER:

There is no public access to Saunders Lake. The closest one can get to that lake (and the presumed source of the Betsie River) is to paddle to the northeast end of the large beaver lake that's immediately to the southwest of Saunders Lake and just north of Ellis Lake. Once at that end of the lake, you're done, as beyond that point it's private land which includes a cleared, swampy area under large power lines, then a private driveway over the outlet from Saunders Lake.

So how do you get to the large beaver lake? While there is public access to Ellis Lake (see the next section), one cannot get through its inlet at the north – it's too small, shallow, and choked with trees and brush. But you can drive in above (north of) the inlet and put in near the south end of the beaver lake. See details below under ACCESS.

Could be a more adventurous trip... (To be investigated.)

This 0.7-mile-long beaver lake was created in large part by the beavers' 300-feet-long dam at the southwest tip, which maintains the lake's depth and makes it paddle-able. But being a flooding, be sure watch out for submerged stumps, logs, dead trees, and more!

At high-water times (2014) there's a southeastern component going through the woods about 0.3 miles beyond the 2012 edge shown on Google Maps.


Explorers on foot – Starting from the turn-around north of Ellis Lake mentioned in the directions below, walk east. You're on the Shore-to Shore Trail.

At 500 feet you'll come to a small, narrow bridge over the inlet to Ellis Lake.

At 700 feet you're at the southern tip of the beaver lake and the beaver dam.

At 900 feet is a light trail angling off to the left (northeast) that goes along the southeast side of the lake. From this point, the Shore-to Shore Trail goes southeast and slowly curves south and connects to Ellis Lake Road – it's 0.5 miles from the turn-around to Ellis Lake Road. Or you can take the lake trail....

Walking the lake trail...

About 700 feet along is a short, swampy zone, easy to see on a satellite view. There is some "dam"age control there — another beaver dam. At the beginning and end of winter, the ground and water are frozen enough you can get through here without much snow to slog through. Beyond this area, you easily can walk through the woods even though there's no trail.

At about 1200 feet long this side of the lake you'll encounter substantial wetland. It may be barely passable at low-water times. At high-water times (2014) this is an extension of the lake – going at least 0.2 miles to southeast (and then on to private property). Unless the lake is frozen over, you cannot walk past this area.

There's a 0.4-mile-long previous piece of the Shore-to-Shore Trail the ends at the lake near this wetland. See this Shore-to-Shore Trail spur photo to get a rough idea of this single-track path. If you spot it, you can take it south back to Ellis Lake Road. Then go 100 feet northwest to pick up the main Shore-to-Shore Trail that goes along the east and north sides of Ellis Lake and reconnects to the trail you started on, south of the beaver lake.

To use this Shore-to-Shore spur, it would be easier find if you start north of Ellis Lake, walk to Ellis Lake Road, "jog" over to and follow the spur, to the lake, then follow the edge of the lake back to north of Ellis Lake.



ACCESS:

"Beaver" lake access – carry-in access on the west side of the southwest tip, just north of the beaver dam. Parking for a few vehicles at the turn-around, no restroom.

Directions: On US-31, 0.3 miles east of Rogers/Tonawanda Road and 375 feet west of the bridge over the Ellis Lake outlet creek, there's a two-track going north. Take that – it goes on the west side of Ellis Lake and around to the "back" (north) side of Ellis Lake. It's 0.6 miles from US-31 to a small turn-around.

• Map of two-track, with end point at the five-way intersection
• Photo of two-track, with end point at the five-way intersection

From the turn-around, walk (or drive) 175 feet north to a five-way intersection. From there, there's a 600-foot two-track going gently downhill east to the beaver lake and an easy carry-in access at a grassy "cut" in the shoreline. The two-track has been used for logging and may be hard to drive on, so it may bebest to park off-road at the five-way intersection and walk to the lake from there.

Upper Section B —Ellis Lake to Birch Road (Ellis Creek?) 0.8 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.25 miles along the Ellis Lakeshore to the outlet.

• 0.4 miles to bridge at US-31.

• 0.7 miles to a footbridge at the old railroad crossing.
  Map of area

Map of trip

Photo of trip
THE CREEK (RIVER):

A more adventurous trip...

If you don't mind paddling upriver, and having to maneuver and/or scooch over a log or two, you might try this trip...

This short and slow section is very likely only possible in high water.

As mentioned in the last section, one cannot get through the inlet at the north side of Ellis Lake coming from the large beaver lake – it's too small, shallow, and choked with trees and brush. So the next part of the journey begins at Ellis Lake – there's a DNR access site on the lake (see ACCESS below). You'll paddle a short way on the lake to the unnamed outlet creek, then take it south past US-31 to Birch Road. I would guess this creek is called Ellis Creek by some.

From the access site, paddle along Ellis Lake's southeast shore to the outlet creek at the southern tip. At US-31 during high-water, there's about 3 feet of clearance under the clear-span bridge and the water is about 1.5 feet deep and 8 to 10 feet wide. Past the bridge the creek sees some narrower spots, there may be some reeds and rushes to work through, and a log or two to deal with. Then close to Birch Road is the bigger question – can one get all the way through to the road? There's a fair amount of treefall in there. NOTE: most of the time the water will be too shallow to make this section practical. (To be investigated.)

ACCESS:

Ellis Lake — DNR access – Light-duty boat launch site on Ellis Lake Road off of US-31. Parking, no restroom.

If needed, there is fair access on the south side of the US-31 bridge, on either side of the river. No parking, no restroom.

Birch Road – north access – fair carry-in access on the northwest corner. No parking, no restroom. At high-water times, the water is 1.5 feet deep here.

Upper Section C — Tonawanda Lake inlet — from Birch Road to the lake 0.2 miles

At 955 feet is the very wide (but not tall) beaver dam
  Map of area

Map of river


Photo of river
THE CREEK (RIVER):

This very short and slow section may be possible in high water. But... 30 feet into the trip (south of Birch Road) is a sand bar, so you'll have to pull your boat through that, even during times of high water. Then you may be able to pick your way through down to the 175-feet wide beaver dam. Once there, you'll need to climb over it in the middle to connect with the rest of the creek. The beaver dam helps maintain the creek's depth, so I hope the locals leave it alone. This section is very likely not worth the effect. (To be investigated.)

Once at Tonawanda Lake, it's 0.4 miles to the outlet (Tonawanda Creek) in the southeast corner.

ACCESS:


Birch Road – south access – fair carry-in access via the grass on the southwest corner. No parking, no restrrom. NOTE: most of the time the water will be too shallow, and likely there will be too much over-growth, to make the access practical.

The other, easeir way into the lake, via Tonawanda Creek, is covered in the next section.

Upper Section D — Creek from Tonawanda Lake to Duck Lake (Tonawanda Creek?) 0.5 miles

At 520 feet along is a beaver lodge and dam, but it's split in the center so you can easily pass (or scooch) through.
Round-trip, including the paddling on Duck and Tonawanda Lakes — less than 2 hours. Map of area

Map of river
THE CREEK (RIVER):

In western central Grand Traverse County.

The unnamed outlet creek flowing from Tonawanda Lake to Duck Lake I would guess it's called Tonawanda Creek by some. But technically, it may be the Betsie River. It's quite paddle-able in high water, like in the spring.

There is no public access on Tonawanda Lake, so the only way to do this creek it to use the access at the end of Duck Lake Dam Road and paddle east then north along the shore 0.6 miles to the mouth of the creek. Go up the creek, it's a gentle current. Once at Tonawanda Lake you can explore around its shore. Check out the inlet coming in on the north side — 200 feet up you'll encounter a 175-feet-wide beaver dam about a foot tall.

ACCESS:

Duck Lake — Duck Lake Dam Road access – carry-in access at the end of the road. No parking, no restoom.

Upper Section E — Duck Lake to M-137 1.5 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.3 miles to mouth of the river at Mud Lake.

• 0.6 miles to the south end of Mud Lake.where the river starts up again.

Round-trip to the south end of Mud Lake — about an hour.

Round-trip to M-137 — around 2.5 hours if conditions are favorable
Map of area

Map of river

Photo of river
THE RIVER:

A more adventurous trip...

If you don't mind paddling upriver, and having to maneuver and/or scooch over a log or two, you might try this trip...

The "official" start of the Betsie River is at Duck Lake in Grand Traverse County. (The main navigable portion starts at west side Green Lake (just west of Duck Lake); see Section 1 below.)

The start of the river at Duck Lake is at the Duck Lake Dam. Access at the end of Duck Lake Dam Road and paddle west 200 feet to the dam and portage around the dam. Or, go another 200 feet farther along the shore and there's a low, flat, 20-foot-wide isthmus to walk across to get to the river.

In highwater, like in the spring, the water is 2 to 4 feet deep with deeper holes. It moves along quite steadily all the way to Mud Lake, yet not to fast that you cannot paddle back upriver from Mud Lake to Duck Lake. Almost no treefall or obtructions. I suspect it should be easy to paddle in the summer, too.

The river beyond Mud Lake looks shallower and has some amount of treefall and other obstructions. It may not be possible to paddle. (To be investigated.)

There is no access along the way or at M-137, so you'll have to paddle back upriver to Duck Lake.

ACCESS:

Duck Lake — Duck Lake Dam Road access – carry-in access at the end of the road. No parking, no restoom.

Upper Section F — M-137 to maintenance road 0.6 miles   Map of area

Map of river

Photo of river
There is no access at M-137, and no public access at the maintenance road for the Interlochen School for the Arts. The river here looks shallow and has a fair amount of treefall and other obstructions. It may not be possible to paddle. (This section will likely not be investigated.)

Upper Section G — Maintenance road to Green Lake Diamond Park Road access 1.1 miles

Along the way as you paddle upriver, it's...

• 400 feet to the Diamond Park Road bridge.

• 0.2 miles to where "Bridge Creek" joins the river.

• 0.7 miles to where "Betsie Creek" joins the river.
  Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

A more adventurous trip...

If you don't mind paddling upriver, and having to maneuver and/or scooch over a log or two, you might try this trip...

Put in at Green Lake’s Diamond Park Road access and paddle north along the shore 0.2 miles to the inlet of the Betsie River, then explore upriver.

During very high water (perhaps very early spring), the Diamond Park Road bridge may be hard to get under. But it's do-able during "typical" spring flood level, and easily paddled under during the summer and fall.

If the water is high and with a little luck, one can go over a mile to a bridge for a maintenance road for the Interlochen School for the Arts. (Beyond that, the river is too choked with treefall.) Along the way you'll encounter the creek which comes in from Bridge Lake (aka Little Tuller Lake) – we call that Bridge Creek but it's shown on some old maps as Tuller Creek – and Betsie Creek (aka Cedar Hedge Creek, which comes in via Tuller’s Lake from Cedar Hedge Lake). Explore these creeks if conditions allow.

There are a few fallen trees to maneuver around or scooch over. Expect to see many sizes and kinds of minnows. It’s a beautiful, wild area.

ACCESS:

Green Lake — Diamond Park Road access – carry-in access at the road's end. Parking for just one or two cars. No restroom.

SIDE TRIP: Bridge Creek 0.26 miles (1390 feet)

Along the way as you paddle upriver, it's 260 feet to a tiny creek coming in on the left from an unnamed lake to the west.
  Map of area

Map of creek
A more adventurous trip...

This creek has no name so we have dubbed it Bridge Creek.

If you're doing the Betsie River just above Green Lake, (see the section above), take a short side trip and check out this little creek and Bridge Lake. Just 0.2 miles upriver from Green Lake is where this creek joins the river. In the spring, when the water is higher and the hedges and other shrubbery have not encroached on the creek, you can easily paddle up this creek to get to Bridge Lake (a nice, wild, little lake with no development).

In far western, central Grand Traverse County, southwest of Interlochen.

Green Lake to the Grass Lake Dam
(combined trip of sections 1 and 2 below)
0.5 miles in Green Lake,
4.9 miles on the river.
2.5 hours Map See details in the sections below.

The main paddle-able portion of this river starts at Green Lake.

Section 1.
Green Lake DNR Boat Launch to the Betsie River Road two-track
0.5 miles in Green Lake,
1.8 miles on the river

Once on the river, along the way, it's...

• 660 feet to the Betsie River Road bridge.

• 1.2 miles to Hall Creek which comes in on the left (southeast) (You can go up that creek about 0.25 miles.)
1.1 hours Map THE RIVER:

The main paddle-able portion of this river starts at Green Lake.

Start at the public launch on Green Lake DNR boat launch (which is 0.5 mile north of the Betsie River Bridge on Betsie River Road (on the west side of Green Lake)).

Paddle south 0.5 miles along the west shore the lake to the entrance to the river. This is beginning of the main navigable portion of the river.

After about a half a mile past the bridge the river widens out and is very slow moving all the way to Grass Lake Dam.

(On days with lighter winds it’s fairly easy to paddle upstream from the Grass Lake Dam most of the way to Green Lake.)

ACCESS:


Green Lake — DNR access – Green Lake DNR boat launch site off Betsie River Road on the west side of the lake.

Betsie River Road two-track access – very shallow gravel and sand light-duty launch on the north side of river. From a certain 90 degree bend in Betsie River Road (at the west end of the east-west section), go south on a flat two-track (there's a “Seasonal Road” sign at the entrance) 0.3 miles to the river.

Section 2.
Betsie River Road two-track to the Grass Lake Dam
3.1 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 2.5 miles to where Grass Lake Creek which comes in on the right..

• 2.7 miles to where Pickerel Creek which comes in on the left.
1.5 hours Map THE RIVER:

You might start at the "Betsie River Road two-track" access to avoid paddling in Green Lake.

At 0.6 miles before the end of this section, Grass Lake Creek comes in on the right (northwest) from Grass Lake. That wide (and deep) "creek" is the only access to Grass Lake.

At 0.4 miles before the end, Pickerel Creek enters the river on the left (southeast) coming from the Twin Lakes.

(On days with lighter winds it’s fairly easy to paddle upstream from the Grass Lake Dam most of the way to Green Lake.)

ACCESS:

Grass Lake Dam access
. The dam is in the Grass Lake Campground off of Reynolds Road between Wallin and Cinder Roads.

Above-the-dam access – there’s a gravel launch above the dam a short way on the north side of the river.

Below-the-dam access – there’s carry-in access just below the dam on the north side of the river.

SIDE TRIP: Grass Lake Creek 1.3 miles from Grass Lake Dam to Grass Lake, 2.6 miles round trip. Add more if you paddle around Grass Lake (with its 2 miles of shoreline). 40 minutes paddling upriver from from Grass Lake Dam to Grass Lake. (Less on the return trip.) Map THE TRIP:

In the southeastern area of Benzie County, south of Bendon.

Grass Lake Creek is in the southeastern area of Benzie County, south of Bendon. The 0.7-mile-long creek flows from Grass Lake to the Betsie River.

From the Grass Lake Dam, paddle upstream on the Betsie River 0.6 miles to the slow-moving, nearly river-sized Grass Lake Creek, then upstream 0.7 miles to the 105-acre Grass Lake.

There are lots of lily pads and other aquatic growth on the creek, but there should be a channel to easily paddle through.

ACCESS:

Grass Lake and Grass Lake Creek access: 0.6 miles up the Betsie River from the Grass Lake Dam is the mouth of Grass Lake Creek on the left (northwest).

SIDE TRIP: Pickerel Creek 4 miles round trip

Add another mile or so little more if you explore the Twin Lakes.
Round trip: 3.5 hours

Add another half hour or so if you explore the Twin Lakes.
Map THE TRIP:

In the southeastern area of Benzie County, south of Bendon.

The 2-mile-long creek flows from the Twin Lakes to the Betsie River. (And note the 1.8-mile-long Upper Pickerel Creek that flows into the southwest corner of Twin Lake.)

From the Grass Lake Dam, paddle upstream on the Betsie River 0.4 miles to the slow-moving, nearly river-sized Pickerel Creek, then upstream about 2 miles to the Twin Lakes, each about 16 acres. There's a 950-foot channel connecting the two lake. While on the creek, expect two beaver dams to skootch or climb over along the way. There's no development; it's a nice and wild area.

As of 5/23/16, there are two beaver dams on Pickerel Creek. The first one you'll need to get out and climb over, but getting good footing on it is tricky. The second one is very low —in the center — and you can fairly easily skootch over it. Residents on a channel connected to the Twin Lakes have, in the past, been given permission by the DNR to lower these dams. That lowering has occurred on the second dam, but not the first. The height of the creek is significantly higher than past years because of that firrst dam, at least 1.5 feet. Because of that, there were no troublesome narrow or shallow spots as seen in the past.

This creek is best done in kayaks.

It's interesting because Twin Lake has an inlet that is Upper Pickerel Creek. That creek's source is very close to the source of the Little Betsie River (as can be seen here), which joins the main Betsie River later on, between King Road and Wolf Road.

ACCESS:

Pickerel Creek access – 0.4 miles up the Betsie River from the Grass Lake Dam is the mouth to Pickerel Creek on the right (southeast). (Hug the right shore as you go upriver.)

Section 3.
Grass Lake Dam to Wallin Road (or Long Road)
4.0 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 2.6 miles to the Reynolds Road bridge.

• 3.2 miles to an old railroad bridge.

• soon after that — Nostwick Road bridge.

• 3.7 miles to Wallin Road bridge.
1.6 hours Map THE RIVER:

The pull-out point is 0.3 miles (7 minutes) past Wallin Road bridge.

The first two thirds of the trip (to the Reynolds Road bridge) is wider and slower. The last third is a bit narrower and faster.

Watch out – when the water is high the Nostwick bridge can be a bit "low."

Also, by the end of August, these upper sections of the river can be very shallow.

LOW BRIDGE CLEARANCE ALERT: When the water is high (such as during the spring and/or after a long rainy period), the clearance at the Nostwick Road bridge can be quite low; in some cases, too low to paddle under and remain in your boat! So it is highly recommended to scout this bridge before starting your trip. When on the water, take care to make sure you and all those with you can make it easily under and through. There is NO easy portage here. Location: goo.gl/maps/i13tJ

May, 2013 – the right tube was clogged at the Wallin Road bridge. So check that, too, before starting your trip.

August 30, 2014 – the clogged right tube at the Wallin Road bridge has been cleared. But always check that before starting your trip.

ACCESS:

Wallin Road access – carry-in access at the end of a 0.2-mile-long two track accessed from the southwest corner (south side of road, west side of river).

Alternate access....

Just 975 feet downriver from the Wallin Road access is the Long Road access, so it could be used as an alternate access point for the end of this section or the beginning of the next section.

Long Road access – carry-in access down a few log stairs. Parking in the grass, no restroom. From the Long Road and Wallin Road intersection, go 0.25 miles south on Long Road to access road on left. Go 200 feet to access to river on the left.

Although this access is a little easier to get to, there's not the soft, sandy launch that the Wallin Road access offers. You launch at the edge of the last tall stair of a stairway made from railroad ties.

Wallin Road to King Road (combined trip of sections 4 and 5 below) 5.2 miles 2.1 hours Map Like many parts of the upper Betsie, early in the season these sections are fine, maybe even a bit high. But late in the season of a dry summer these sections can be trouble if the river is shallow -- the river is much slower and you can run aground often.

Section 4.
Wallin Road to Carmean Road
2.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.4 miles to the old Long Road bridge — still there are old bridge walls on the north and south.

• 2.1 miles to a private access bridge.
About an hour Map THE RIVER:

A few minutes past the private access bridge is the Carmean Road bridge.

ACCESS:

Carmean Road access – carry-in access at the northwest corner down a short grassy hill.

Carmean Road to Haze Road (combined trip of sections 5, 6, and 7 below) 5.5 miles 2.2 hours Map There are very few homes or cottages, and lots of interesting features along the way.

Section 5.
Carmean Road to King Road
2.8 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 2.2 miles to the Thompsonville Road bridge
1.2 hours Map THE RIVER:

There are very few houses or cottages along the way.

July, 2014 – There is one place between the Carmean Road and Thompsonville Road there was tree-fall completely across the river requiring a portage to get around. There were a handle of other places where we cut some branches and made a pass through the tree-fall.

July, 2014 — At the Thompsonville Road bridge there are two large culverts and both were clear.

About 15 minutes after passing under the Thompsonville Road bridge you'll be at King Road.

ACCESS:

King Road access – carry-in access at the northeast corner.

King Road to Haze Road (combined trip of sections 6 and 7 below) 2.7 miles 1.1 hours Map  

Section 6.
King Road to Wolf Road
1.5 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.0 miles to where the Little Betsie River comes in on the left.

• 1.3 miles to a former railroad bridge.
0.6 hours Map THE RIVER:

One mile along the way, the Little Betsie River, coming from the east, joins the main Betsie River here. (Although several miles long, the Little Betsie is not large enough for any boats.)

Much of this section passes through the area of the former containment pond for the Thompsonville power dam that was just beyond Wolf Road. Notice the tall, steep banks of silt, sand, and soil that collected in the pond. Sharp eyes will also spot embedded tree-fall from when the pond first flooded the area. Also present in the river are many deadheads (old-growth logs that never made it to the mill) often stuck in the bottom but can lurk close to the surface.

About 800 feet before the Wolf Road bridge the river passes under the former Ann Arbor Railroad bridge which is now used by the Betsie Valley Trail.

There's a vault toilet available at Wolf Road.

ACCESS:

Wolf Road access – carry-in access downstream (west) of bridge on the south side of the river down the 500-foot sidewalk. (For those with kayaks, you can also access the river by going down the short hill on the north side of the river just west of the bridge.)

Section 7.
Wolf Road to Haze Road
1.2 miles 0.5 hours Map THE RIVER:

A few hundred feet beyond Wolf Road bridge, there is now little evidence of the former Thompsonville power dam but a small rapids. Built in 1903, the dam failed in 1989 and was removed. But it helped make Thompsonville a viable concern, and maintain the town's reputation for "the best-lit city in northern Michigan," established in the 1890s.

This is a beautiful and wild stretch with no development, and the river is a little deeper than in previous sections.

ACCESS:

Haze Road access – carry-in access at the southwest (or southeast) corner.

Note: There is no longer a bridge at Haze Road, so drive to it from the south off of Lindy Road.

Haze Road bridge to Psutka (combined trip of sections 8 and 9 below) 8.6 miles 3.5 hours

(Expect 4.5 hours if you float most of the way.)
Map  

Haze Road bridge to County Line Road (combined trip of sections 8, 9, and 10 below) 11.5 miles 4.6 hours

This is with no stops, of course.
Map

Section 8.
Haze Road bridge to Kurick Road
4.3 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.75 miles to Lindy Road.

• 3.2 miles to M-115 (first or east bridge).
1.8 hours

(2.25 hours is more typical if you float most of the way.)
Map THE RIVER:

There are occasional homes and cottages set back from the river along the way, yet the area still maintains a wild character.

There is no easy entry/exit at Lindy Road or M-115.

Alert: At Kurick Road there are four large,185-feet-long culverts. July, 2014: only the far left culvert was passable, but easily done. The other three were blocked by logs piled up in front of them. It’s highly recommended to scout these before starting your trip. When on the water, always look through this (or any) culvert before entering to make sure it’s clear, as rubble has been known to build up inside or just outside of the tubes. Be prepared to portage here, if need be. You can land on the left (south) side of the river.

ACCESS:

Kurick Road access – carry-in access at the southwest corner (just past the culverts on the immediate left (south)). From the road there's a sandy path down a mild slope, and a sandy and relatively shallow spot to put your boat while you enter/exit.

(Note, while it is possible to exit / enter on the northwest, but the bank is high and the water deep, so it's not recommended.)

Parking -- you can park south of the guardrail on the west side of the Kurick Road. But better yet, park in the grassy area on the northwest corner. This is DNR land! To get there, on the north side of the river and west side of Kurick Road at Dzuibanek Road, go west just 30' and see a two-track on the south side of the road. Pull in there and park. You can launch from here, but as mentioned, the bank is high and the water deep, so it's not recommended. (To get back to the nice launch spot, take the "goat paths" or walk back the very short ways on the roads.) The DNR is looking into putting a river access site here.

Kurick Road to County Line (combined trip of sections 9 and 10 below) 7.2 miles 2.9 hours Map  

Section 9.
Kurick Road to Psutka Road bridge
4.3 miles 1.8 hours

(2.25 hours is more typical if you float most of the way.)
Map THE RIVER:

There are several homes and cottages set back from the river along the first two-thirds of this section, yet the area still maintains its wild character.

ACCESS:

Psutka Road access – carry-in access at the southeast corner.

Section 10.
Psutka Road to County Line Road
2.9 miles 1.2 hours Map THE RIVER:

Another nice wooded stretch.

ACCESS:

County Line Road access – carry-in access at the southeast corner.

County Line Road to Fred's Landing (combined trip of sections 11 and 12 below) 9.7 miles 3.9 hours Map There's a private footbridge at Old King Road — so you know where you are as you go by. About 400 feet later Dair Creek joins the river on the right (east).

Section 11.
County Line Road to Old King Road (Off Dair Mill Road)
6.3 miles 2.5 hours Map THE RIVER:

A little more challenging, as there are some obstacles to go around. Not for beginners.

August 2008 – there are three log jams to climb over or portage around on this section,

There's a private footbridge at Old King Road.

LACK of ACCESS:

Old King Road end – technically there may be carry-in access at the road end, but as of June 2013 it's so over-grown it would be very difficult. The property owners that used to allow access here appear to be gone, and there are lots of "No Trespassing" signs on either side of the road. So there's no good or easy access here.

Old King Road to Homestead Dam (combined trip of sections 12 and 13 below) 6.3 miles 2.5 hours Map  

Section 12.
Old King Road to Fred's Landing
3.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 400 to where Dair Creek joins the river on the right (east).

• 0.7 miles to M-115 (second or west bridge).
1.4 hours Map THE RIVER:

Only a few homes at the start, then mostly wild.

ACCESS:

Fred's Landing access – Carry-in access on west side of river. Go north from M-115 on Demerly Road 0.3 miles to Fred’s Landing Road, then about 1 mile down to the river. Be sure to take a good careful look at this location so you can spot it from the river. You may want to mark it temporarily with a flag on a bush, or something similar.

Section 13.
Fred's Landing to Homestead Dam
2.9 miles 1.2 hours Map THE RIVER:

The last third of this section is slower, wider, and can run shallow in some areas.

ACCESS:

Homestead Dam access – The dam is east of US-31 taking Love and Dam Roads..

Above-the-dam access – carry-in access a few hundred feet above and below the dam on the north side of the river.

Below-the-dam access – carry-in access a few hundred feet below the dam on the north side of the river.

Homestead Dam to Grace Road (combined trip of sections 14 and 15 below) 2.8 miles 1.1 hours Map  

Homestead Dam to River Road east bridge (combined trip of sections 14, 15, and 16 below) 4.2 miles 1.7 hours

(or more as this is a very twisty section)
Map A common trip.

Section 14. Homestead Dam to US-31 1.3 miles 0.6 hours Map THE RIVER:

Since this section is just below the dam, there can be many folks fishing here during salmon runs. A common trip is to join this and the next two sections, going from Homestead Dam to River Road (East), making a nice two-hour paddle.

Also, during salmon runs this can be a good place to start a river trip to avoid those fishing along the river upstream.

ACCESS:

US-31 access – carry-in access is down a 500-foot path on a hill on the north side of the river.

Section 15.
US-31 to Grace Road
1.5 miles 0.6 hours Map THE RIVER:

In the first part of this section there are some tight turns and twists, as well as tree-fall and logs (above and below water) to avoid that beginners will likely find challenging. Local liveries eventually cut a path in the debris, but be careful here early in the season, especially after a hard winter.

ACCESS:

Grace Road access – carry-in access launch at a turn-around on the east side of the river northeast of the bridge.

Section 16.
Grace Road to River Road east
1.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.2 miles to where Rice Creek joins the river on the left.
0.6 hours Map THE RIVER:

Along this very pretty and twisty section Rice Creek joins the river (at 1.2 miles). The creek flows through a man-made pond that’s part of a water-powered sawmill then exits the pond via a dam with a nice waterfall before entering the river.

ACCESS:

River Road east access – carry-in access launch next to parking lot on the east side of the river and south side of the bridge.

Section 17.
River Road east (Smith) bridge to River Road west (Lewis) bridge
3.5 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.3 miles to where the Crystal Lake Outlet joins the river on the right.
1.5 hours Map THE RIVER:

A very popular section, good for most skill levels. There are a few nice back-water areas. The Crystal Lake Outlet creek enters on the right (north), 1.3 miles of the way along, as seen here. Normally, the creek can be paddled up only a few hundred feet, but as far as M-115 is possible during high water periods (typical in early spring).

ACCESS:

River Road west access – there's a concrete-slab launch next to the parking lot on the west side of the river north of the bridge.

Section 18.
River Road west (Lewis) bridge to Elberta Railroad bridge
4.9 miles 2 hours Map THE RIVER:

This section is a little wider and slower and is mostly in the Betsie River State Game Refuge. The first two-thirds are in woods; the last third is open wetland and the river splits into several channels. Keep to the main channel on the right.

The time shown is for floating (not much paddling) and with river high enough to get through at the end (NOT like 2000 and 2001). 2002-2008 was OK in a kayak. Not a good trip on a real windy day because of the open swampy area at the end.

ACCESS:

Elberta railroad bridge access – carry-in access is on the south side of the bridge and east side of the river.. From River Road, walk the 50-foot access path to the Betsie Valley Trail, turn right (west) and follow it for 400 feet to the bridge.

Extension. Go a little further to the Elberta marina and boat laiuch. 0.3 to 0.8 miles depending on route taken At least 15 minutes depending on route taken Map THE TRIP:

If the water level is "just right" — at Elberta go under the railroad bridge then under the M-22 car bridge (if the bay is not too high) and paddle over (if the water is not too low) to the Elberta Marina (near main intersection in Elberta).

You can park your car right by the simple boat launch.

Except during higher water periods, this section is not recommended as part of a river trip.

ACCESS:

Elberta Marina access – gravel and hard-surface ramp in west corner of the southwest corner of Betsie Lake.

BOARDMAN RIVER

NOTES:

  • The Boardman River starts out many miles to the east of the navigable portion – the North Branch near Kalkaska, and the South Branch near the village of South Boardman, both in western central Kalkaska County.
  • The main paddle-able part of the river starts just below where the North and South Branch join near Supply Road in eastern central Grand Traverse County – southeast of Traverse City, south of Williamsburg, and WNW of the village of South Boardman.
  • The main navigable portion is 28.4 miles and from its starting point runs WSW, WNW, then north through Traverse City and empties into West Bay (part of Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay).
  • Average gradient: 8 feet per mile.
  • Expect to move along a little faster than the average on the Betsie River, for example — 2.5 mph, at least and often closer to 3 mph (on Sections 1 through 5).
  • Boardman River details from the DNR
  • Map of the complete river and all of it tributaries: map of Boardman River

Back to River List

Section Length Time Map More details
North Branch Boardman River — North Branch Road bridge to Forks Campground 1.6 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.3 miles from the North Branch Road to Supply Road.
1.5 hours Map THE RIVER:

Adventurous trip: not recommened for most paddlers.

This trip is on the North Branch Boardman River above the Upper Boardman River. It's not very navigable and not for the "faint of heart." There are about 15 log piles to climb-over or portage. It's a slightly smaller river than the Upper Boardman (the next section), and very wild and scenic.

The South Branch Boardman River joins the North Branch just before the Supply Road bridge.

ACCESS:

North Branch Road access – rough carry-in access for kayaks.

There's said to be fair access at Supply Road, but most folks use the much easier Forks Campground access, 0.3 miles downriver.

Forks Campground access: see Section 1 below.

Main Boardman River trips:
• Upper Boardman
• Middle Boardman
• Lower Boardman sections

Upper Boardman...

Forks Campground to Brown Bridge (combined trip of sections 1 and 2 below) 8.4 miles 2.5 to 3.3 hours (depending on height & speed of the water and how much you paddle) Map of area

Map of river
A common trip.

Shuttle road: Brown Bridge Road. It's 15 minute shuttle time, one-way.

Section 1.
Forks Campground to Shecks Campground
4.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 3.2 miles to the bridge at Brown Bridge Road near Ranch Rudolph. There's no easy public river access here, though.

(Also, just before this bridge, there's a platform at the river for Ranch Rudolph guests only — if needed for emergencies.)
1.6 hours Map THE RIVER:

The main trips start here.

Generally recommended for intermediate paddlers and above.

Narrow and fast, not unlike the Upper Platte and the faster Upper Betsie portions, but quite a bit deeper. Moderate to fairly quick current. And like most narrow rivers in the woods, expect occassional tree-fall in, and perhaps across, the river, especially in early spring. (The canoe/kayak liveries and others will clear a path by the summer.)

Very pretty and mostly wild. There are very few houses. There are some small hills, tall banks, and pleasant meadows along the way,

A favored section of river for trout anglers, so be watchful for those, as well.

ACCESS:

There's said to be fair access at Supply Road, but most folks start at the easier Forks Campground access, 0.3 miles downriver.

Forks Campground access – carry-in access on south side of river right next to the road with a handfull of off-road parking places. Forks Campground is on Brown Bridge Road 0.3 miles west of Supply Road, or about 10.5 miles east of (the former) Brown Bridge Dam.

Shecks Campground access – carry-in access on north side of river 400 feet east of (before) the road bridge. Shecks Campground is on Brown Bridge Road about 4.5 miles east of (the former) Brown Bridge Dam.

Shuttle road: Brown Bridge Road.

Section 2.
Shecks Campground to Brown Bridge
4.0 miles

Along the way, it's...

• about 2.2 miles to the former Brown Bridge Pond area.
1.4 hours Map THE RIVER:

A little more than half of this section is just like the section above, in the woods which come to (and over) the river bank, as well as narrow, and quick.

There's one bridge — right away: Brown Bridge Road.

The last 1.8 miles is in the former Brown Bridge Pond. In 2012 the Brown Bridge Dam was removed, the Brown Bridge Pond drained, and the river returned to its original course. There are no woods, only the stumps of the pre-pond forest. Very slowly this area is "coming back to life" with new lowland vegetation.

ACCESS:

Brown Bridge access – just below the former Brown Bridge Dam there's carry-in access down the short path and hill to a wooden platform at the river. (The red marker shows the parking area – on Brown Bridge Road east of Arbutus Hill Road and Garfield Road.) There's now a restroom here (as of the summer of 2016).

Shuttle road: Brown Bridge Road.

Middle Boardman...

The Brown Bridge to Beitner Road (combined trip of sections 3 and 4 below) 11.2 miles 3 to 3.5 hours (depending on how much you paddle and how fast (high) the water is) Map of area

Map of river
A common trip.

Easy to medium paddling, much like the faster part of the lower Betsie River. Very little treefall, but there are a few boulders. Partially wild surroundings and lined with handfuls of cottages, There are lot of footbridges as well as private and public access vehicle bridges.

Shuttle road: Beitner, River, and Brown Bridge Roads.

Section 3.
Brown Bridge Dam to Shumsky Road access
6.8 miles

Along the way, it's

• 0.3 miles to Brown Bridge Road.

• 0.7 miles to Garfield Road.

• 2.3 miles to River Road (east).

• 3.3 miles to River Road (west).
2 hours Map

Intermediate access – Instead of Brown Bridge, you can also start your trip at River Road (west) where the river flows south under the road. This cuts 3.3 miles off the beginning of the trip.

River Road (west) access — carry-on access on the southeast corner, roadside parking only.

ACCESS:

Shumsky Road access — carry-in access from the parking lot on the northeast side of the river.

Shuttle roads: Shumsky Road, River Road, and Brown Bridge Road.


Section 4. Shumsky Road access to Beitner Road 4.4 miles 1.3 hours Map ACCESS:

Beitner Road access — carry-in access on the east corner (upstream side of bridge, northeast side of river). There's a wooden platform there, but kayakers may find it easier to get out in the "pool" just past that.

Shuttle roads: Beitner Road, River Road, and Shumsky Road.

Lower Boardman sections...

Beitner Bridge to Sabin Dam (combined trip of sections 5 and 6 below 3.2 miles

(If you're interested, it's 8.8 miles from Beitner Bridge to the river's mouth at Lake Michigan.)
Around an hour on the river. Map Shuttle roads: Cass Road, Keystone Road, and Beitner Road.

Section 5.
Beitner Bridge to Cass Street
2.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.5 miles is the Oleson foorbridge.

• 1.1 miles to the Lone Pine carry-in access on east side of river.
Map of Beitner River to Oleson Bridge

Map from Oleson Bridge to Lone Pine Trail access

Map from Lone Pine Trail access to Cass Street
THE RIVER:

For intermediate paddlers and above. NOT for beginners.

This section includes the Keystone Rapids (a.k.a. Beitner Rapids — see main rapids here), the only set of recognized rapids in the Lower Peninsula. These are just below Beitner Bridge, feature standing waves, bushel-sized boulders, rock gardens, tight turns, and plenty of fast water. The rapids can approach a Class II rapids, especially during high water.

From Mike Terrell's 2008 article, we learn this half-mile stretch of whitewater is fairly straight forward and are interspersed with rapids and periods of calmer water, so you can line up the next set of rapids as you proceed through each stretch.

At the site of the former Keystone Dam the river gets quite narrow and standing waves may "deposit" some water into your boat.

2012 update — the rapids seem to have been "watered down" either on purpose or by nature. They are a bit tamer than there were a few years ago. But like any rapids (or more challenging section of a river), always scout them out before paddling.

There are other rapids along the stretch of the river, but supposedly not as intense as those mentioned above.

Also along this section is the Keystone Pond (aka Boardman Pond) just above Cass Street. As they draw down the pond, the water is slowly approaching the width and speed of the original river.

With the expected removal of the Boardman Dam at Cass Street, the pond above this dam is being drawn down. It appears that perhaps by 2015 the pond will be gone. (I do not know the schedule for dam removal other than it's expected sometime soon after 2013.) So it's likely that the Cass Street access sites will change somewhat from what's said below with the removal of the dam pond and dam itself.

From the Cass Street south access to the Cass Street north access, there's a 0.3 mile portage on land paths and crossing Cass Street.

ACCESS:

Oleson footbridge access — If you're just doing the rapids, you can exit 150 feet UPSTREAM of the Oleson foorbridge (which is 0.5 miles downstream from Beitner Road). Access it from the Oleson Bridge Traihead and parking lot not far away to the east.

Lone Pine Trail access — At 1.1 miles from Beitner Road is an alternate "early" end-point on the Lone Pine Trail, just north of marker 17 on the east side of the river as seen on this trail map. Access it from the Lone Pine trailhead parking lot then down a 450-foot path.

Cass Street south access — carry-in on the west side of river, about 300 feet south of the parking lot on the south side of Cass Street.

Shuttle roads: Cass Road, Keystone Road, and Beitner Road.

Section 6.
Cass Street to Sabin Dam
0.5 miles  

Map

THE RIVER:

This used to be a fairly quiet-water section. but as they draw down the the Sabin Pond, the water is getting narrower and faster, slowly approaching that of the original river.

Along this section are the Boardman Dam at Cass Street, the Sabin Pond, and the Sabin Dam.

With the expected removal of the Sabin Dam, the pond above this dam is being drawn down. It appears that perhaps by 2015 the pond will be gone. (I do not know the schedule for dam removal other than it's expected sometime soon after 2013.)

ACCESS:

From the Sabin Dam south access to the Sabin Dam north access, there's a 300-foot portage on land path then stairs down to a wooden landing. But note that the Sabin Dam access will change somewhat from what's said below with the removal of the dam pond and dam itself.

Cass Street north access area — carry-in on the west side of river, about 1000 feet north of the north Cass Street parking lot. There's no marker at the Google Maps link as you'll need to explore a little to find the best launch point. And things are changing there as they lower the pond.

Sabin Dam south access — carry-in on east side of river. There's good parking on the west side of the river above the dam and up the hill from the river (at the Boardman River Nature Center).

Shuttle road: Cass Road.

Section 7.
Sabin Dam to the south end of Boardman Lake
2.1 miles

4.2 miles round trip.

Along the way, it's...

• a 300-foot portage at Sabin Dam via land paths.

• 1.7 miles to the access behind tennis courts at YMCA on west side of river.

• 2.0 miles to the tubes at Airport Road by Logan's Landing. 300 feet later there's a covered walkway at Logan's Landing.

• 2.1 miles to the south end of Boardman Lake. Medalie Park on the right (east) is a nice rest stop. There's just no easy launch place except for the Medalie Park access (see the "More details" section).
Less than an hour going downstream.

Just over 2 hours round trip if you start/end at the YWCA

Map

THE RIVER:

The river is calm and the current is gentle. This is a very nice woodsy section with lots of cedar trees.

You can certainly do the "standard" trip and put in at the Sabin Dam north access and paddle downstream.

ACCESS:

Sabin Dam north access — carry-in on east side of river north of the dam. There's a foot path then stairs down to a wooden landing.

Shuttle roads: South Airport Road and Cass Road.

================================

Alternate trip...

But also consider this alternate trip in which you don't have to shuttle vehicles. Put in by Airport Road and paddle upstream to the dam, then "float" back downstream. The current is gentle so it's easily done.

Here are two Airport-Road-area access locations and their details:

    Medalie Park access — carry-in access on the east side of the park in the Logan's Landing area off South Airport Road (and on the south end of Boardman Lake).

    From here paddle go under Airport Road, and then upstream to the Sabin Dam.

    At Airport Road there are two channels going under the road...

    • The east channel – has one long rather low tube going under the road. Afterwards there are a lot of dead stumps to deal with and it's shallow at the north end. Not recommended.

    • The west channel – is much easier. It goes in between the Panda North and (former) Auntie Pasta restaurants, then goes under Airport Road. The left (east) "tube" of the two here is the highest. There are two short sections of tubes here.

    YMCA access — An easier launch spot with carry-in access that avoids any tubes (culverts) is on the south side of Airport Road. Turn on Racquet Club Drive and go through and past all the offices. At the south end is a YMCA. There's a nice sandy launch there behind (east of) the tennis courts.


Section 8. Boardman Lake Area 1.8 miles from the south to north end of Boardman Lake if you hug the right (east) shore. Less than a hour one-way. Map THE RIVER:

On the south end of the lake, explore the river going under Airport Road and up to Sabin Dam (see Section 7 above).

On the north end of the lake, explore the river going north under a railroad bridge, Eighth Street, and Cass Avenue to the Union Street dam -- looks like about 0.5 miles.

ACCESS:

South Boardman Lake access – See Section 7 above and the two Airport-Road-area access locations.

If you start at the YWCA access and paddle north, you'll get go through the tubes at Airport Road. This is not difficult, but is a bit more of a challenge when coming back, going upriver.

A better put-in location is the Medalie Park access where there's carry-in access on the east side of the park.

? East Boardman Lake access: Supposedly there's carry-in access on the east side of Boardman Lake, not too far from the south end. Find the old YMCA building (1100 Woodmere Ave., on the west side of the road). Behind the building there's a little path in the grass leading down a hill to the bike trail. Apparently one can gain access to the lake there from that trail. (To be investigated.) Not very convenient, though, even if true.

North Boardman Lake access – There's a boat launch at Hull Park next to the sailing facility. From Woodmere, take Hannah Avenue west behind the Traverse Area District Library.

Section 9. Boardman Lake to Grand Traverse Bay (on Lake Michigan) 1.7 miles

From footbridge at the north end of Boardman Lake it's...

• 180 feet to the railroad bridge.

• 1030 feet to Eighth Street bridge.

• 2450 feet to the south Cass Street bridge.

• 2850 feet to Union Street Dam.

• 3220 feet to the south Union Street bridge.

• 4550 feet to where Kid Creek enters the river.

• 4800 feet to Front Street bridge.

• 5000 feet to the weir.

• 1.1 miles to the north Union Street bridge.

• 1.2 miles to the north Cass Street bridge.

• 1.4 miles to Park Street bridge.

• 1.5 miles to Park Street access.

• 1.6 miles to Grandview Parkway (US-31/37/72) bridge.

• 1.7 miles to Lake Michigan.
Less that an hour on the river -- but a portage or two is involved. Map

I'm told the following, which apparently applies only to fishing:

  • from the north Union Street bridge downstream to the US-31 bridge (just before Lake Michigan) the river is closed from September 1st to October 31st. (I assume this is for the salmon run and that the weir just upstream of the north Union Street bridge is also closed.)
  • from the north Union Street bridge upstream to the Sabin Dam the river is open year round.
  • upstream from Sabin Dam the season is from the last Saturday in April to September 30th.

North Boardman Lake access – see Section 8 above for details.

From the Boardman Lake, the river goes north under a foot/bicycle bridge, an old railroad trestle, and the Eight Street bridge. It then opens into a wide expanse that is the backwater from the Union Street dam. After passing under the Cass Street bridge you come to the Union Street Dam.

Union Street Dam area: there's carry-in access but not it's not easy or paddler-friendly, as covered below...

The portage at the Union Street Dam is not an easy affair.

The take-out landing above the dam is not too difficult. There's a short section of undeveloped land on the left (south) side of dam. But it can be muddy, and there's a short slope – not so easy when it's wet.

Launching involves more work, as there is no official launch location. The (right) north side of the river has a walkway at the edge of the water, but it's often filled with fishermen and not easy to access. The left (south) shore of the river is better and more accessible from the take-out location. Take the path cut into the bank for about a hundred feet to some stairs leading down to water. Along the edge is a stone wall one to two feet above the water. Be watchful of any boulders in the water.

(It certainly would be nice if the city would make just a few inexpensive adjustments to make this area more paddler friendly.)

Downstream from the Union Street Dam, you go under the Union Street bridge and there is a nice current that carries you through some neat old neighborhoods. The view to the left (south) includes the impressive former residence of Perry Hannah, the founder of Traverse City (TC). It is now a funeral home. As you approach the Front Street bridge, to the left (west) is a large culvert where there is the confluence with Kid's Creek (or Asylum Creek). This was the site of the very first mill in TC built by Captain Boardman, the first settler of TC who sold his interest to Hannah, who developed the area.

As you pass under the Front Street bridge there's a nice current that carries you 200 feet along to the fish weir. It should be approached with caution as there is a good current and the weir has many narrow "slots" to which you will want to line up with carefully – your paddle must be brought inboard to fit through.

Past the weir a "concrete canyon" wall appears on the right (south) and a riverwalk on the left (north) as you pass through downtown TC. There are several road and foot bridges, and many places you can get out of the boat if you want to enjoy downtown TC. The river flows slowly and gets busier with boats as you approach the outlet into Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay, but even on the busiest of days it's not a serious issue.

Park Street / US-31 access – 800 feet past Park Street (and 600 feet before the US-31 bridge) there's a hard-surface boat launch on the left (north) with parking. This is a good place to spot your vehicle, and it's an easy 1 mile walk or bicycle ride using Franklin Street south to the north access on Boardman Lake mentioned above in Section 8. (Take Park Street south to Front Street, go east to Frankkin Street, then go south to Boardman Lake.)

Clinch Marina access – The Clinch municipal marina is 0.4 miles from the river's mouth along the beach to the west. It has an excellent boat launch to use as a take-out. So if Grand Traverse Bay is calm, it's worth going out into Lake Michigan and enjoy a little paddling on the "big water." It's also an easy walk from this launch site through town back to the north access on Boardman Lake mentioned above in Section 8.

Elmwood Marina access – If you really want some exercise, paddle west 2.7 miles from the mouth of the Boardman along the shore of the bay to Greilickville where there's another excellent boat launch at Elmwood Marina.

Note that about half-way along is the Apache Trout Grill (just south of the Grand Traverse Yacht Club), which has a dock and beach, so thirsty or hungry paddlers can enjoy a sandwich or drink with a great view of the bay.

(Thanks to Doug S. for much of the text for this section!)


CEDAR RIVER (aka Victoria Creek) [Leelanau County]

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NOTES:

  • In the southeastern area of Leelanau County, just north of the village of Cedar.
Section Length Time Map More details
Upstream from Cedar Village Park 0.5 miles (one-way) 30 minutes (round-trip) Map of area THE RIVER:

Not the main trip, but while you're here and if you have an extra half an hour, paddle upstream on the river. It's a beautiful, untamed, wild area, and you can get close to 0.5 miles up from the Kasson Street bridge. (Note: with a bow saw and a little effort cutting the occassional 5" diameter tree(s) across the river, you might get quite a ways further.)

Note that upstream from the Kasson Street bridge (on the north end of the village of Cedar), some maps show the Cedar River as Victoria Creek and/or Cedar Creek.

ACCESS:

See Cedar Village Park access in the next section.
Cedar Village Park to South Lake Leelanau and back. 3.4 miles one way, 6.8 miles round trip (more if you explore the lakes)

Along the way, it's 2.9 miles to the mouth of the large Cedar Run Creek.
3.5 hours round trip (more if you explore the lakes) Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

The main trip...

Starting from the village of Cedar, the Cedar River heads primarily east in a large curve through the Cedar River Preserve / Solon Swamp, then on to the southwest corner of South Lake Leelanau. There's no development — it's a rustic and wild area.

The Cedar River Preserve (a.k.a. Cedar River Natural Area) is in Solon Swamp, near the southwest corner of South Lake Leelanau, and is part of the Leelanau Conservancy. See their complete preserve map.

There is almost no current in the river so you can easily do a round trip from Cedar Village Park to Lake Leelanau and back. Or, once at Lake Leelanau, paddle on the lake to one of its access points – see the next two sections for details.

Both banks of the Cedar River, from the village of Cedar all the way down to Lake Leelanau, are owned by either the State of Michigan or the Conservancy (near the end) and are open to the public to explore and enjoy.

Note, however, that the river banks do not offer any easy way or place to get out of the boat — so plan ahead!

2.5 miles along (or 0.9 miles from Lake Leelanau), you can take a short side trip going 200 feet up a creek on the left (north) to a small and shallow lake.

2.9 miles along (or 0.5 miles from Lake Leelanau), you can take another short side trip up the wide Cedar Run Creek on the right (south). At 230 feet there's a fork, stay to the left – it goes about 0.7 miles before getting too small to paddle. Back at the fork, if you go to the right -- paddle about 1000 feet to an unnamed 0.5-mile-long lake complete with small island. See the map or this satellite image for details.

Note: be sure to check the current and expected wind conditions as the river is fairly wide open, especially as you get close to the lake.

ACCESS:

Cedar Village Park access – there's a boat launch on the north side of the river east of the bridge — on the northeast corner where Kasson Street crosses the river just north of town.

Cedar Village Park to Solon Township Park on South Lake Leelanau 4.6 miles 2.3 hours Map THE RIVER:

Start at Cedar Village Park (see the section above) and take the Cedar River to South Lake Leelanau. Once at the lake, head northeast 1.2 miles along the shore to the Solon Township Park.

Note: be sure to check the current and expected wind conditions for the lake.

ACCESS:

Solon Township Park access – there's a boat launch on the northwest side of the lake, about 1.5 miles from the southwest end.

Directions: To get to the Solon Township Park from Cedar Village Park, go north on Kasson Street about 0.2 miles to Schomberg Road (CR-645). Turn right (east) and go 0.6 miles to S. Lake Shore Drive (CR-643). Turn right (east) and go 1.3 miles and on left see sign for the Park and Solon Park Road on the right. Turn right (east) and go 0.2 miles to lake access. Parking is available a few hundred feet before the lake in a grass lot.

Cedar Village Park to Perrin's Landing on South Lake Leelanau 5.6 miles 3 hours Map THE RIVER:

Start at Cedar Village Park (see the section above) and take the Cedar River to South Lake Leelanau. Once at the lake, head south then east 2.2 miles along the shore to Perrin's Landing in the southeast corner of the lake. The first third goes along the Cedar River Natural Area.

Note: be sure to check the current and expected wind conditions for the lake.

ACCESS:

Perrin's Landing access – light-duty boat launch at the end of the Perrin's Landing Drive on the south side the lake near the southeast corner.

Where is Perrin's Landing? Look at a map of the south end of South Lake Leelanau and find Birch Point – Perrin's Landing is directly south of that (across the lake), at the end of Perrin's Landing Drive off west Fouch Road. There's a very minor point there. (The Lakeside Resort and Party Store is right there where the road ends at the lake. Ask them where you can safely park.)

Directions: To get to the Perrin's Landing from Cedar Village Park: go south on Kasson Street (it becomes Cedar Road) 3 miles to Alpine Road. Turn left (east) and go 1.3 miles to Gallivan Road. Turn left (northeast) and 2 miles along it curves north and becomes Wesler Road. Keep going and at 1 mile it curves east and becomes Fouch Road. Keep going 0.5 miles to Perrin's Landing Drive. Turn left (north) and go 880 feet to the access at the lake.

CRYSTAL RIVER

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NOTES:

  • In western Leelanau County, east of Glen Arbor, and north of Big Glen Lake.
  • The Crystal River starts just 800 feet upstream fron Fisher Road at the northwest tip of Fisher Lake.
  • Paddle upstream that short distance to experience the crystal clear water of Fisher Lake, and from it you can enter (big) Glen Lake in its northeast corner, if you like.
  • The river is 7.6 miles long and flows to Lake Michigan.
  • Dunns Farm Road is also known as Crystal View Road, especially near M-22.
  • Both roads are also County Road 675.
  • West of M-22, C.R. 675 is known as Bay Lane.
Section Length Time Map More details
Fisher Road to portage at west Dunns Farm Road (combined trip of sections 1 and 2 below) 3.8 miles 1.8 hours Map Shuttle road: Dunns Farm Road, and Fisher Road.

Fisher Road to M-22 access by the gas station (combined trip of sections 1, 2, and 3 below) 4.7 miles 2.3 hours Map of area

Map of river
This is the main trip.

This river can be busy during the weekends of "tourist" season, and can be quite shallow near the end during the river's low periods.

Shuttle road: M-22, Dunns Farm Road, and Fisher Road.

Section 1.
Fisher Road to "Tubes" at east Dunns Farm Road
2.3 miles

Along the way, it's 600 feet to an easy portage around a small dam.
1 hour Map THE RIVER:

Very scenic and wild.

ACCESS:

Fisher Road access – carry-in on the northwest corner. Parking, restroom.

The tubes at east Dunns Farm Road – Carry-in access (on the north side of the road, there are wooden stairs about 100 feet west of the tubes); roadside parking only (300 feet west of the river on the north side of the road is a small pull-over with limited parking); no restroom

If the river is not very high, at least one of the tubes is usually possible. There are three tubes, the left is the highest and your best choice. The other two may be possible if the river is very low. If in doubt, portage over the road. One the other side of the road one has to immediately make a very quick left turn. If the river is really high this can be tricky and an easy place to tip-over. On the otherhand, if the river is low, I've seen this done without a paddle! So, unless the river is very low, I'd recommned scouting out the situation before doing these tubes.

Shuttle roads: Dunns Farm Road and Fisher Road.

Section 2.
The "tubes" at east Dunns Farm Road to portage at west Dunns Farm Road
1.5 miles 0.8 hours Map THE RIVER:

Areas near the end of this section can be quite shallow during the river's low periods.

ACCESS:

The tubes at west Dunns Farm Road – Carry-in access, roadside parking only, no restroom. The tubes are too small to go through — you must portage over the road.

Shuttle road: Dunns Farm Road

Section 3.
Portage at west Dunns Farm Road to M-22 access by the gas station
0.9 miles 0.5 hours Map ACCESS:

M-22 access – carry-in across from the gas station on M-22 just east of Glen Arbor. Roadside parking only. Restrooms in gas station. If you ask nicely at the gas station, you can park in their back lot.

Shuttle road: M-22 and Dunns Farm Road.

Section 4.
M-22 access by the gas station to Bay Lane access on Lake Michigan
2.8 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.4 miles to Dunns Farm Road

• 0.5 miles to M-22

• 1.1 miles to Overlook Drive

• 1.8 miles to Lake Michigan

• 2.8 miles to public access beach at Bay Lane
1.5 to 2 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

Not a common trip but certainly do-able and fun, others tell me.

I've not done this, but know those that have. Start at the M-22 access across from the gas station (see section above). You'll go through the Leelenau School and Homestead property but cannot exit there, but must paddle out to Lake Michigan, then back 1 mile along the shore to the public access site at Bay Lane.

You'll need to portage at Dunns Farm Road. Exit at the southwest corner then enter at the northeast corner. Expect to have to exit and enter your boat in the water, but it's shallow.

The bridge at M-22 is a nice clear span.

You'll need to portage at Overlook Drive. Exit at the southeast corner then enter at the northeast corner. Expect to have to exit and enter your boat in the water, but it's shallow.

You'll pass under several footbridges along the way. I counted 5 from the satellite view and there may be more.

ACCESS:

Bay Lane access – carry-in at public access beach. Parking.

Shuttle road: M-22 and Bay Lane.

GREAT KAYAK CIRCLE ROUTE

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Section Length Time More details
Loop using Crystal Lake, Crystal Lake Outlet Creek, Betsie River, Betsie Bay, and Lake Michigan 19.2 miles

The distances involved...

• 5.5 miles on Crystal Lake, from the CSA beach east to the Crystal Lake Outlet.

• 1.0 mile on the Outlet Creek to the Betsie River.

• 8.3 miles on the Betsie River from the mouth of the Outlet Creek to Betsie Bay.

• 1.3 miles through Betsie Bay and the Frankfort Harbor past the USCG station out to Lake Michigan.

• 2.4 miles on Lake Michigan, from the Frankfort Lighthouse north to the CSA beach.

• 0.7 miles overland from Lake Michigan back to the Crystal Lake beach.
Estimated time to paddle/walk: 10 hours under good conditions. Map of area

Map of route

In the western central area of Benzie County, northeast of Frankfort.

The general idea for the route is...

  • Start at the Crystal View Coffee Shop on M-22, north of Frankfort, at the southwest corner of Crystal Lake.
  • Carry boat to Crystal Lake.
  • Paddle east to the Crystal Lake Outlet.
  • Paddle down the Outlet Creek to where it joins the Betsie River. (Unless there is very high water in the outlet creek, more likely this step would be — carry boat south on the Betsie Valley Trail from Crystal Lake to M-115, go east a short way to the outlet creek, then paddle it south to the Betsie River.)
  • Paddle down the Betsie River to where it joins Betsie Bay just past the M-22 bridge.
  • Paddle through Betsie Bay and the Frankfort Harbor, past the USCG station and breakwater area to just past the Frankfort Lighthouse at Lake Michigan.
  • From the lighthouse, paddle north to the CSA beach.
  • Carry boat overland via roads (mostly using Edwards Avenue) back to the Crystal View Coffee Shop.
  • (Repeat as needed!)

HERRING CREEK

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NOTES

  • In the southwestern area of Benzie County.
  • Its source is somewhere in the swampy area east of Gorivan Road and west of Swamp Road. It's fed by several smaller creeks there.
  • The creek flows generally east to west through Upper Herring Lake, Lower Herring Lake, and into Lake Michigan.
Section Length Time Map More details
Upper Herring Creek (aka Upper Herring Lake Inlet)     Map THE CREEK:

If conditions are favorable and if you can get through the tubes at Gorivan Road, you can paddle up this creek in a kayak about 0.5 miles from its mouth on the east side of Upper Herring Lake. It appears there is no easily accessible feeder stream to start from to go down this section of the creek.

ACCESS:

Upper Herring Lake access — there's a hard-surface DNR boat launch on Upper Herring Lake (off of Herron Road). From it paddle 1.1 miles along the north and east shore to the mouth of the inlet creek.

Herring Creek (aka Upper Herring Lake Outlet): From Upper Herring Lake public launch to M-22 bridge 1.3 miles one-way.

2.6 miles round trip.
40 minutes one-way (downstream).

2 hours round trip.
Map THE CREEK:

This is the main part of Herring Creek — it's slow-moving and flows from Upper Herring Lake to Lower Herring Lake.

The navigable section is nearly river-sized — it starts at Upper Herring Lake and ends at the M-22 bridge. Watch for a small pond on the right (north) side about half way down.

There's no access at M-22. So turn around a little before M-22 as the creek gets very narrow just before the bridge. And be sure to save some energy for the return trip paddling upstream.

ACCESS:

From the Upper Herring Lake access (see section just above) paddle 500 west to the start of the main Upper Herring Creek.

Herring Creek (aka Upper Herring Lake Outlet): M-22 bridge to Lower Herring Lake 0.9 miles   Map Past the M-22 bridge the creek is really not navigable as there is too much tree-fall, a low footbridge or two to climb around, shallow water, potential portages at Beuna Road and Elberta Resort Roasd, and more. Without a boat, the creek can maybe be walked from Beuna Road to Lower Herring Lake. The creek can certainly be walked from Elberta Resort Road to Lower Herring Lake.

INTERMEDIATE RIVER

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NOTES

  • The lower section should not be confused with the "upper" Intermediate River, which is part of the headwaters for Scotts and Beals Lakes.
  • A short and mild river flowing from Intermediate Lake into Lake Bellaire in central western Antrim County (north of, through, and south of Bellaire)
  • Perhaps a little faster than the Grass River, at least in the narrower sections
  • It has one major tributary, the Cedar River [Antrim County]
  • The river ranges from 40 to 140 feet wide.
  • Is essentially just the upper section of the Grass River.
  • Common trips often combine this with the Grass River.

GRASS RIVER

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NOTES

  • Is essentially just the lower section of the Intermediate River
  • A short and slow river flowing from Lake Bellaire into Clam Lake in southwestern Antrim County (between Bellaire and Alden)
  • It has four tributaries, three of which are Shanty, Cold, and Finch Creeks.
  • The river ranges from 50 to 150 feet wide.
  • Common trips often combine this with the Intermediate River.
Section Length Time Map More details
Intermediate River: Intermediate Lake to Lake Bellaire 3.5 miles 1.7 hours (if one could do the whole river, and just the river) Map
of area
This "lower" Intermediate River should not be confused with the "upper" Intermediate River which is part of the headwaters of Beals Lake. It's too bad they chose the name Intermediate for the upper portion, as it's not intermediate between anything, it's so far away from the lower section, and separated by many lakes and other rivers.

Both Intermediate Rivers and the Grass River (covered below) are part of the much longer Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, a seventy-five-mile-long waterway consisting of fourteen lakes and seven connecting rivers. It starts with Upper Intermediate River above Scotts and Beals Lake, and ultimately empties into Lake Michigan.

THE RIVER:

A mild river lined with wetland and woods that flows through the town of Bellaire, with relatively light development outside of town on its north and south ends. It's joined by the Cedar River about half way along, just above the one dam on the river on the north side of town.

A common trip is to start at the Ohio Street launch in Bellaire, take this river to and through Lake Bellaire a short ways, then take the Grass River to Clam Lake. Longer boating trips can start above the Intermediate River in Intermediate Lake, and/or end by going through Clam Lake on into Torch Lake.

ACCESS POINTS:

ON INTERMEDIATE LAKE:

To paddle all of the Intermediate River, you'll need to put in on Intermediate Lake...

Gorham Beach Road Launch — There's a light-duty launch with concrete slabs and gravel at the water's edge, no dock, parking, and port-a-pottie. Gorham Beach Road is 3.6 miles north of downtown Bellaire on M-88.

Paddle 2.6 miles east then south on the lake to the entrance to the Intermediate River. On the river, paddle 3.5 miles to Lake Bellaire.

Along the way, at 1.8 miles is a dam to portage. Doing so on the right (west) side involves finding the notch in the bushes past the swimming area, then a 200-foot carry to decent river access, where it's somewhat rocky. Doing so on the left (east) side is much shorter, just go up and over the levee.

ON THE INTERMEDIATE RIVER:

One can put in at River Street access above the dam, where there's a concrete slab launch, short dock, parking, and no restroom. (Directions: from downtown Bellaire at the bridge over the river on M-88 (Bridge Street), take it 0.2 miles to Forest Home Avenue. Turn right (east) and go 850 feet to River Street. Turn right (south) and go 500 feet to the access site.) You're putting in on the dam pond just below where the river enter the pond. The dam is just 900 feet downstream. From there, it's 1.7 miles to Lake Bellaire.

One can put in access below the dam on the right (west) side of the river. Park at the parking lot north of the dam and swimming area off Antrim Street at a city park. Restrooms. From here it's 1.7 miles to Lake Bellaire.

Or put in at the Ohio Street Boat Launch, where there's a hard-surface launch, two short docks, and parking. (Directions: This site is not far west of the Stone Waters Inn on Bridge Street (M-88) in downtown Bellaire. Go west from the Inn through a parking lot to Ohio Street.) From here, it's 1.4 miles along the river to Lake Bellaire.

If you are going on to the Grass River, once on Lake Bellaire, travel 1.5 miles south along the east shore to the entrance to Grass River.

See the next section for access sites on Lake Bellaire.
Section Length Time Map More details
Grass River: Lake Bellaire to Clam Lake 2.6 miles 1.3 hours (if one could do the whole river, and just the river) Map
of area
Both the "lower" Intermediate River (covered above) and Grass River are part of the much longer Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, a seventy-five-mile-long waterway consisting of fourteen lakes and seven connecting rivers. It starts with "upper" Intermediate River above Scotts and Beals Lake, and ultimately empties into Lake Michigan.

THE RIVER:

Essentially, this is a continuation of the Intermediate River.

A mild river with only light development along its banks (homes and their docks), and lined with wetland and woods.

A common trip is to start in Lake Bellaire, take this river, and end on Clam Lake. Sometimes this river is used as part of a larger trip, such as starting on the Intermediate River, traveling through Lake Bellaire, taking this river, traveling through Clam Lake, and ending on Torch Lake.

If you start at the Ohio Street Boat Launch on the Intermediate River and end your trip at the Clam Lake public boat launch access, the total trip is 1.4 + 1.5 + 2.6 + 1.6 = 7.1 miles (4 river miles and 3.1 lake miles)

ACCESS POINTS:

ON LAKE BELLAIRE:

If you want to start on Lake Bellaire, then paddle down to the entrance of the Grass River...

(If needed, beside the two below, there are two other carry-in access sites to Lake Bellaire, both north of the Kearney Township public access mentioned below. There is the one at the west end of North Lakes Road, and another on the north end of Fisherman's Paradise Road at the Antrim County park called Notewares Landing. Web page for Noteware's Landing)

Lake Bellaire Kearney Township public access — There's a very simple, 30-feet-wide grassy carry-in access (only) site with five wooden steps to water. There's a sandy path in the water between the rocks at the shore. Parking for threee vehicles, no restroom. Good for kayakers. (Directions: It's just north of the DNR access site, below, on the west end Fisherman's Paradise Road, off of M-88, 1.9 miles south of Bellaire. Drive in and go to the end of the road.) It's 0.6 miles SSW along the east shore of the lake to the entrance to the river.

Lake Bellaire DNR boat launch access — There's a DNR access site with hard-surface launch, short dock, parking, and restrooms. A Recreational Passport is required. Good for boats on a trailer. (Directions: It's very near the west end Fisherman's Paradise Road, off of M-88, 1.9 miles south of Bellaire. Drive in and go 1200 feet to the access road for the site on the left (south).) It's 0.6 miles SSW along the east shore of the lake to the entrance to the river.

ALONG THE START OF THE RIVER:

Grass River Road access — There's easy dirt/grass carry-in access at the west end of Grass River Road, with off-road parking only, no restroom. (Directions: 3 miles south of Bellaire on M-88 at a 90 degree bend is Grass River Road. Turn it west 0.4 miles to the access site.) Starting here cuts off the first 0.7 miles of the river. But the river is mild enough you can paddle upstream if you like, to take in the whole river.

NEAR THE END OF THE RIVER:

Grass River Natural Area access — This is access is from within the Grass River Natural Area. It's 0.3 miles before the end of the river (and start of Clam Lake). There is a deck along the Grass River (NNW of Post 20) for fishing and carry-in boat access. (See the Dock Access Trail from Post 20.) Kayak access was actually easier (grass/dirt at the river's edge) next to the observation deck at the northern point of the Sedge Meadow trail (NNE of Post 20). Use these only if you want to carry a boat aways, around 0.4 miles

ON CLAM LAKE:

Clam Lake public boat launch access — There's a hard-surface township boat launch on Clam Lake with a short dock, parking, and restroom. (By car, it's off of the southeast corner of Clam Lake Road.) On the water, it's 1.6 miles northwest along the north shore of the lake from the mouth of the river.

JORDAN RIVER

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NOTES:

  • It's said the Jordan River has the purest water of any lower Michigan river.
  • This river is 24.8 miles long. It starts in the northeastern area of Antrim County, just a little southwest of the intersection of M-32 and US-131 (maybe 10 miles NNE of Alba).
  • The starting point is many miles to the east of the main navigable portion, which starts at Graves Crossing Road off M-66 in central Antrim County.
  • The river ends where it empties into the south arm of Lake Charlevoix at East Jordan, in southwestern Charlevoix County.
  • The paddle-able portion is 10.8 miles long.
  • The average gradient is 6 feet per mile, faster for the first third, slower for the last two-thirds of the main trip.
  • Even during a dry summer, the level of the water does not become too shallow (like some stretches of the Upper Platte, Upper Betsie, and Crystal River).
  • But be careful, though, because during the spring the upper section (Section 1) can be very quick!

  • Map of Jordan River and details from the DNR

  • The quickest way to the Jordan River area from Traverse City – take US-31 north out of the city to M-72, east to Kalkaska to M-131/M-66, north through Mancelona. Just past Mancelona on the north side, M-66 (aka Mancelona East Jordan Road) splits off and heads straight north. From here, it's:
    • 7.1 miles to Pinney Bridge Road (which heads east to a very upper part of the river),
    • 8.6 miles to Graves Crossing Road,
    • 10.6 miles to Old State Road,
    • 13.0 miles to Webster Bridge Road,
    • 16.7 miles to Rogers Road,
    • 18.0 miles to Bridge Street in East Jordan.

  • If necessary, use one of the local boat liveries to help shuttle cars. Two nearby are:
Section Length Time Map More details
Graves Crossing Road bridge to Rogers Road bridge (combined trip of sections 1, 2, and 3 below) 8.8 miles 2.5 to 3 hours Map of area

Map of river
This is the main trip. All along the river it's pretty wild and undeveloped with only about a dozen homes.

Shuttle roads: Rogers Road, M-66, and Graves Crossing Road.

Rogers Road is just south of East Jordan about 1.5 miles. Graves Crossing Road (the starting point) is about 8.1 miles south of Rogers Road via M-66.

Graves Crossing Road bridge to Lake Charlevoix (combined trip of sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 below) 10.8 miles 3.3 to 3.8 hours Map This is an extended trip, adding "Rogers Road to Lake Charlevoix" to the end of the main trip.

Shuttle roads: M-32, Bridge Street, M-66, and Graves Crossing Road.

Section 1.
Graves Crossing Road to Old State Road
2.4 miles Less than an hour Map THE RIVER:

The river above Graves Crossing is too small and covered with tree-fall to be navigable, and I'm told boats are not allowed, anyway.

Like most narrow rivers in the woods, expect occassional tree-fall in, and perhaps across, the river, especially in early spring. (The canoe/kayak liveries and others will likely clear a path by the summer.)

The clear and cold water is as fast or faster than the Upper Platte River and with plenty of tight turns – not for beginners. During the water's higher levels, you might see "a drop or two" of water find its way into your boat.

Immediately past the two culverts at Old State Road, the exiting swirling water offers a bit of a fun challenge. On occassion, this has offered the less experienced paddler a swim.

Beginners should start at the access just below the Old State Road bridge (aka the Chestonia bridge).

ACCESS:

Graves Crossing Road access — carry-in access on the northwest corner.

Old State Road access —carry-in access on on the northeast corner. Roadside parking only. (AKA the Chestonia bridge.)

Shuttle roads: Old State Road, M-66, and Graves Crossing Road

Section 2.
Old State Road to Webster Bridge Road
3.5 miles 1.2 hours Map THE RIVER:

For this section the river is fairly mild.

At 2.1 miles along there's some form of light-duty bridge. Google Map of site.

ACCESS:

Webster Bridge Road access — carry-in access on the northeast corner, a few hundred feet north of the bridge.

Shuttle roads: Webster Bridge Road, M-66, and Old State Road

Section 3.
Webster Bridge Road to Rogers Road
2.9 miles

Along the way, it's 2.2 miles to the alternate Alba Road access.
1.1 hours Map THE RIVER:

For this section the river is fairly mild.

There's a former electric weir immediately past the Alba Road access (2.2 miles along) that prevented lamrpey eels from getting upriver. I've read it's been removed, but when it was present and turred on (usally Labor Day through July 15th) it required a very short portage.

Alternate access...

If needed, at 2.2 miles along is the alternate Alba Road access — carry-in access on the east side of the river at the west end of Alba Road.

ACCESS:

Rogers Road access — carry-in access on the northeast corner.

Shuttle roads: Rogers Road, M-66, and Webster Bridge Road

Section 4.
Rogers Road to Lake Charlevoix
2.0 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.3 miles to where Deer Creek enters the river.

• 1.9 miles to M-32.
0.8 hours Map THE RIVER:

If you like, add another 2 miles of river to the trip by going past Rogers Road to the sourthen tip of the south arm of Lake Charlevoix at East Jordan. The river passes through wetland and several nature preserves.

But the river is also very slow and flat. There is litte scenery and it's more open so paddlers are vulnerarble to strong winds. This section is not as pretty or exciting as the sections above..

At 0.3 miles along Deer Creek enters on the right (east). It comes from Patricia Lake, 0.7 miles upstream. It looks like one could paddle this creek, except it might be shallow and have a little bit of tree-fall to climb over.

ACCESS:

Lake Charlevoix public launch access — there's a paved boat ramp at southern tip of the lake. (When paddling, once past the M-32 bridge hug the left shore of the lake for 0.1 miles to the ramp.)

Directions: To get to the Lake Charlevoix public launch, take M-66 to Bridge Street in East Jordan, then take that to M-32. The entrance to the launch is 200 feet east.

Shuttle roads: M-32, Bridge Street, M-66, Rogers Road

LITTLE MANISTEE RIVER

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NOTES:

  • The Little Manistee is a National Wild and Scenic Study River.
  • The river starts in eastern central Lake County, a few miles southeast of Luther. It flows west to M-37, then northwest, cuts across the northeastern corner of Mason County, then runs through the southwestern corner of Manistee County.
  • It may be called "little" but this river is 67 miles long. The paddle-able portion is 41 miles long, though most folks will only want to paddle the last 7.8 miles (ESE of Stronach).
  • This is a cooler, spring-fed river.
  • Gradient:
    • Indian Bridge to 9 Mile Bridge — 6 feet per mile.
    • 9 Mile Bridge (Skocelas Road) to Six Mile Bridge — 14 feet per mile (faster than the averages for the Pine or the Upper Platte!)
    • 6 Mile Bridge to Old Stronach Bridge — 4 feet per mile.
  • Although a popular trout stream, this river does not see anywhere near the amount of paddling traffic that other nearby rivers (such as the Pine, Pere Marquette, and big Manistee) receive.
  • Avoid the lower section during the thick of Salmon season (most of September and some of October) to avoid conflicts and hook hazards with anglers.
  • For the upper sections and especially middle section, the total trip time will be significantly more than the estimated paddle time given due to all the tree-fall and other obstructions to deal with and/or portage around. It's best to assume they are not regularly maintained for paddling, so expect lots of tree-fall and other hazards
  • For ALL sections, regardless of your skill level, always investigate the current conditions ahead of time before committing yourself.
  • A caution from Paddling.net and the Old Grade to 6 Mile portion – "One word of caution about this river, it seems that this river was used for logging earlier in it's history. There are many places where the old logging flume posts are still in place. Some extend out of the water and some are under it's surface. Most of these are 2-3" diameter logs driven into the river bed. They can be challenging to notice until you are right on them and the current will easily push you up onto them. Getting off them can be little tricky but the bigger problem is the old spike nails in some of them. I put a very deep 8" scratch in my hull on day one that went almost all the way through. After that I made sure to steer clear of these old logging flumes."
  • Little Manistee Watershed Conservation Council Web site
  • Map from the USDA

I divide the river into four portions...

I. The upper-most reaches...

At the Old Grade National Forest campground on M-37 a few miles north of Wolf Lake on the north side of the river and west side of the highway, just north of 4 1/2 Mile Road (Google Map of site), there is no official access. But one can get to the river perhaps from some camp sites, and for sure via a short walk in the woods from the loop in the road at the west end. There's a small "Overflow Parking Lot" for maybe four cars just before the camping area where you could park. During highwater in the spring, the river can be 50 to 70 feet wide and a few feet deep. But normally, the width and depth is closer to half of that, and like the USDA page says, "Canoeing is not recommended on this portion of the river as it is very shallow. However, this area is popular with angkers seeking trout."

There is also access at Spencer Bridge on Peacock Trail just north of 5 Mile Road (Google Map of site). There are a few steps to the river, a small parking area, and a restroom at a DNR fishing access site. During highwater in the spring, the river can be 25 feet wide and a four feet deep. But normally, the width and depth is closer to two-thirds of that. The over-growth in spring is present but not nearly as abundant as it is during the summer.

Although there is access "up here," the river this far up is very small, often quite choked by fallen trees, and at points, lots of over-growth — so it's not easily navigable and not covered below. From Paddling.net – this section is NOT for first time kayaker/canoers. The river is always running fast and you never know what is around the curve. It could definitely be dangerous. Even intermediate paddlers will have trouble fighting the current and getting through the 4-foot path occassionly cut through the deadfall.

II. Upper Sections 1, 2, and 3...

More needs to be learned about the three upper sections above 9 Mile Bridge. But it seems easy to say, these sections are not recommeded for beginners. Compared to the very challenging Middle Section, these sections have tamer water. But they also have many tight bends and lots of tree-fall and other obstructions to go over and around. The river is also narrow and normally quite shallow, and can be high in the spring making everything trickier. The details are below.

III. Middle Section...

Those looking for very challenging experience will enjoy the Middle Section. Recommended for advanced and adventurous paddlers only.

IV. Lower Section...

Those looking for an easier experience will enjoy the Lower Section.


Section Length Time Map More details
Upper section 1

Indian Bridge (Irons Road) to the the Fox Bridge (Bass Lake Road)
8.8 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 3.3 miles to Johnson Bridge (Johnson Road).

• 7.6 miles to Dewitts Bridge (Granger Road).
3 hours (paddle time) Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

Some claim you can start a paddle trip as high as Indian Bridge (and some even say M-37), but the river is quite narrow, shallow, with many tight turns and numerous logjams and fallen trees to go over or around. High water in early spring can make some sharp bends challenging for novices. And there can be trees and shrubs overhanging the river. Also expect many areas of fast water and long riffles. Not recommeded for beginners.

ACCESS:

Indian Bridge (Iron Road) access – carry-in access at the northeast corner at any of several sets of short stairways, parking, restroom. DNR access site. (South of Irons, on Irons Road at the northeast corner.)

There are two intermediate access points along the way, but very likely neither will be needed:

Johnson Bridge (Johnson Road) access – carry-in access down a short path and an easy bank and shallow river edge right off the road at the southwest corner. Very limited roadside parking. (On Johnson Road south of Irons.)

Dewitts Bridge (Granger Road) access – there is only fair carry-in access down a four-foot grassy slope from the east edge of the road to the river. Limited roadside parking only. (Granger Road just north of River Road.)

Fox Bridge (Bass Lake Road) access – carry-in access down a wide 100-foot path, very small parking area, no restroom. Fox Bridge is sometimes called the "10 Mile NE Bridge." (On Bass Lake Road (CR 669) on the southeast corner.)


Upper section 2

Fox Bridge (Bass Lake Road) to Bear Track Campground access
6.1 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.7 miles to Poggensee Bridge (aka Pole Brdge) at 10 Mile Road (aka Mitchell Road).

• 2.2 miles to Driftwood Valley Day Use Area.

• 5.4 to 18 Mile Bridge on 11 Mile Road.
2.3 hours (paddle time) Map of area

Map of river
(using 11 Mile Road as end point)

THE RIVER:

The river is paddle-able, but the water is shallow and with several sweepers and submerged logs, says Paddlng Michigan. There are fast and slow portions and some tricky tight bends, says Canoeing Michigan Rivers. Not recommeded for beginners.

Even in spring some portions of the river were quite narrow (15 feet) with a large volume (four feet deep or more), twisting, and nearly covered with over-growth. This is easy to see just downriver from the Poggensee Bridge, for example. Then other portions can be unusually wide (50 to 70 feet) as the river overflows its normal banks. This adds additional hazards, such as stumps and logs both fixed and floating in the river.

From Paddling.net – (This secfion of) "the Little Manistee is a narrow, twisty river, challenging but passable. This section was well maintained, apparently by local livery services. Some cuts were barely wider than a canoe but it was never necessary to portage. Being so narrow, it did require close attention to stay in the river and not in the brush. This is not a river where you can just idly float with the current. Beginner and novice paddlers would probably find the Little Manistee frustrating. Constant curves and eddies easily pull the unwary into brush heaps and log jams. This river requires solid boat handling skills and a confident, assertive paddling style. On the other hand, it's a fun river and when approached with the right attitude, a terrific outing."

Intermediate access – There is one (and maybe two) access point(s) along the way, if needed...

Poggensee Bridge (10 Mile Road) access — At Poggensee Bridge (aka Pole Bridge) on 10 Mile Road (aka Mitchell Road) access and parking are poor. But to the west the road runs parallel to the river and 1000 feet west of the bridge there is very easy carry-in access and parking for one or two vehicles.

Driftwood Valley access — Perhaps 0.3 miles past the Poggensee Bridge there is carry-in access at the Driftwood Valley Day Use Area (a former USFS campground). There are no signs for this area, just a wider gravel road with a "5986" forest road sign to mark it. At the end of the 600-foot access road is a loop, and from the north end of that loop is a short footpath and a wooden stairway to the river. From the river this area can be difficult to spot. In the river on the right are stones piled ino a partial dam. On the left are wooden stairs going up the bank. If you end your trip here, be sure to mark it well. (Parking but no restroom.)

Note: There is no access at 18 Mile Bridge (11 Mile Road).

ACCESS:

Use Bear Track Campground access for the end-point for this section, it's just 0.7 miles downstream of 18 Mile Bridge (11 Mile Road).

Bear Track Campground access — Just 0.7 miles downstream of 18 Mile Bridge on 11 Mile Road is the USFS Bear Track Campground. It's a good camping option for paddlers and provides carry-in access., parking, and restrooms. (The best access is from the north side of the group camping area down a stairway to the river.) There's a small fee for day use of the area. (Although the campground is only open (maintained and fee collected) from May 9 to September 29, you still have access to the river outside of those dates.)
• Bear Track Campground Web site.
• Google Map of Bear Track Campground.

Directions: From the Skocelas Road access, go south 0.15 miles to Riverside Drive. Turn left (southeast) and go 4.2 miles FR 5518. Turn left (north) and go 0.25 miles to the campground.

(Note: If needed, 11 Mile Road is just 0.15 miles to the southeast of FR 5518 on Riverside Drive.)

Shuttle road: River Road on the south side of the river back to Bass Lake Road and the Fox Brdge access.


Upper section 3

Bear Track Campground access to 9 Mile Bridge (Skocelas Road)
12.3 miles 4.4 hours (paddle time) Map of area

Map of river (using 11 Mile Road as start point)
THE RIVER:

In this section the river moves a little faster and there are occassional sweepers, low-hanging branches, and some narrow passasges; basic skills will see you through, says Paddlng Michigan. Assuming it's like the next (middle) section (9 Mile to 6 Mile) and not regularly maintained for paddling, expect lots of tree-fall and other hazards. So beginners will not be comfortable here – they should stick to the two lower sections.

ACCESS:

9 Mile Bridge (Skocelas Road) access — carry-in access at the southwest corner, parking, no restrrom. (The bridge here is called the 9 Mile Bridge.)

Directions: from the north side of Manistee at the intersection of US-31 and M-55, take M-55 east 9 miles to Skocelas Road. Turn tight (south) and go 5.5 miles through a bend to the east then a bend to the south to the river, bridge, access, and parking.

Note: Skocelas Road becomes Campbell Road on the south side of the river.

Shuttle road: Riverside Drive on the south side of the river.

Middle section...

9 Mile Bridge (Skocelas Road) to Six Mile Bridge Road
6.0 miles 2.0 - 2.5 hours (paddle time) Map of area

Map of river

Note: The bridge at Skocelas Road is called the 9 Mile Bridge.

THE RIVER:

This section is known as a "high quality trout fishery" because of all the tree-fall in the river that helps create habitat for the fish.

This section is "home to the river's most lively and challenging water," says Paddlng Michigan. It's "one of the fastest and most challenging in the Lower Peninsula," says Canoeing Michigan Rivers.

This section is recommended for advanced and adventurous paddlers only.

Quite fast and tricky water, some class 1 rapids (approaching class 1I during highwatrer times), several types obstructions, large rocks, leaning trees, narrow passages, and challenging turns are in store. Fast water and very tight turns make a dangerous combination as the current will push you right into whatever the outside of the turns has to offer – often something that will test your skills. Novices should expect to dunk more than once on this section. Skilled paddlers may enjoy the challenge.

Yet, reports from three experts has yielded the following (vowing they were not likely to do this section again)...

The water can be quite fast, the turns are many and tight, and there can be several large piles of uncleared tree-fall in or across the river just where you do not expect or want them. In some cases you will have to paddle upstream a significant distance just to find a possible place in the thick brush to portage around the obstructions. For advanced paddlers only and you will need to feel comfortable playing in class 2 water, and know how to back ferry and do eddy turns.

The biggest issue is with many areas of uncleared tree-fall across the river, therefore needing to portage around it, often through thick vegetation. The many deep holes don't help with exiting and entering your boat. There are also plenty of sweepers and submerged logs. Apparently, volunteers occasionally clear this section and occasionally the water level may be down and slower. But DO NOT expect this to be the case. If you do want to try it, make sure you are a "more advanced" paddler and be sure to thoroughly investigate beforehand the current conditions.

From Paddling.net –

Account #1 – "Do not kayak the section of the river between 9 Mile Bridge and 6 Mile Bridge!!!!! I saw several places where even a very good kayaker could experience a fatality - you need to take this seriously. When I got back to the Baldwin office/national ranger station for the Manistee Forest I advised them of what I had experienced before pulling out to save my life, and they advised me that they tell everyone who asks, not to venture on that stretch of river - it is not maintained, and is quite frankly, very dangerous."

Account #2 – "the section between nine mile bridge and six mile bridge could easily eat any beginning paddler. Hairpin turns, combined with logjams, and several short rapids made for an extremely sore following day. a DNR officer seemed very surprised that we did not have any spills. Normally beginners and sometimes even us have as many as three to four on this trip!"

Account #3 – "The warning posted at the DNR launch site made it clear that this was a very challenging section of river. It warned of impassible log jams, rapids and dangerous conditions and advised paddlers to be prepared for sudden, unexpected capsizing, to bring dry clothing and be knowledgeable in self-rescue techniques. There were plenty of dead falls and log jams sure, but cuts–some of them quite fresh–were obvious. Not that the river was 100% clear–there were several "squeekers" that required careful maneuvering. About 20 minutes below 9 Mile, the rapids begin. While a few approach Class III, none of them were particularly problematic or required a whole lot of skill. It was what was waiting for us just below that posed the problem. Many of these rapids ended in hairpin curves. These sharp turns pushed any logs and debris into huge piles along the outside of the curve. Tried to pull our kayaks in, too. Strong eddies in the curves made navigating through these obstacles all the more challenging. Frequently the passage between the jam and the inside shore was a mere 3 or 4 feet. More than once I found myself twisted around by the eddies, my bow jammed into the sand on the inside of the curve and my stern exposed to the current behind. The 9 Mile to 6 Mile stretch is hardly the suicidal undertaking implied by some of the published reports. It is a section of river to be treated with respect and not to be attempted by novice paddlers. It would be easy to get into some real trouble, real fast if you're not careful. Or even if you are. Use the buddy system. A challenging river, the 9 Mile to 6 Mile stretch is not for the novice, over all a lot of fun for those with solid boat handling skills and a sense of adventure."

Account #4 – "It was very fun but very challenging for us new ones. I would not recommend for young children at all. Lots of obstacles and shallow water with tight turns. We did tip a few times but with some strong guys to help get out it can be alot of fun. I would do it again but not for everyone."

Account #5 – "(I) talked to several groups putting in here who all indicated the river gets moving along pretty fast and the navigation gets tricky. 20 minute from 9 mile (bridge) the river started to pick-up speed and really get moving. Tight turns with log jams and small cuts through log jams just inside current lines became the norm for about an hour or so. John had a couple of close calls but nothing serious, the current was very strong and fast. I'm sure many people end up swimming on this section of river. I was surprised at the number of people padding this section without PFD's on. It was pretty shallow for the most part but many places were a swim might happen were pretty deep. We took no chances and in the end no swimming was the result."

ACCESS:

Six Mile Bridge Road access — carry-in access on the northwest (or northeast) corner.

Directions: from the north side of Manistee at the intersection of US-31 and M-55:
• Take M-55 east 9 miles to Skocelas Road.
• Turn tight (south) and go 2.6 miles to Bridge Road (aka 6 Mile Bridge Road).
• Turn right (west by SW) and go 1 mile to Little River Drive.
• Turn right (west) and go 650 feet to 6 Mile Bridge Road.
• Turn left (SSW) and go 0.2 miles to river, bridge, access, and parking (just up the hill northeast of the access point).

NOTE: Google Maps currently has a few mistakes:
1. North of the river, they show 6 Mile Bridge Road not connecting to Little Manistee River Drive. But, in fact, it DOES, as you can see in the satellite view.
2. West of 6 Mile Bridge Road they have Little Manistee River Drive 500 feet too far south, and do not show Little Manistee River Drive's connection to its west section.

Shuttle roads:

  • South way – use County Line Road on the south side of the river.
  • North way – use 6 Mile Bridge Road, Little Manistee River Drive (a very short ways), Bridge Road, and Skocelas Road on the north side of the river.

Lower section...

Six Mile Bridge Road to Old Stronach Road
5.7 miles

Along the way, it's 2.1 miles to the DNR weir.
2.0 - 2.5 hours Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

And now for something completely different, or at least more managable for most paddlers. The first third of this section starts out like the Upper Betsie with a few obtructions but easily avoided with some intermediate level skills. The second tw-thirds is a slower, wider, and fairly tame, so it's like easy sections of the lower Betsie River.

During low water times (like a dry August), watch for submerged stumps lurking just below the surface.

At 2.1 miles along is the DNR weir – go through it if open, or portage around if closed. If they are catching salmon, it's fun to see the operation. The portage area on the right (north) is a good lunch spot. (Although this is not an official access site, the left (south) side just downstream of the weir could be used as one if needed.)

ACCESS:

Old Stronach Road access — carry-in access on the southwest (or southeast) corner.

Directions
to Old Stronach Road access site from the north side of Manistee at the intersection of US-31 and M-55:
• Take M-55 SE 3 miles to Franklin Road.
• Turn right (south) and go 1.0 mile to Steinberg Road.
• Turn left (east) and go 1.0 mile to Helen Road.
• Turn right (south) and go 0.2 miles to Stronach Road.
• Turn left (SW) and go 0.4 miles to Old Stronach Road.
• Turn left (east) and go 0.3 miles – just past the river, on the right side of the road, is the parking lot for the access site.

Shuttle roads — See the map of the area for help.

  • South way – Take Old Stronach Road (there is access to the weir along the route) to 6 Mile Bridge Road.
  • North way – Take Little Manistee River Road (which has a great viewing spot looking south along the way) to 6 Mile Bridge Road.

NOTE: Google Maps has a few mistakes:
1. North of the river, they show 6 Mile Bridge Road not connecting to Little Manistee River Drive. But, in fact, it DOES, as you can see in the satellite view.
2. West of 6 Mile Bridge Road they have Little Manistee River Drive 500 feet too far south.
3. They do not show Little Manistee River Drives conneciton to it west secion

See section above for directions straight to Six Mile Bridge Road access.


Lower trip extension...

Old Stronach Road to Water Street
2.1 miles

Along the way, it's ...

• 0.7 miles – what is that across the river? (map)

• 1.1 miles – is that another footbridge?

• 1.4 miles to the railroad bridge
About an hour Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

If you want to extend your trip about an hour, add this section. The river is tame but it's a nice undeveloped marshland area.

(Or, go another 0.2 miles past the Water Street bridge and you'll be out in Manistee Lake...!)

ACCESS:

Water Street access — carry-in access on the northeast corner. Slight slope, sandy. No parking, no restroom. Access off of 6th Avenue near Water Street.

Water Street is also known as Huer Hill Road and Filer City Road south of the village of Stronach, and Eastlake Road north of the village.

A much better take-out point is the DNR's Stronach Boat Launch not far away on Manistee Lake.

The railroad that crosses the river and passes through Stronach – goes all the way around the north of Manistee Lake, feeds the city of Manistee, and comes all the back down the west side of the lake to Filer City.

MANISTEE RIVER

Back to River List


NOTES:

  • The Manistee River begins in southeastern Antrim County, cuts across the southwestern corner of Otsego County, runs south through Crawford County, SW then south across southern Kalkaska County, cuts across the northwestern corner of Missaukee County, flows west then SW through northern Wexford County, SW and west across southern Manistee County, through Manistee Lake, west through the City of Manistee, and into Lake Michigan.
  • As you can tell, the Manistee is a long river — 232 miles. And most of the river is navigable – 188 miles from the ghost town of Deward in northwestern Crawford County to Lake Michigan at the west side of the city Manistee in southwestern Manistee County.
  • Average gradient: 4 feet per mile.
  • Expect wading anglers above the Lower Sharon Bridge and powered fishing boats below. That gives you rough idea of the river's width and depth, as well.
  • Map of Upper Manistee River and details from the DNR
  • Brochure and map from the USDA
  • A few of many canoe liveries for the upper portions: Chippewa Landing Shel-Haven, Smithville Landing. and Long's Canoe Livery.
Section Length Time Map More details
C-38 (Mancelona Road) to Cameron Bridge Road (combined trip of sections 1 and 2 below) 9.4 miles 5 hours Map of area

Map of river #1

Map of river #2
NOTE: Most padlders (and perhaps most humans) will not want to do this trip.

Shuttle roads: Deward Road on the west side of the river or Manistee Road on the east side of the river.

Very adventurous trip:

Section 1.
C-38 (Mancelona Road) to Deward (wildlife viewing area)
5.8 miles Perhaps 3.3 hours Map of area

Map of river — see first 2/3 of maps for combined trip above
THE RIVER:

The Manistee River gets its start a few miles north of Mancelona Road, about 11 miles east of Mancelona. The earliest part of the river one can conceivably paddle begins at Mancelona Road. It's possible, but with many portages around log jams, beaver dams to climb over, and plenty of "knee-deep muck!"

NOTE: Most padlders (and perhaps most humans) will not want to do this section.

"Where this trip starts the river is less than a foot deep and about 12 feet wide. As you work your way downstream, the river becomes a little wider and the log jams fewer. Expect some beaver dams that span the entire stream. (If you paddle really hard an hit each dam in just the right spot, you can slide up and over like a river otter on a snow bank.)"

ACCESS:

Mancelona Road access – carry-in access on the south side of the road. Roadside parking only.

Directions: Go about 10.8 miles east of Mancelona on C-38 (Mancelona Road), down a large hill, and look for a small, shallow, unnamed stream that runs under the road through a culvert. It's about 0.3 miles past Deward Road (called Old Lake Harold Lake on the north side of C-38).

Deward access – from the small parking area, there's carry-in access down a a 700-foot path to the river.

Directions: On the east side of the river, take Manistee River Road about 2.6 miles north of Cameron Bridge Road (and just south of the ghost town of Deward at Post Road) and look for the "binoculars" sign at a two-track on the west side of the road. That goes down to a very small parking lot. There's a trail to a wildlife viewing area, and it's only a 700-foot carry to the river.

Shuttle road: Manistee Road on the east side of the river.

Web page about the Deward area. (Note, their instructions have a mistake -- you turn LEFT (West) off Manistee Road at the two-track with the "binoculars" sign.)

(Thanks to John Heiam and Lois Goldstein for some of this information, as they've done this section of the river!)

Somewhat adventurous trip:

Section 2.
Deward (wildlife viewing area) to Cameron Bridge Road
3.6 miles

(9.4 miles total, so far.)
Perhaps 1.6 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

The river here is just barely large enough for canoeing, says Canoeing Michigan Rivers. The depth is 1 to 2 feet with deeper holes.

"About an hour upstream of Cameron Bridge the obstacles end and the paddling becomes considerably easier. At that point the river is still crystal clear with a sand bottom."

One should still expect some tree-fall, log jams, hidden stumps, and other obstacles for the first part of this section.

Shel-Haven canoe livery starts customers here, so they (and other liveries) may keep this section clear. Stop by their A-frame store on the northeast corner of the Manistee River and M-72 and ask them about the current conditions.

ACCESS:

Deward access: see Section1 above.

Cameron Bridge Road access – carry-in access at the northwest corner of the bridge. Limited parking along the road. (Cameron Bridge Road is 2 miles north of County Road 612.)

Shuttle road: Manistee Road on the east side of the river

(Thanks to John Heiam and Lois Goldstein for some of this information, as they've done this section of the river!)

Main trips:
Section 3.
Cameron Bridge Road to Red Bridge #1 (County Road 612)
2.3 miles

(11.7 miles total, so far.)
Perhaps an hour Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

Cameron Bridge Road appears to be the best starting point for most paddlers.

Use this section to extend the start of your section 4 "Red Bridge to M-72" trip by a few miles (about an hour).

(More adventurous paddlers may want to extend the beginning of their trip even further another few hours by starting at the Deward access — see Section 2 just above for details.)

For the next 25 miles the river is 30 to 70 feet wide, 1 to 4 feet deep, with a few deeper holes, and a sand and gravel bottom. According to the Canoeing Michigan Rivers book, the river from here to M-72 is "small, slow moving, meandering, clear, and beautiful," But expect occassional sunken logs, hidden stumps, and treefall.

Assuming this section is like Section 4, even after a hard rain, this section is relatively slow, like the Lower Platte and therefore OK for novices.

ACCESS:

Red Bridge #1 (County Road 612) access – good carry-in access on the southeast corner. There's decent parking alongside but off the road just the east of the river. If needed, there's more parking just west of the bridge on the north side of the road.

(Note – this Red Bridge should not be confused with the other Red Bridge just above the Tippy Dam where Coates Highway crosses the Manistee River – see Sections 17 and 18 below.)

Shuttle road: Manistee Road on the east side of the river.

Section 4.
Red Bridge #1 (County Road 612) to M-72
9.1 miles

(20.8 miles total, so far.)
3.6 hours Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

The river from here to M-72 is "small, slow moving, meandering, clear, and beautiful," says the Canoeing Michigan Rivers book. The river is 1 to 4 feet deep and 35 to 70 feet wide. But expect occassional sunken logs, hidden stumps, and treefall.

Even after a hard rain, this section is relatively slow, like the Lower Platte and therefore OK for novices. The water is clear, but after a hard rain it can become redish from tannins aquired via run-off through nearby vegetation. This section has a nice wild feel to it for most of the trip. There are few state campgrounds along the way, and for about the last quarter there are homes/cottages on both sides.

Several times the river splits into two channels, most are very short. But one such split, that starts about half-way along (with a sign about Long Canoe Livery), goes on for about a mile. The two channels reunite just below where Goose Creek joins the west channel.

Intermediate access – Along the way, there's also river access at:

Upper Manistee River State Forest Campground at 3.5 miles from Red Bridge. Access to campground is via Goose Creek Road on the west side of the river. (Are there parts of this campground on the east side of the river accessed by Manistee River Road??)
Campground Web site

Google Map of general area

Manistee River Bridge State Forest Campground at 8.5 miles from Red Bridge on the west side of the river. (Are there parts of this campground on the east side of the river accessed by Manistee River Road?) It's just upstream about 0.5 miles from the M-72 bridge. There's said to be good access and parking here.

ACCESS:

M-72 access – good access and parking on the southeast corner.

Shuttle road: Manistee Road on the east side of the River.

Note: Consider extending your trip a few miles (about an hour) at the beginning by starting at Cameron Bridge Road (see the Section 3 just above).


Section 5.
M-72 to CCC Bridge (Sunset Trail)
17.0 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 4 miles to the Yellow Trees Landing

• 4.9 miles to 8.9-mile access site on Portage Creek Road

(37.8 miles total, so far.)
6.8 hours Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

The current is steady with some slow stretches. The river is 40 to 80 feet wide and 4 feet deep with some deeper holes.

The shore is lined with cottages and private property.

The Canoeing Michigan Rivers book says there can be lots of canoe flotillas on summer weekends, and at times lots of fly fisherman. So if you don't mind a little bit of company, you'll have a good time.

Alternate starting point that shaves 0.6 miles off the trip — at the north end of River Dr. — grassy launch down and easy 150-foot path, very limited parking which may be on private land, no restroom. On the east side of the river.

Intermediate access –
Want to shave 4 miles (1.6 hours) off the front end of this section (or extend your Section 4 trip past M-72)? Then start (or take out) at the Yellow Trees Landing on the west side of the river...

Yellow Trees Landing access – carry-in access down a short path and a small parking area.

Directions: On M-72 just 0.4 miles west of the river, take Riverview Road south then southwest 2.1 miles to Yellow Tree Road. Bear left and go 430 feet to accrss road and parking area on left. The river is 150 feet down a path and small hill to the southeast.

There are several more intermediate access points on the east side of the river. Going north from the interesection of Sunset Trail and King at the end of this section, here are some of them...

  • 0.9 miles along — carry-in access down simple path to steps at the river's edge, parking for three cars, just a turn-off from the road, no restroom

  • 1.1 miles along — carry-in access down steps to a platform, parking, full-loop turn-around, no restroom

  • 1.8 miles along — "Burnt Cabin" DNR access site, stairs, boat slide, parking, no restroom

  • At 4.8 miles, King Road becomes Portage Creek Road

  • At 6.2 miles, cross Portage Creek

  • At 8.9 miles, there is carry-in access down a path and a set of stairs, boat slide. Park 200 feet before (SW of) access site on SE side of road. Port-a-pottie. This is 4.9 river miles downstream from M-72.

ACCESS:

CCC Bridge (Sunset Trail) access – good access and parking on left just past the bridge at a public access site (and the second of two campgrounds there). A Michigan Recreational Passport is required to use the campground, and maybe just to park by the river.

Shuttle roads: (Both on the northwest side of the river)

  • Choice 1: Sunset Trail 0.6 miles west to Riverview Road (two-track), then 9.7 miles northeast to M-72, then 0.4 miles east to the river.

  • Choice #2: A little longer than the Riverview Road two-track but faster – Sunset Trail (a nice nice gravel road) west then north 8.3 miles to M-72, then 6.5 miles east to the river.

Section 6.
CCC Bridge (Sunset Trail) Road to Lower Sharon Bridge (West Sharon Road)
10.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.75 miles to the Unnamed DNR access site.

• 4.1 miles to the Three Mile Bend access site.

• 9.0 miles to the Upper Sharon Bridge access on North Sharon Road.

(48.2 miles total, so far.)
3.5 hours Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

The size, speed, and depth of the river is mostly like the previous section.

The Canoeing Michigan Rivers book says this section is less crowded than the previous section, though weekend use can be heavy.

There are just clumps of cottages now, mostly in the last third of the trip.

Very near the end, the North Branch of the Manistee River joins in 400 feet downstream from the "Upper Sharon Bridge" (North Sharon Road).

Beyond that point and the Lower Sharon Bridge, the current increases to moderately fast in places, there is more water volume, expect a few more powered fishing boats and few less canoes, and expect some larger rocks to avoid.

There are two intermediate access sites...

Intermediate access #1 – Want to shave 1.75 miles (0.6 hours) off the front end of this section? Then start (or take out) at here...

Unnamed DNR access site – carry-in access down a few stairs to the river, parking, no restroom.

Directions: From the CCC Bridge at Sunset Trail Road, take Sunset Trail Road 0.3 miles south to King Road. Turn right (west) and go 0.9 miles to the access site on the right (north) site of the road.

Intermediate access #2 – Want to shave 4.1 miles (1.4 hours) off the front end of this section? Then start (or take out) here...

Three Mile Bend – a DNR access site – carry-in access down a few stairs to a woeden platform by the river, parking, port-a-pottie

Directions: From the CCC Bridge at Sunset Trail Road,, take Sunset Trail Road 0.3 miles south to King Road. Turn right (west) and go 2.3 miles to the access site on the right (north) site of the road.

ACCESS:

Near the end, there are two bridges at Sharon:

Upper Sharon Bridge access — at the southeast corner, there's carry-in access via log platform. Even better is to walk under and past the bridge a little for a nicer kayak access. Parking for two cars, no restroom. Also, at the northwest corner, one can go down an easy to hill to a simple grassy launch. Off-road parking only, here, no restroom.

Directions: on North Sharon Road, just 0.3 miles north of West Sharon Road.

Lower Sharon Bridge access — nice access and parking at DNR access site on the west side of the river upstream from the bridge. (Access is via Thayer Road, 900 feet west of the bridge.).

Shuttle roads:

  • Choice 1: The Riverview Road two-track on the north side of the river MAY work, but it's a two track and may be slow and bumpy. (Untested)

  • Choice 2: On the south side of the river, take West Sharon Road east 0.7 miles to Military Road. Go east on it 1.8 miles to King Road (a decent gravel road). Turn left (northeast) and go 3.4 miles to Sunset Trail. Turn left (north) and go 0.3 miles to the river.

Section 7.
Lower Sharon Bridge to Smithville access (near M-66 Bridge)
10.3 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 6.7 miles to the Dutch John Road public access site.

• 9.9 miles to M-66 bridge.

(58.5 miles total, so far.)
3.5 hours Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

Below Sharon, the river may slow a little, and it widens a bit (60-90 feet, and up to 100 feet in spots), and runs 3-4 deep with much deeper holes, some as much as 10 to 12 feet deep.

Note that significantly deep holes like that contiunue for the rest of the river. Poorer swimmers should always wear life jackets and take other precautions.

A general tip for the river — expect wading anglers above the Lower Sharon Bridge and powered fishing boats below. That gives you rough idea of the river's depth, too.

There are occassional high sandy bluffs and peaceful lowlands along the way for this section and many below it.

Intermediate access – Canoeing Michigan Rivers says "one of the few suitable rest stops on this section is a public access site" located 6.7 miles downriver from the Lower Sharon Bridge and accessible by car using Dutch John Road. Watch for this spot for a lunch break, etc.

Dutch John Road access — carry-in access left side of the river. There's a small parking area.

ACCESS:

Smithville access — good access and parking 0.4 miles (perhaps 7 minutes) past the M-66 bridge on the right (north). But be sure to mark this location with a flag (or something similar) and make sure all your group knows where to pull-out. (This is a former state campground. This should not be confused with Smithville Landing, a canoe livery with private access just beyond the bridge on the south side of the river.)

Directions: On M-66 )1 miles south of Lund, and 700 feet north of the river, take Bluebird Drive west. At 150 feet along take Boat Ramp Road straight (west) then south for a total of 0.4 miles to the river, where there's a turn-around at the river and plenty of parking in a nearby grass parking lot. No restroom.

Shuttle Roads: (On the northwest side of the river) Boat Ramp Road, Bluebird Dr, M-66, West Sharon Road.


Smithville.access (near M-66) to Missaukee Bridge (Lucas Road) (combined trip of sections 8 and 9 below 15.0 miles 5 hours Map Shuttle roads: (On the north side of the river) Lucas / Fahrney / Bosscher Road, County Line Road, Shippy Road, Lund Road, M-66, Bluebird Drive, and Boat Ramp Road.

Smithville.access (near M-66) to US-131 bridge (combined trip of sections 8, 9, and 10 below) 27.3 miles 9 hours Map Shuttle roads: (On the north side of the river) US-131, County Line Road, Shippy Road, Lund Road, M-66, Bluebird Drive, and Boat Ramp Road.

Section 8.
Smithville access (near M-66) to Rainbow Jims Bridge (Coster Road)
10.0 miles

(68.5 miles total, so far.)
3.3 hours
(actual float time (3.0 mph). Figure 2.5 hours if you paddle steadily = 4.0 mph)
Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

Below M-66 there's steady current with series of moderately fast riffles, a few larger rocks, and a few submerged logs.. Lots of tree-fall line the shores, but it's very easy to avoid. Fairly high wooded banks alternate with grass meadows. A very pretty, recommended stretch.

There are many fewer paddlers on this section compared to sections above, and a lot fewer cottages, too. than the popular sections upriver. Most of way, there are only a handful of cottages and almost no development. Then near the end there around 20. Most of the banks are state land.

A little ways before Coster Road, the river deepens and slows somewhat.

As a reference, at 1.9 miles before the end, you cross under some high power lines.

ACCESS:

Rainbow Jims Bridge (Coster Road) access – good access and parking at public access site on the southeast corner..

Shuttle roads: (On the north side of the river) Coster Road, Lund Road, M-66, Bluebird Drive, and Boat Ramp Road.

Section 9.
Rainbow Jims Bridge (Coster Road) to Missaukee Bridge (Lucas Road)
5.0 miles

(73.5 miles total, so far.)
1.7 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

Some light riffles, and only a few cottages and other paddlers.

ACCESS:


Missaukee Bridge (Lucas Road) access – good access and parking ar the northwest corner. (Note: Fahrney Road becomes Lucas Road.).

Shuttle roads: (On the north side of the river) 1.1 miles west then north on Lucas / Fahrney / Bosscher Road to County Line Road, 0.5 miles east to Shippy Road, 2 miles north to Lund Road, 1 mile east to Coster Road, then 1.5 miles southeast to bridge.

Section 10.
Missaukee Bridge (Lucas Road) to US-131 Bridge
12.3 miles

Along the way, it's 6.3 miles to Chase Creek.

(85.8 miles total, so far.)
4.1 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

There are alternating short stretches of moderate current and long stretches with slow, deep water.

At 6.3 miles along Chase Creek enters on the left (south).
Google Map of site
Canoeing Michigan Rivers said there were two access sites at the former Chase Creek State Forest Campground, but the roads to get there don't seem to exist according to Google Maps.

ACCESS:


US-131 Bridge access – good access and parking at a public site on the right (west) side of the river. It's about 1000 feet downriver from (after) the private Chippewa Landing on the left (east), and about 800 before the US-131 bridge.

Directions: US-131 crosses the river about 5.5 miles north of Manton. The access road is about 0.4 miles north of the bridge on the right (west) side of the road.

Shuttle roads: (On the north side of the river) US-131, County Line Road, and Bosscher / Fahrney / Lucas Road.
___________________________

If you want to extend your trip, consider an alternate end point 2 miles downriver from the US-131 bridge at the Old US-131 State Forest Campground. See the next section for details.

Section 11.
US-131 Bridge to Baxter Bridge
13.3 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.6 miles to Old US-131 bridge.

• 2.0 miles to Old US-131 campground access.

• 2.9 miles to train bridge.

• 13.0 miles to the Baxter campground access point.

(99.1 miles total, so far.)
4.3 hours Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

Like the section above, there are alternating short stretches of moderate current and long stretches with slow, deep water. Expect some sandy bluffs along the way.

Intermediate access points...

Alternate start point – Do you want to shave 2 miles off the front end of this section (or extend your Section 10 trip past US-131)? Then start (or take out) at the following access site, which is 2 miles downriver from the US-131 bridge...

Old US-131 State Forest Campground access – carry-in access and limited parking.

Directions – from the intersection of County Line Road (No. 2 Road) and US-131 (2miles north of the bridge), take County Line Road just 180 feet northwest to OLD US-131. Turn left (south) and go 1.6 miles to the access road for the campground. Turn right (west) and go 0.3 miles to small parking area. The access site is 200 feet to the southwest (on the southeast side of an open area).

Note: if you keep going straight on Old US-131, 800 feet south is the site for the old US-131 bridge across the river. There is a light-duty bridge there now, used for foot traffic and possibly snowmobiles.
____________________________

Alternate end point
– 0.3 miles upriver from (before) the Baxter Bridge is the Baxter Bridge State Forest Campground and Canoe Camp on the southeast corner.

Baxter Bridge State Forest Campground and Canoe Camp access – carry-in access in the campground. This access site likely only make sense if you're camping here.

ACCESS:

The common end-point access for this section is at Baxter Bridge, which is at 29 1/2 or 31 Road, depending on if you are approaching it from the north or the south...

Baxter Bridge access – gravel launch, parking, and restroom at DNR access site at the northwest corner. This bridge is at 29 1/2 road if approached from the north, and 31 Road if approaced from the south (because just south of the bridge, 31 Road makes a dog-leg to the west and becomes 29 1/2 Road).

Directions to Baxter Bridge from Mesick: From the intersection of 16 Road and M-37 on the east side of Mesick, take 16 Road 9 miles east to 31 Road. Turn left (north) and go 6.3 miles to the river. (31 Road takes a jog to the west near river and becomes 29 1/2 Road.) Cross the bridge, access and parking are on the left (northwest) corner.

Shuttle roads: (On the south side of the river) 31 Road, 10 Road, Business US-131 (Michigan Avenue), US-131.


Baxter Bridge to Harvey Bridge
(combined trip of sections 12 and 13 below)
20.4 miles 5.8 hours
(actual time, based on a combination of half steadily paddling, and half floating = 3.5 mph)
Map

For this (long) trip, you can access both bridges from the north or the south, so the shuttle roads may be different than those used for the individual sections.

Baxter Bridge is at 29 1/2 or 31 Road, depending on if you are approaching it from the north or the south.

Harvey Bridge is at 17 Road or 19 Road, depending on if you are approaching it from the north or the south.

Shuttle roads:
On the north side, use 17 Road, 4 Road, and 29 1/2 Road.
On the south side, use 19 Road, 16 Road, and 31 Road.

Directions for the north route near Buckley: From the intersection of County Line Road and CO 633 at Wexford Center (just north of Buckley), take County Line Road 2 miles east to 17 Road. Turn right (south) and go one mile south to W4 Road. From here, you can go:

  • To the Harvey Bridge to drop off a car at the end point. It's 4.4 miles south on 17 Road to the bridge.

      = OR =

  • To the Baxter Bridge, the starting point. Go east on 4 Road about 7 miles to 29 1/2 Road, then south 1.3 miles to the Baxter Bridge. Park at the DNR access site on the northwest corner.

Directions for the south route east of Mesick: From the intersection of 16 Road and M-37 on the east side of Mesick, take 16 Road 3 miles to 19 Road. From here, you can go:

  • To the Harvey Bridge to drop off a car at the end point. Turn left (north) and go 2.1 miles to the river.

      = OR =

  • To the Baxter Bridge, the starting point. Keep going east on 16 Road for another 6 miles to 31 Road. Turn left (north) and go 6.3 miles to the river. (31 Road takes a jog to the west near river and becomes 29 1/2 Road.) Cross the bridge, access and parking are on the left (northwest) corner.

(Note: Attempts were made to find an earlier place to pull-out place on the north side of the river, creating a shorter trip when accessed from the north, thus avoiding all the travel time involved with the "Baxter Bridge to 23 Road" section. But nothing usable was found. On the north side of the river south of West 4 Road, there are some two-tracks at 23 Road and 21 Road (at West 6 Road) that appear to go close or even right to the river. But the condition of these were lousy at best. No one would be happy driving on those for long.)


Section 12.
Baxter Bridge to 23 Road
11.3 miles

Along the way, it's 6.0 miles to the High Rollways

(110.4 miles total, so far.)
3.2 hours Map of area

Map of river #1

Map of river #2

THE RIVER:

The river is now 60 to 100 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet deep with deeper holes. There is occassional tree-fall on the side, but it's always easily avoided.

There are some high hills and sandy bluffs along the way, including the "High Rollways" – you can drive to the observation area for a great view of the river and far beyond. The North Country Trail passes through the area, as well.

ACCESS:

23 Road access — gravel launch and a small parking area on the left (southeast) side of the river.

NOTE: There is NO BRIDGE at 23 Road — the only access to the river is from the south. And because there's no bridge, it's not easy to identify the take-out location. Hang a red (or bright colored) shirt, flag, or something similar on the trees/bushes to help mark the spot. Be sure to everyone in your group knows to look for the pull-out spot and watches for the flag.

Directions to 23 Road access from Mesick: From the intersection of 16 Road and M-37 on the east side of Mesick, take 16 Road 5 miles east to 23 Road. Turn left (north) and go 3.9 miles to the river. 23 Road is straight but very bumpy (washboard) gravel road, figure 12 minutes travel time on this just one-way.

Shuttle Routes: (All on the south side of the river)

  • Choice 1: Take 12 Road going east from 23 Road. This becomes Kolarvic, then 8 Road, and comes out on 31 Road, then go north to the river. Note: June 2009, about 2 miles east of 23 Road a creek has washed out the road (on Kolarvic), so the road closed there. Has this been fixed?

  • Choice 2: Use 14 Road going east from 23 Road. take it 4 miles east to 31 Road, then 5.3 miles north to the river. This is wider and faster than the 12 Road way.

  • Choice 3: Go back to 16 Road and take it 4 miles east to 31 Road, then 6.3 miles north to the river. This way is longer, but 16 Road and 31 Road are paved.

Section 13.
23 Road to Harvey Bridge
9.1 miles

(119.5 miles total, so far.)
2.6 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

The river is the same as the section above.

ACCESS:

NOTE: There is NO BRIDGE at 23 Road — the only access to the river is from the south.

Harvey Bridge (17/19 Road) access — small boat launch, small parking area separate from launch, restroom. Harvey Bridge is at 17 Road or 19 Road, depending on if you are approaching it from the north or the south.

Shuttle roads: (On the south side of the river) 19 Road, 14 Road, and 23 Road.

Section 14.
Harvey Bridge to Glengarry Bridge
8.7 miles

Along the way ir's 6.0 miles to M-37.

(128.2 miles total, so far.)
2.7 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

The steady current continues, and there some nice clay banks — making finding a lunch/rest stop a little more difficult.

Still wooded, but around M-37 you'll pick up some homes and cottages along the river.

Below M-37 the river begins to widen and slow down a little bit.

ACCESS:

Harvey Bridge is at 17 Road or 19 Road, depending on if you are approaching it from the north or the south.

Glengarry Bridge access — carry-in access and limited parking at the northeast corner.

Directions: Glengarry Bridge is just north of Mesick. From the intersection of Eugene Street and M-115 in Mesick, take Eugene Street 1.2 miles north to the access site just past the bridge on the right (northeast) side of the road. Eugene Street becomes 11 Road along the way.

Shuttle roads: (On the south side of the river) 11 Road / Eugene Street, M-115, M-37, 16 Road, and 19 Road.

Note: In case you're wondering, there is NO access to the river at the M-37 bridge (this area is known as Sherman). However, if needed, Wilderness Canoe Trips on the left (south) immediately past the bridge offers access, supplies, and shuttles.

Section 15.
Glengarry Bridge to Veteran's Memorial Community Park (near M-115 Bridge)
2.1 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.4 miles to the train bridge.

• 1.9 miles to the M-115 bridge.

(130.3 miles total, so far.)
About 50 minutes Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

The river continues widen and slow down, and during low water watch for sandbars and seek out the deeper main channel. On windy days you'll often have a headwind.

The end point is at the Veteran's Memorial Community Park which is just past M-115 Bridge.

ACCESS:

Veteran's Memorial Community Park access — carry-in access with steps at the south end of the park. There's daytime parking and a picnic area. The park is on the southwest corner of the river and M-115.

Shuttle roads: M-115 and Eugene Street/11 Road.

Section 16.
Veteran's Memorial Community Park (near M-115 Bridge) to Hodenpyl Dam
6.9 miles

(137.2 miles total, so far.)
3 to 3.5 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

Most paddlers skip this section. The pond is typically used by boat fishermen and other boaters, but not paddlers.

The river continues to widen as you enter the Hodenpyl Dam backwaters, For about 0.8 miles the river is quite shallow with sandbars forcing you to seek out the main channel. After that you enter the Hodenpyl Dam Pond.

The pond can be difficult due to headwinds on windy days. And there are submerged stumps and logs which can be hidden by waves on windy days.

There are some homes and cottages (and a campground or two) along the northwest shore. For paddlers it seems best to stay close to that as you travel through the pond.

The larger "lake" part of the pond (it's about 2 miles by 0.5 miles in size) starts at 3.4 miles along the way. Google Map of area.

Assuming you're hugging the north shore, for the last 0.5 miles you'll travel south from the paved spillway along the levee to the portage point, which is about 750 feet north of the dam.

ACCESS:

Hodenpyl Dam above-the-dam access — Carry-in access. The portage is on the levee 750 feet north of the dam. There is a large "PORTAGE" sign visible from the middle of the pond. There is no shore here, you have to climb out onto a 2' x 16' wooden platform — which may be tricky when done from kayaks. At least the water is only about 4 feet deep. There's parking and a restroom on the north side of the dam at the end of Blueberry Lane, the Hodenpyl Dam access road.

The 550-foot-long portage path goes up, over, and down the levve, across the parking lot, then down a long set of stairs to the river.
Photo showing portage path.

There is no bridge at Hodenpyl Dam — the only access is from the north side of the river.

Shuttle roads: (On the north side of the river) M-115, Hodenpyl Dam Road, Blueberry Lane (the new name for the Hodenpyl Dam access road).

Section 17.
Hodenpyl Dam to Red Bridge (Coates Highway)
11.3 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1680 feet (0.3 miles) to the "Little Mac" suspension footbridge.

• 1960 feet (0.4 miles) to the first set of power lines.

• 2815 feet (0.5 miles) to a creek and alternate starting point access.

• 1.6 miles to the second set of power lines.

• 1.9 miles to the third set of power lines.

• 10.7 miles to the four-way split.

(148.6 miles total, so far — includes 0.1 miles for partage.)
3.5 hours

(Perhaps 3 hours if the river is high and you paddle steadily, and maybe 4 hours if the river is low and you do more floating.)
Map of area

Map of river

START POINT ACCESS:

There is no bridge at Hodenpyl Dam — the only access is from the north side of the river.

Hodenpyl Dam below-the-dam access — carry-in access down a long set oof stairs, about 200 feet long. There is parking and a restroom on the north side of the dam at the end of Blueberry Lane, the Hodenpyl Dam access road.

There is no bridge at the Hodenpyl Dam — the only access is from the north side of the river.

Alternate starting point — If you want to avoid the long set of stairs at the Hodenpyl Dam below-the-dam access, then use this alternate starting point...

Woodpecker Creek access — carry-in access own a short set of wooden stairs with a tiny parking area next to Woodpecker Creek. It's 0.5 miles downriver from the below-the-dam Hodenpyl Dam access, on Upper River Road, 0.4 miles west of Blueberry Lane.

THE RIVER:

Obstruction Alert: There are many inherent dangers in rivers, to be sure. Submerged trees, logs, branches, stumps, rocks, and boulders are often present in rivers. This section of the river has a special danger at one spot. It's a collection of branches and debris caught underwater by a mostly-submerged tree stump (or set of stumps). It's very hard to detect except for a small ripple and small piece of wood protruding slightly above the surface. Upriver it seems of little concern, but from downriver one can easily see the protrusion.

Where is it?
Here's a satellite view of its location. After you pass the suspension foot bridge, you'll encounter three sets of power lines that cross the river. This "tricky" obstruction is 1.9 miles along, about 35 minutes, just before the third set of power lines on the outside (left or east) of the turn, 10-20 feet from a somewhat steep sandy bank, and near to where that sandy part of the bank starts.

Why so bad? We've had three people in kayaks in one year alone overturn very quickly by hitting this obstruction. (It's likely many boaters hit this on a regualry basis.) It looks deceptively tame. And the current can be strong there, pulling you towards the outside of the turn and this obstruction. One person who flipped here had his foot become tangled in some sort of line trapped there by the stump — fortunately he was able to free himself.

This begs these issues:
• Is anyone in your crew prepared to dive underwater and cut rope or other types of lines?
• Are all paddlers prepared in case of a flip? (They should be.)
• Be sure to see
Recommendations For Your Paddle Trip.

The "Little Mac" suspension footbridge encounted early on this section is the largest wooden suspension footbridge in Lower Michigan. The bridge connects to the Manistee River Trail.

A beautiful section any time of year, and a favorite in the fall for the tall hills of hardwoods and their color display. There is almost no development. The Manistee River Trail runs along the east bank. The North Country Trail travels high along the hills to the west. (Some folks do both trails as a loop.)

The river gets "back to business" here and moves along at a steady pace. That pace can change based on output from the dam. During low and normal output levels, most of the the river is leisurely enough for beginners. During high water levels – typical during the spring or after a very heavy rain – expect a much faster current, making some areas of this section quite tricky for beginners.

Note: there's a sign near the dam warning boaters and anglers that says, "When the siren sounds, leave the river at once. The water rises rapidly." The siren sounds when the output of the dam is about to increase dramatically, "usually only during spring run-off or after an unusually heavy rain," says Canoeing Michigan Rivers.

The river is now 80 to 100 feet wide with depths 4 to 8 feet. The bottom has ledges and other structural features that lead to very minor whirlpools and other changes in current to make this river interesting. There are a few patches of riffles to add to the fun along the way.

There are several small waterfalls, clay banks, and tall sandy banks along the way. There are also many low meadows — perfect for a lunch or rest stop.

About a mile or two before the end at Red Bridge, the river slows down a bit as it feels the effect of the Tippy Dam and its backwater a little ways downriver past the bridge.

0.6 miles before the end is a four-way split (there are three islands). In high water you have four choices here, in low water you have only two viable options. The main channel goes to the far left (east) – it's a sure thing. The far right channel to the west is narrower, shallower, and "funner" and usually has a few logs to maneuver around. The two central channels, if passable, are usually only paddle-able in high water.
Google Map of this area.

END POINT ACCESS:


Red Bridge (Coates Highway) access — paved boat ramp, parking, and restroom. Red Bridge in on the Coates Highway east of Brethren (and southwest of Mesick).

Shuttle roads: (both on the west side of the river)

  • Choice 1: Use Coates Highway, Upper River Road, and Blueberry Lane (the new name for the Hodenpyl Dam access road). Shorter in distance but more scenic, all gravel roads. There's likely no time saving over the other choice.

  • Choice 2: Use Coates Highway, Marilla Road, Beers Road, and Blueberry Lane (the new name for the Hodenpyl Dam access road). Longer in distance but moslty all paved roads. There's likely no time saving over the other choice.

Section 18.
Red Bridge (Coates Highway) to Tippy Dam
6.4 miles (longer if you hug the shore)

Along the way, it's...

• 1.9 miles to beginning of pond.

• 5.0 miles to the (south) Pine River leg of the pond.

(155.0 miles total, so far)
Around 3 hours

Longer if it's windy and-or if you hug the shore.
Map of area

Map of river #1

Map of river #2

THE RIVER:

Most paddlers skip this section. The pond is typically used by boat fishermen and other boaters, but not paddlers.

Already feeling the effects of the Tippy Dam backwater, the river is wide and slow. Then about 1.9 miles along you enter the Tippy Dam Pond.

The wild and winding shoreline has no development, and may not offer many areas for a break.

The pond can be difficult due to headwinds on windy days. There may be submerged stumps and logs near the shore. Nonetheless, for paddlers it seems best to stay fairly close to the shore as you travel through the pond.

The main part of the pond looks like a giant "T" — the bottom leg is the Pine River coming in from the south. Watch for this so you don't accidently go down that leg (unless you WANT to extend your trip).

ACCESS:

Tippy Dam Pond above-the-dam access – Long concrete-slab boat ramp 420 feet north of the dam (and 720 feet almost due west of the south end of an island in the pond). Very limited parking, no restrooms. But parking lots and restrooms are at the very near below-the-dam Tippy Dam access site (see the next section).

This access site is at the end of a 500-foot-long gravel spur going southeast just before the south end of Dilling Road near the dam.

There is no bridge at the Tippy Dam — this access is from the north side of the river.

Portage path — After taking the 500-foot gravel spur out to Dilling Road, follow the paved access road to the south and west, going downhill past the parking lots to the boat ramp at the end. It's a 0.3-mile carry.
Photo showing portage path.
Google Map of this area.

Shuttle roads: (both on the north side of the river)

  • Choice 1: Use Dilling Road (for just 0.2 miles), River Road, and Coates Highway. Mostly on gravel roads, but shorter in distance and more scenic. May be slightly longer time-wise.

  • Choice 2: Use Dilling Road and Coates Highway. Longer in distance, but all paved roads and may be a little quicker time-wise.

___________________________

Alternate access site for above-the-dam access to the Tippy Dam Pond. This site does not fit as part of a river trip, but it might be useful for those fishing or exploring the Tippy Dam Pond. This access site is the also ultimate end-point for those paddling the entire Pine River.

Norman Dixon access – concrete-slab boat launch, dock, parking, and restroom. (AKA Norman Township Boat Launch.)

Directions: From Snyder Road and M-55 east of Wellston, take Snyder north to Robinson Road. Turn right (east) and go east and south to boat launch. (Yes, if you have 4-wheel-drive and nothing better to do, you can take the sandy two-track that is Tower Line Road from M-55 to Robinson Road. It's shorter but will probably take just as long.)

Shuttle roads: Robinson Road, Snyder Road, M-55, Warfield Road, and Coates Highway.


Tippy Dam to Blacksmith Bayou (combined trip of sections 19 and 20 below) 7.5 miles 2.5 hours Map Shuttle roads: Blacksmith Bayou access road, Chicago Avenue, High Bridge Road, Coates Highway, and Dilling Road.

Tippy Dam to Bear Creek (combined trip of sections 19, 20, and 21 below) 14.9 miles 5 hours Map Shuttle roads: River Road, High Bridge Road, Coates Highway, and Dilling Road.

Tippy Dam to Rainbow Bend (combined trip of sections 19, 20, 21, and 22 below) 18.0 miles 6 hours Map Shuttle roads: Rainbow Bend access road, River Road, High Bridge Road, Coates Highway, and Dilling Road.

Tippy Dam to Bridge Street (near M-55). (combined trip of sections 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23 below) 30.1 miles 10 hours Map #1

Map #2
From Tippy Dam to Manistee Lake, the river offers over 25 miles of world-class fishing. Depending on the time of year, you have the chance of finding more than a dozen species of game fish. The river is best known for its fall and spring run of anadromous species such as Chinook Salmon, Brown and Lake Trout, and the Little Manistee strain of Steelhead.

So, during the runs, you should expect lots of anglers and fishing boats from Tippy Dam to Manistee Lake.
Late August through October may be the most crowded.

Also expect broad marshes, and lots of waterfowl and other wildlife, especially as you get closer to Manistee Lake.

Section 19.
Tippy Dam to High Bridge Road
5.9 miles

(161.2 miles total, so far — includes 0.3 miles for partage.)
2 hours Map of area

Map of river

START POINT ACCESS:

Note: During the salmon run in September and October, a small daily usage fee is collected at the entrance to use the below-the-dam area.

Tippy Dam below-the-dam access – There's a concrete-slab boat ramp at the end of the paved access road. There are also two parking areas and restrooms.

There is no bridge at the Tippy Dam — the only access is from the north side of the river.

THE RIVER:

The river in this section continues to get bigger, wider, deeper, and less winding. The Pine River contributes a lot to the river's volume. Watch for gravel bars, logs, stumps, and large rocks. Being more open, headwinds are also more of a factor than on upper river sections.

During the fish runs (such as September and October), expect lots of anglers in and along the river below Tippy Dam. Even though the river can be as wide as 200 feet below the dam, during the runs paddling through the "sea of anglers" and their lines and lures may be a challenge.

At 5.4 miles along and 0.5 miles before the road bridge at High Bridge road, you'll cross under some power lines. 330 feet later is the site of the original railroad High Bridge — a former 150-foot tall railroad trestle, now dismantled. You'll see some stone abutments for the old bridge on the right (south) side of the river.
Google Map of river crossing location.
You can easily get to this site by vehicle. Take River Road 0.4 miles east of High Bridge Road to the power lines. Turn right (south) and go 0.5 miles down an open two-track to the river. Turn right (west) and go a few hundred feet to a turn-around in the woods. From here, hike southwest over a small hill then down a 100-foot sandy hillside. Look downhill – you'll see the abutment for the old bridge on the hill above the river. Sharp eyes may spot see other features of the bridge or railroad.

Note: For the next four access areas downriver from Tippy Dam – High Bridge, Blacksmith Bayou, Bear Creek, and Rainbow Bend — are all USFS areas, so a pass (available for a small fee) is required to use those areas. The pass is good for all those areas, as well as the Sawdust Hole area on Dilling Road.

END POINT ACCESS:

High Bridge Road access – there is a hard-surface boat ramp, parking, and restroom. A small daily fee is required to use the area.

Shuttle roads: (both on the north side of the river)

  • Choice 1: High Bridge Road, Coates Highway, and Dilling Road. All paved roads and may be faster.

  • Choice 2: River Road, Keith Road, Dickson Road, Clements Road, Flarity Road, and Dilling Road — shorter and more scenic, but mostly gravel roads and may take more time.

High Bridge Road to Bear Creek (combined trip of sections 20 and 21 below) 9.0 miles 3 hours Map There is very little development along the river and plenty of wetland and marshy areas.

There is no bridge at Bear Creek — the only access is from the north side of the river.

Shuttle roads: River Road and High Bridge Road.

High Bridge Road to Rainbow Bend (combined trip of sections 20, 21, and 22 below) 12.1 miles 4 hours Map There is no bridge at Rainbow Bend — the only access is from the north side of the river.

Shuttle roads: Rainbow Bend access road, River Road, and High Bridge Road.

Section 20.
High Bridge Road to Blacksmith Bayou
1.6 miles

(162.8 miles total, so far)
0.5 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

The river slows a little and widens to 100-200 feet and 3 to 10 feet deep. During high water there can be many backwaters and side channels.

ACCESS:

Blacksmith Bayou access — boat ramp, parking, and restroom. (The marker shows the parking area.)

Note
: A pass (available for a small fee) is required to use the Blacksmith Bayou access area. The pass is good for all USFS areas, as well as the Sawdust Hole area on Dilling Road.

There is no bridge at Blacksmith Bayou — the only access is from the south side of the river.

Shuttle roads: Blacksmith Bayou access road, Chicago Avenue, and High Bridge Road.

Section 21.
Blacksmith Bayou to Bear Creek
7.4 miles

(170.2 miles total, so far)
2.5 hours Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

Like the last section, the river is 100-200 feet wide and 3 to 10 feet deep. During high water there can be many backwaters and side channels.

ACCESS:

Bear Creek access — concrete boat ramp, parking, and restroom.

Note: A pass (available for a small fee) is required to use the Bear Creek access area. The pass is good for all USFS areas, as well as the Sawdust Hole area on Dilling Road.

Site note — Bear Creek crosses under River Road just north of the parking lot — you can easily walk over to the creek and explore. Bear Creek joins the river 0.5 miles downstream from the access area.

There is no bridge at Bear Creek — the only access is from the north side of the river.

Shuttle roads: River Road, High Bridge Road, Chicago Avenue, and the Blacksmith Bayou access road.

Bear Creek to Bridge Street (near M-55) 15.2 miles 5 hours Map

Section 22.
Bear Creek to Rainbow Bend
3.1 miles

Along the way, it's 0.5 miles to where Bear Creek joins the river.

(173.3 miles total, so far)
1 hour Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER:

There are patches of river up to 300 feet wide! Expect fishing boats.

ACCESS:

Rainbow Bend access — concrete boat ramp, parking, and restroom.

Note: A pass (available for a small fee) is required to use the Rainbow Bend access area. The pass is good for all USFS areas, as well as the Sawdust Hole area on Dilling Road.

There are no bridges involved — the only access for Bear Creek and Rainbow Bend is from the north side of the river.

Shuttle roads: Rainbow Bend access road and River Road.

Section 23.
Rainbow Bend to Bridge Street (near M-55).
12.1 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 3.9 miles to Coho Bend Campground.

• 11.0 miles to observation deck.

• 11.7 miles to M-55.

(185.4 miles total, so far)
4 hours (float time) Map of area

Map of river

THE RIVER:

The width varies from 120 to over 200 feet, with ocassional wider patches. The bottom is mostly sand. The banks are lined with woods most of the way – they thin out a bit near the end. There are few, tall sandy bluffs. Besides a few campgrounds and private homes, there's very little development – it's nice and wild. Most of this section is in state land.

Paddlers may find if there's a headwind, this section is not as much fun, as the river is wide and more open to the wind. Check the weather ahead of time. The last two miles have less trees along the shore, and the river runs southwest there, so it may line up well with prevailing winds.

This section is better suited for powerboats and fishing boats. And those can be present during the fishing seasons. But when they are not, it's nice, quiet area. The river travels through undeveloped lowland forests and broad wetlands. And there can be abundant waterfowl and other wildlife in the State Game Area when boat traffic is not around.

ACCESS:

Access is poor at the M-55 bridge and there is no parking along M-55. So use the Bridge Street access...

Bridge Street access — a very simple road-end, light-duty, paved boat launch with roadside parking but no restroom. It's just 0.4 miles downriver from the M-55 bridge.

Directions: On US-31 in Parkdale north of Manistee, use the Wesco gas station is a landmark. Bridge Street is called Hill Road on the north side of US-31. The access is 0.2 miles south of US-31.

Shuttle roads: (both on the north side of the river)

  • Choice 1: shorter but will likely take longer – Bridge Street, US-31, River Road, Milarch Road, River Road, and Rainbow Bend access road.

  • Choice 2: a little longer but will likely take less time – Bridge Street, US-31, Coates Highway, Milarch Road, River Road, and Rainbow Bend access road.

Section 24.
Bridge Street to Lake Michigan beach inside the breawater.
3.0 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 925 feet to trestle train bridge.

• 0.5 miles to Manistee Lake.

• 0.8 miles to the car ferry.

• 1.0 mile to alternate boat launch point on Arthur Street (US-31).

• 1.3 miles to where you leave the lake and enter the river going west through town to Lake Michigan.

• 1.4 miles to swing train bridge.

• 1.5 miles to US-31 draw bridge (will they raise it for us?).

• 1.8 miles to Maple Street draw bridge.

• 2.6 miles to boat launch at 1st Street.

(188.4 miles total from C-38 (Mancelona Road) to the Lake Michigan beach inside the breawater)
1.7 hours if the winds are light or behind you. Map of area

Photo of trip (to the 1st Street Launch)

Map of river

THE RIVER:

The main trip here is to start at Bridge Street, travel 0.5 miles down the river, 0.8 miles through Manistee Lake, around 1.5 miles down the last part of the river going through downtown Manistee, then end at Lake Michigan beach.

You get to go under a trestle train bridge, past the SS Milwaukee car ferry, through a railroad swing bridge, and under two draw bridges. It's a fun trip on a non-windy day and if there are no huge ships going through town!

Note: once out into Manistee Lake, watch for traffic from boats of all sizes.

On the last part of the river through town also watch for freighters! These are present only once in a great while — they're coming in from Lake Michigan and going to industries on the main part of Manistee Lake (and out again).

The distance and time will be a little more, of course, if you do some exploring along the way — like in Manistee Lake, or the 0.4-mile-long dockuminium channel (which is near the end, just past the 1st Street launch on the right (northeast)).

Intermediate access sites on Manistee Lake...

Arthur Street (US-31) boat launch – paved boat launch, parking, and restroom.

This site is 1 mile downriver from Bridge Street, on the west side of the northern portion of Manistee Lake, just south of the SS Milwaukee car ferry, and just north of where the river leaves the lake to go through town. Start here if you just want to do just the last part of the river. (There is additional parking in a lot immediately to the south of this site.)

East Lake Village public boat launch – boat launch, parking, and restroom. This is Penny Park and the East Lake Campground area, too.

To get there by boat coming from the north part of the river — once you enter the lake, go south 0.6 miles loosely hugging the left (east) shore).then head straight east to the boat launch.
Photo of this boat route.
But unless you live in that area, there seems to be no advantage to using this access site unless you want travel a short ways in the lake for some reason.

ACCESS:

After going through Manistee and at the end of the river, to get to the Lake Michigan beach, paddle out around the short "stubby" pier then paddle to the beach on the left (south).

Lake Michigan beach access – carry-in access at the beach inside the breakwater on the south side of the "stubby" pier. Park by the little picnic table pavilions. The beach is about 200 feet from the parking spaces. There's a nice wide sandy path at the observation deck at the south end of that parking area. There are also some sandy paths through the dunegrass to the beach. If these parking spots are taken, parking in the adjacent large boat launch parking area. There are restrooms nearby.

Shuttle roads: 1st Street, US-31, Bridge Street.

Two alternate end-point access sites...

1st Street boat launch – a major boat launch facility, large parking lot nearby, restroom.

During Lake Michigan's lower water levels, there's a little bit of sand in the rocks past the northwest end of the launch area. There is a fee for launching trailered boats here. (Do they care if you drive a vehicle in without a trailer to pick up kayaks landing in the sand on the side of the launch area? Or, you may be allowed to carry your boat from the launch site to the parking lot without paying any fee, since you're not bringing a vehicle into the launch area.)

The little bit of beach on the north side of the river – carry-in access only. A little before the 1st Street launch and accessed from 5th Avenue. The tiny beach is about 700 feet from the street, so theoretically it will work to carry in kayaks, and the land here seems to be public,. But there is no parking anywhere nearby, the land is covered with light brush, and there are no paths to the river shore – so it's not recommended. (It's an "only if needed" access site.)


OTTER CREEK

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NOTES:

  • Otter Creek is in the northwestern corner of Benzie County, north of Honor.
  • It flows from Otter Lake to Lake Michigan (near Esch Road).
  • The use of any area within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL) requires a national park pass. This includes all of the Otter Creek area. See here for more details about SBDNL passes.
Section Length Time Map More details
Aral Road to 1000 feet north of Otter Lake. Two miles in total (one-way), from Otter Lake to Lake Michigan. (And at Lake Michigan the creek might go 1000 feet or more paralleling the shore.)

The distance one can travel by boat varies based on the depth but is typically 1.6 miles (one-way) from the Aral Road bridge to about 1000 feet north of Otter Lake.
A little over 2 hours round trip. Map THE CREEK:

This creek is best done in kayaks.

Otter Creek is a gentle stream surrounded by open wetland and woods. The major contributors to this creek are Otter Lake and several springs and streams coming in from the surrounding woods and hills. All those springs help keep the creek much cooler than some other nearby small lakes and the Lower Platte River.

From Aral Road to Lake Michigan there is too much tree-fall in the creek to be suitable for boats. The navigable portion starts at Aral Road and then goes upstream to just north of Otter Lake.

The creek is 25 to 50 feet wide with several wider patches, one that’s a few hundred feet. But even in late August (after a dry summer) there’s a nice channel ranging from 8” to a few feet deep that runs along the western shore most of the way. Then closer to the southern end the deepest channel can vary from side to side to down the middle. The creek has a very gentle current, so it's very easy paddling if you watch for and follow the main channel.

For the first few hundred feet you’ll see submerged planks along the shore used during the days of the sawmill at the nearby historic village of Aral.

This is wonderful and wild marsh and woods area to explore — no people and lots of water fowl, animal life and a myriad of plant life. Terrific for photographers, bird watchers, and other wildlife enthusiasts. In just one short visit, many ducks, several kingfishers, a few egrets, two bald eagles, a sand hill crane, a blue heron, and a green heron were spotted.

You cannot get all the way to Otter Lake. Its small outlet is impassable and does not became navigable until joining with other streams in the area about 1000 feet north of Otter Lake — the southern end of your paddle trip on Otter Creek.

ACCESS:


Aral Road access – carry-in access on north side of creek, about 10 feet east of the bridge. Stay off the other river banks.

PINE RIVER

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NOTES

  • Maps
  • Permits / passports / fees
    • To control overuse, a permit is required to use the river during the much of the summer.
    • The permits are for the "Pine River Corridor" – 26 miles of the river near the end – from just below Lincoln Bridge to just above Low Bridge..
    • Paddlers in the Pine River Corridor are asked to use the river only between 9 AM and 6 PM.
    • Note, no permit is needed to use the river on sections of the river above the "Pine River Corridor" – that is, from the river's source up to Lincoln Bridge (10 Mile Road west of State Road).
    • The dates a permit is required is from sometime in May to sometime in September. The Pine National Scenic River Web page says May 15 through September 10, but the dates change. For 2014, the Pine and Pere Marquette River Permit Policy Web page shows days of May 23, 2014 to September 1, 2014. See that latter Web page for actual dates, prices and how to get a permit.
    • Beginning in 2014, watercraft permits for the Pine and Pere Marquette Rivers will only be issued online at www.Recreation.gov and/or their toll-free reservation line at 877-444-6777 (select option 2 to reach the desk for the watercraft permits).

    • At the Silver Creek and Lincoln Bridge access sites, a Michigan Recreational Passport is required to use the area.

    • A $5.00 daily use fee is required to park at the USFS public access sites – Elm Flats, Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

  • General
    • The Pine River starts out several miles to the east of the navigable portion – the North Branch in southeastern Wexford County, and the South Branch in northwestern Osceola County. The two branches join about three miles east of Bristol (or 3.5 miles west of Tustin) in northwestern Osceola County.
    • The main paddle-able part of the river starts at Edgetts Bridge (Raymond Road) in northeastern Lake County, ENE of Luther.
    • The river then flows northwest across northeastern Lake County, across the southwestern corner of Wexford County, west through southeastern Manistee County, then ends as it joins the Manistee River at the southern finger of Tippy Dam Pond.

    • This river is a designated National Wild and Scenic River, and a designated Blue Ribbon Trout Stream for brook, brown, and rainbow trout.
    • The river is mostly in national forest and public land, but there is also some private land to be aware of.

    • The river is spring-fed and continually chilled. It's also very clear all year long.
    • The river is 60 miles long, 40 of which is navigable — great for two or three-day trip.
    • The Pine River has an average river gradient of 7% and offers the fastest average flow of any river in lower Michigan. A few portions reach a gradient of 20 feet per mile. The average gradient is 10 feet per mile, and with more volume and depth than the Upper Boardman or Upper Platte. (The infamous 9 Mile to 6 Mile stretch of the Little Manistee comes close to the Pine's maximum with 14 feet per mile. The upper Platte has a great average gradient (13 per mile) but with less volume. The upper portion of the Jordan in the spring may be very close. But for a 40-mile-long, (mostly) cleared, high volume, consistenly fast, and narrow river, the Pine wins for sure.
    • Paddle times are based on a steady paddle speed of 3.0 miles an hour. Your paddle time may vary based on height and speed of the river, how fast you paddle, and the boat you're using.

    • There are some minor rapids here and there, and some areas of the river can approach Class II.
    • As explained on this Web page, this river is "quick, tight, and loaded with white water, and not for the novice paddler. This entire river is considered to be for experienced paddlers only. If you are an adventure paddler looking for a challenge, visit the lower stretches of the Pine after a significant rainfall and enjoy the white water rapids."
    • The current is especially swift in the spring after the winter thaw, or after a major rain event.
    • There can be tree hazards, but most are kept cleared in the popular navigable sections.
    • Some lower areas have some "nice" medium to large boulders to "bounce" off of.
    • Expect a strong, swift current and plenty of sharp bends.

    • You may want avoid the lower sections (Lincoln Bridge to Low Bridge) during "permit season" (end of May through early September — see "Permits / fees" above) to avoid the throngs of other boaters that can populate the river, especially on weekends.
    • See the Pine River Association Web site – those folks are "dedicated to preserving NW Michigan's marvelous Pine River and its environs."

    • Gas stations for the upper river area: there are only two that I know of:
Section Length Time Map More details
Section 1.
230th Ave. (aka Norman Road) to Edgetts Bridge (Raymond Road) access
6.6 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.5 miles to bridge at 17 Mile Road.

• 5.3 miles to Edgetts Bridge.on Raymond
Road.
2.2 hours

(Maybe 3.3 hours if just floating, if that's possible)
Map of area

Map of river
GENERAL INFO:

This is an "unofficial" section, not often paddled. The "official" paddle-able portion of the river begins just below Edgetts Bridge (see the Section 2).

THE RIVER:

Adventurous trip: not recommened for most paddlers.

More adventurous paddles can try starting at 230th Avenue (aka Norman Road) access site (2 miles to the east "as the crow flies" of Edgetts Bridge on Raymond Road) over in Osceola County.

Be advised, you'll likely encounter numerous obstacles to climb over or portage around. And like the next section, expect the current to be moderate to quick, widths 20 to 45 feet, and depths 1 to 4 feet. Aerial images show some fast rocky areas. Not much else is known about this section as it's not often paddled.

ACCESS:

230th Avenue access (aka Norman Road on some maps) – the red marker shows the parking area. There's carry-in access down a 300-foot gravel/dirt path. Once at the river, go about 100 feet downstream for a lower river bank and easier access for a kayak. No restroom.

Directions: From the interestion of 230th Avenue (aka Norman Road) and 20 Mile Road (aka Marion Road) in Osceola County, go south on 230th Avenue 2.0 miles. Veer left (southeast) and go 0.2 miles to a turn-around. Take the footpath to the southwest to access the river. (Fishing is the primary use for this access site.)

There is no access right at Edgetts Bridge, which on Raymond Road (and between 4 1/2 Mile Road and 6 Mile Road), but there is access nearby. From the bridge, go north less than 0.3 miles (1380 feet) to an unsigned gravel road on the left (west) side of the street. Turn left (west) and go 0.25 miles to a fork. Bear left (southwest) and go 900 feet to a turn-around Here is an aerial photo showing the route from the bridge to the turn-around. From here is carry-in access down a 250-foot dirt path to the southwest. The last 25 feet of the path splits into two — both are a bit steep, The left fork has steps, the right side is clay with no steps. Parking, no restroom. Here is the locationj of the actual access point – Edgetts Bridge (Raymond Road) access point..

Directions: Go to Edgetts Bridge on Raymond Road between 4 1/2 Mile Road and 6 Mile Road, then see the paragraph above.

Shuttle roads: Raymond Road, 8 Mile Road (which becomes 20 Mile Road in Osceola County), and 230th Avenue (aka Norman Road).

Note: If you have 4-wheel drive, instead crossing over on 8/20 Mile Road, you can take 7 Mile Road (which becomes 19 Mile Road in Osceola County).

Section 2.
Edgetts Bridge (Raymond Road) access to Meadowbrook Bridge (6 Mile Road)
3.5 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 1.0 miles to the low Phillips Bridge.

• 1.9 miles to the Briar Patch access.

• 2.1 miles to a high footbridge.
1.2 hours

(About 1.8 hours float time)
Map of area

Map of river

GENERAL INFO:

The official paddle-able portion of the river begins here, in northeastern Lake County, ENE of the village of Luther, just below Edgetts Bridge on Raymond Road. (See Section 1 above for access details.)

THE RIVER:

Expect a moderate to quick current, widths 25 to 45 feet, and depths 1 to 4 feet, and several deeper pools. There can be fallen trees and small logjams, especially in the spring. Pretty wooded hills with a few cottages lining the banks. The further the river ventures across Lake County, the more it twists and turns.

After a hard/long winter, the river's height can be considerable, such as 5 feet above what's seen at the end of summer. It's best to wait until May or June to let the river go back to a more normal height. And hopefully by then, those folks that clear the river and cut paths through log jams will have had a chance to do so.

On the flip-side, during a dry August, you expect less current and less depth, and to have to choose your path around rocks at the surface and to avoid running aground on the occassional gravel bed.

LOW BRIDGE ALERT: 1 mile downstream from the Raymond Road access point (or 2.3 miles down from Edgetts Bridge) and 0.9 miles before Briar Patch is Phillips Bridge, a private, light-duty car bridge that during high water in the spring is unpassable. There is a warning sign a few hundred feet before the bridge. Portaging around the bridge looks difficult. This is too bad because it really limits boaters' use of this section of the river until well after high water times (spring).

Here is a photo of Phillips Bridge. This was taken 8/11/2014 when the river level was likely a typical LOW level. It looks like the bridge is 1.5 to 2 feet above the red boaters's head, and he's about 5' 9" tall. A typical early-June river level might be 2 feet higher, a level kayakers should fit with no real issue. Yet a typical April level might be 4 to 5 feet higher than the water level shown – coming very close to the bottom of the bridge. (It certainly was that high in the spring of 2014.) Here is the location of this bridge on Google Maps.

(For what it's worth, there's another light-duty bridge (a footbridge in this case) 0.2 miles downstream from the Briar Patch access (mentioned below). But it's high, maybe 10 feet or more, above the river at its lowest level. It should not ever be a problem. Here is this footbridge on Google Maps.)

Intermediate access –
If you need to start or end your trip between Edgetts Bridge and Meadowbrook Bridge, a good mid-way access point is the Briar Patch access. It's 1.9 miles from Edgetts Bridge to Briar Patch, and 1.6 miles from Briar Patch to the Meadowbrook Bridge.

Briar Patch (5 Mile Road, aka Sportsmen Drive) access – Easy carry-in access, very limited parking, no restroom.

Directions
: From the intersection of Skookum Road and 5 Mile Road, take 5 Mile Road 1.5 miles east to where it bends north, then follow it another 0.7 miles to the river.

ACCESS:

Meadowbrook Bridge (6 Mile Road) access – carry in access down a short path on the southeast corner. There's a nice sandy patch from which to launch. Parking for a few vehicles. No restroom. On 6 Mile Road about a mile east of Skookum Road.
.
Shuttle roads: 6 Mile Road and Raymond Road.


Section 3.
Meadowbrook Bridge (6 Mile Road) to Skookum Road South access
3.7 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 2.6 miles to the Skookum Road bridge.

• 3.2 miles to the Skookum Road North access.
1.2 hours

(About 1.8 hours float time)
Map of area

Map of river
THE RIVER: The river conditions are the same as Section 2.

ACCESS:

There is no access at the Skookum Road bridge, but there are two access sites west (downstream) of Skookum Road — one on the north side of the river, the other on the south...

Skookum Road - north access – 0.6 miles downstream from the bridge, carry-in access, very limited parking, restroom.

Directions: From the bridge at Skookum Road, go north 900 feet to an unsigned gravel road on the left (west). Turn left (west ) and go 0.25 miles to the access site.

Shuttle roads: Skookum Road and 6 Mile Road.

Skookum Road - south access – 1.1 miles downstream from the bridge, carry-in access, limited parking, restroom.

Directions: From the bridge at Skookum Road, go south 0.3 miles to 6 Mile Road on the right (west). Turn right (west ) and go 0.25 miles to Pine River Road, Turn right (north) and go 0.7 miles to the access site.

Shuttle roads: Pine River Road, 6 Mile Road, Skookum Road, and 6 Mile Road.

Section 4.
Skookum Road North access to Silver Creek access (near the Walker Bridge at State Road)
6.5 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.9 miles to a small bridge to private residence

• 3.1 miles to road bridge that connects to Knapp Road.

• 3.2 miles to a tree across the river or a snall footbridege

• 4.5 miles to a footbridge

• 6.0 miles to the Walker Bridge at State Road.

• 6.03 miles to private road bridge.
2.2 hours

(Maybe 3.3 hours float time)
Map of area

Map of river
GENERAL INFO:

The land from just below Skookum Road access sites to and including Walker Bridge is privately owned. most of which by the Ne-bo-shone Club. Access to the banks is prohibited and clearly posted.

THE RIVER:

The current is brisk and the river is betweeen 30 and 45 feet in width. Generally, depths are 2-5 feet with several deeper holes. There can be some tree-fall and occasional logjams. Wooded hills line the banks, along with sprinklings of homes and cottages.

ACCESS:

Silver Creek Campground access – carry-in access down a short path to northwest from the parking area, parking lot, restroom. Access is from the Silver Creek State Forest Campground. The campground entrance is just north of the Walker Bridge on State Road, between 8 and 9 Mile Roads. Being a state-run facility, a Michigan Recreational Passport is required to use this area.

Shuttle roads: State Road, 6 Mile Road, and Pine River Road.

To be investigated... Is Ne-bo-shone Road public or private? If it's public, an alterante route (shorter in distance but maybe not any faster time-wise) is: State Road, Ne-bo-shone Road, Skookum Road, 6 Mile Road, and Pine River Road.

Section 5.
Silver Creek access (near the Walker Bridge at State Road) to Lincoln Bridge (at 10 Mile Road)
2.6 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 850 feet to the Silver Creek Pathway footbridge.

0.3 miles to where Silver Creek enters on the right.
0.9 hours Map of area

Map of river
GENERAL INFO:

If you end your trip here, we're pretty sure a river permit is not needed, as the permit applies only within the national forest, which starts just below Lincoln Bridge.

The Silver Creek Pathway runs along both sides of this section of the river, a beautiful trail.

THE RIVER:

Like the section above, expect expect many sharp bends, a brisk current, widths from 30 to 45 feet, and depths from 2-5 feet with several deeper holes. There can be some tree-fall and occasional logjams. Wooded hills line the banks, but there are few if any homes or cottages.

ACCESS:

Lincoln Bridge access – carry-in access, parking, restroom. Access is near the Lincoln Bridge State Forest Campground. The access is at the west end of 10 Mile Road west of State Road. Being a state-run facility, a Michigan Recreational Passport is required to use this area.

Note: the bridge at Lincoln Bridge is only for light-duty for foot traffic, ATVs, and motorcycles.

Shuttle roads: 10 Mile Road and State Road.

Section 6.
Lincoln Bridge (at 10 Mile Road) to Elm Flats
3.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 375 feet to the Lincoln Bridge.

• 1.2 miles to the Canfield Rollway.
1.1 hours

(Maybe 1.7 hours float time)
Map of area

Map of river #1

Map of river #2
GENERAL INFO:

RIVER PERMIT NEEDED: Immediatley below Lincoln Bridge the river enters the Manistee National Forest. From that point on down to the mouth at Tippy Dam Pond, USFS regulations are in effect. So if you start your trip at Lincoln Bridge, or any other river access site downstream, from the end of May through the beginning of September, a river permit is required.

Paddlers in this Pine River Corridor portion are asked to use the river only between 9 AM and 6 PM.

NOTE: Lincoln Bridge, Elm Flats, and Dobson Bridge are very popular starting points for "day-trippers" floating down to Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

From here on down, the river has been designated a National Wild and Scenic River, for its "beauty and unspoiled character."

THE RIVER:

Like the section above, expect many sharp bends, a brisk current, widths from 30 to 45 feet, and depths from 2-5 feet with deeper holes. There can be some tree-fall and occasional logjams. Wooded hills line the banks, but there are few homes or cottages.

ACCESS:

Separate from the river permit, a $5.00 daily use fee is required to park at the USFS public access sites — Elm Flats, Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

Elm Flats access — carry-in access, parking, and restroom. At the west end USFS 5230 Road west of State Road and south of Hoxeyville.

Shuttle roads: USFS 5230 Road, State Road, and 10 Mile Road.

Section 7.
Elm Flats to Dobson Bridge (at No. 50 Road)
6.5 miles 2.2 hours Map of area

Map of river
GENERAL INFO:

RIVER PERMIT NEEDED: Immediatley below Lincoln Bridge the river enters the Manistee National Forest. From that point on down to the mouth at Tippy Dam Pond, USFS regulations are in effect. So if you start your trip at Lincoln Bridge, or any other river access site downstream, from the end of May through the beginning of September, a river permit is required.

Paddlers in this Pine River Corridor portion are asked to use the river only between 9 AM and 6 PM.

NOTE: Lincoln Bridge, Elm Flats, and Dobson Bridge are very popular starting points for "day-trippers" floating down to Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

THE RIVER:

Expect a moderately strong current with sections of quick water, widths from 30 to 45 feet, and depths from 2-5 feet with deeper holes. There are many tight bends and switchbacks. There can be some tree-fall and occasional logjams. Wooded hills line the banks, but there are few homes or cottages.

ACCESS:

Separate from the river permit, a $5.00 daily use fee is required to park at the USFS public access sites — Elm Flats, Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

Dobson Bridge access — carry-in access, parking, and restroom. On No. 50 Road where it connects with No. 51 1/2 Road, southwest of Hoxeyville.

Shuttle roads: No. 50 Road, No. 11 1/4 Road, No. 50 1/2 Road, No. 11 1/2 Road, No. 52 Road, State Road, and USFS 5230 Road.

Section 8.
Dobson Bridge (at No. 50 Road) to Peterson Bridge (M-37)
6.5 miles

Along the way, it's 2.6 miles to the School Bridge, aka Hoxeyville High Bridge.
2.2 hours Map of area

Map of river
GENERAL INFO:

RIVER PERMIT NEEDED: Immediatley below Lincoln Bridge the river enters the Manistee National Forest. From that point on down to the mouth at Tippy Dam Pond, USFS regulations are in effect. So if you start your trip at Lincoln Bridge, or any other river access site downstream, from the end of May through the beginning of September, a river permit is required.

Paddlers in this Pine River Corridor portion are asked to use the river only between 9 AM and 6 PM.

NOTE: Lincoln Bridge, Elm Flats, and Dobson Bridge are very popular starting points for "day-trippers" floating down to Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge

THE RIVER:

This section is not recommeded for beginning paddlers. A fair amount of maneuvering is required. Everyone should wear a life jacket on this stretch. Sprayskirts are helpful. Experienced paddlers will enjoy "playing" here.

The current increases slightly and there are many more light riffles. Fast water and light rapids predominate the river.

Expect tight bends where the current will pull the unsuspecting paddler in to obstructions. Expect trees, logjams, and other obstacles.

There's some "bumpy" water here, some patches are rated Class I and approach Class II in high water.

There are larger rocks and boulders, bushel-size and larger, along with bedrock ledges – some with standing waves and can be as much at 2 feet, especially during high water (like during the spring). Most "bumps" in the water have a large rock or boulder beneath it.

Stay to the inside of tight bends and avoid larger rocks and boulders.

Expect to get wet from water splashing directly into the cockpit. Sprayskirts are helpful here! There's more likelihood of a spill on this section and the next (compared to other sections and other local rivers), especially if you hit one of the larger rocks "just right."

Widths from 30 to 80 feet and depths from 2-6 feet with deeper holes. Wooded hills line the banks, and a few homes or cottages.

Along way (at 2.6 miles and maybe 0.9 hours) you'll pass under School Bridge (aka Hoxeyville High Bridge). There's no access here and no parking, and launching boats is prohibited. The bridge is on No. 51 1/2 Road, just south of where it connects to No 48 Road.

ACCESS:

Separate from the river permit, a $5.00 daily use fee is required to park at the USFS public access sites — Elm Flats, Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

Peterson Bridge access — carry-in access, parking, restroom. On M-37 south of M-55. The access site is on the north side of the river, and the east side of M-37.

(If the main Peterson Bridge launch area is closed for construction, like it was in the fall of 2009, go to the campground on the southeast corner here. On there, to launch, go to the northeast area of the campground road loop – there's a nice launch area down the hill behind the restrooms. Park your cars at the small but main parking area seen when you first came in, just west of the campground road loop.)

Shuttle roads: M-37, No. No. 48 1/2 Road, No. 51 1/2 Road, and No. 50 Road.

Section 9.
Peterson Bridge (M-37) to Low Bridge (near M-55)
8.6 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 700 feet to the Peterson Bridge (M-37).

• 8.1 miles to the site of the former Stronach Dam.
2.8 hours Map of area

Map of river

GENERAL INFO:

RIVER PERMIT NEEDED: Immediatley below Lincoln Bridge the river enters the Manistee National Forest. From that point on down to the mouth at Tippy Dam Pond, USFS regulations are in effect. So if you start your trip at Lincoln Bridge, or any other river access site downstream, from the end of May through the beginning of September, a river permit is required.

Paddlers in this Pine River Corridor portion are asked to use the river only between 9 AM and 6 PM.

NOTE: Lincoln Bridge, Elm Flats, and Dobson Bridge are very popular starting points for "day-trippers" floating down to Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

THE RIVER:

This section is not recommeded for beginning paddlers. A fair amount of maneuvering is required. Sprayskirts are helpful. Experienced paddlers will enjoy "playing" here.

Faster and deeper than the Upper Platte or Upper Boardman. Fast water, light rapids, and occassioanl tight bends..

There's tree-fall, but most has been swept to the sides. So the river appears clearer than other sections. However, there's some "bumpy" water here, some patches are even rated Class I and approach Class II in high water.

There are larger rocks and boulders, bushel-size and larger, along with bedrock ledges that create standing waves, especially in spring. There are a few ricky chutes. Most "bumps" in the water have a large rock or boulder beneath it. Many are usually pretty easy to avoid with basic skills. From a local river enthusiast...

"This is a nice section where there are opportunities to work on some skills to surf, ferry, eddy-turn and peel-out in unthreatening water. Several surfing spots, especially where they coincide with ledges, are features that are long lasting." says G. Wilgus.

Expect to get a bit wet from water splashing directly into the cockpit. Sprayskirts are helpful here. There's more likelihood of a spill on this section and the last one (compared to other sections and other local rivers), especially if you hit one of the larger rocks "just right."

The last quarter of this section the river slows a little with its approach to the Tippy Dam Pond.

Widths are from 30 to 100 feet and depths from 3-6 feet with some deeper holes. Tall wooded hills line the banks with very few homes or cottages.

Late 2003 they finished removing the Stronach Dam. Since then the river drops fairly consistently along most of this section.
Site of the former Stronach Dam.
By car, you can get to this site by going to the east end of Stronach Dam Road, then walk downhill via the old access road to this location.
• DNR Web site about the Stronach Dam.
• A little history of the area.

ACCESS:

Separate from the river permit, a $5.00 daily use fee is required to park at the USFS public access sites — Elm Flats, Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.

Low Bridge access — gravel/paved light-duty boat launch, parking, restroom. Access is 600 feet before the bridge.

Directions: On Low Bridge Road off of M-55 east of Wellston and west of M-37. Low Bridge Road is a large "U" on the south side of M-55, so you can get to the access site from either side of the M-55 bridge.

Shuttle roads: Low Bridge Road, M-55, and M-37.


Section 10.
Low Bridge (near M-55) to Norman Dixon access on the Tippy Dam Pond
2.2 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 600 feet to Low Bridge.

• 0.7 miles to M-55.

• 1.3 miles to Tippy Dam Pond.
About an hour? (Depends on the river depth, the wind, and how hard you paddle.) Map of area

Map of river

Photo of river
GENERAL INFO:

RIVER PERMIT NEEDED: Immediatley below Lincoln Bridge the river enters the Manistee National Forest. From that point on down to the mouth at Tippy Dam Pond, USFS regulations are in effect. So if you start your trip at Lincoln Bridge, or any other river access site downstream, from the end of May through the beginning of September, a river permit is required.

Paddlers in this Pine River Corridor portion are asked to use the river only between 9 AM and 6 PM.

THE RIVER:

Not an exciting part of the river, and not often paddled. The river changes character dramatically.

Below Low Bridge, and especially below the M-55 bridge, the river gets slower, wider, and shallower as it approaches the Tippy Dam Pond. Widths to 200 feet. You will likely need to pick your way through looking for the deepest channel, as there are many sand and silt bars, especially just as the river enters the pond.

Once in the pond, hug the left (west) shore to most easily get to the access site.

ACCESS:

Norman Dixon access — concrete slab boat launch, dock, parking, and restroom. AKA Norman Township Boat Launch.

Directions: From Snyder Road and M-55 east of Wellston, take Snyder north to Robinson Road, then that the east and south to boat launch. (Yes, if you have 4-wheel-drive and nothing better to do, you can take the sandy two-track that is Tower Line Road from M-55 to Robinson Road. It's shorter but will probably take just as long.)

Shuttle roads: Robinson Road, Snyder Road, M-55, and Low Bridge Road.

NOTE: The Norman Dixon access to the Tippy Dam Pond is an alternate access for the "pond" besides that just above the dam — see "Tippy Dam above-the-dam access" in Section 18 of the Manistee River.

PLATTE RIVER

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GENERAL NOTES:

  • The navigable portion of the river starts at US-31 across from the Fish Hatchery at Veteran's Park.
  • Paddling the 3.3 miles across Big Platte Lake is not covered.

Upper Platte

  • The Platte River starts in the northwestern area of Grand Traverse County at the southwest corner of Long Lake. From there it flows west through Lake Dubonnet, west into Benzie County, then north to and through Lake Ann, west then south, through Bronson Lake, then generally southwest, then turns and runs generally northwest, through Honor and into Platte Lake.
  • The main paddle-able portion of the Upper Platte runs from east to west in the central area of Benzie County, east and west of Honor; from US-31 across from the Fish Hatchery (east of Honor) to the Deadstream just before Big Platte Lake (northwest of Honor).
  • The main trip is 9.0 miles long and includes going up the Deadstream to Deadstream Road.
  • Average gradient: 13 feet per mile.
  • Recommended only for intermediate paddlers and above.
  • Narrow and quick, expect tight turns and tree-fall and many other natural and man-made hazards to maneuver around.
  • This part of the river is much easier to do in a kayak than a canoe.
  • Beginners in a canoe can expect to get wet (tip over) – likely several times, especially during high-water periods.

Lower Platte

  • The Lower Platte is in the northwestern area of Benzie County, northwest of Honor and Platte Lake, and runs from Platte Lake to Lake Michigan.
  • It's 4.6 miles long, but the distance traveled by boat will be more or less than that because of the access points involved.
  • Pretty slow and easy — it's likely the easiest river around and good for any skill level.
  • Average gradient: 3 feet per mile.
  • Very popular with visitors — avoid especially during summer weekends for a more "peaceful" experience.
  • On lower sections of the Lower Platte during the thick of Salmon season (most of September) you may encounter with anglers in and near the water.
  • Fish hook and line hazards can be anywhere, but be especially watchful on lower sections of the Lower Platte.
  • The use of any area within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL) requires a national park pass. This includes most (but not all) of the Lower Platte River area. See here for more details about SBDNL passes.
Section Length Time Map More details
The UPPER Upper Platte River – Above the Fish Hatchery at US-31 and CR 669     Map This section is not typically paddled because:
1) access may not be allowed near the Fish Hatchery.
2) some of it is not passable due to tree-fall and log jams.
3) shallow water at times and possible in many locations

In fact, there are a few do-able sections, but much of the Platte River from its start at Long Lake to Veteran's Park at US-31 is not passable due to shallow water and lots of tree-fall and other obstructions (to climb over or portage around). During high-water (like in early spring), if there was no tree-fall or log jams, from Lake Ann to US-31 would be a nice long stretch of fun water to paddle.

Upper Platte River

US-31 East (near Fish Hatchery) to Indian Hill bridge (combined trip of sections 1 and 2 below) 7.0 miles 2 to 2.5 hours Map The shorter "Upper Platte River trip" avoiding the slower section at the end.

For intermediate paddlers and above.

US-31 East (near Fish Hatchery) to Deadstream Road (combined trip of sections 1, 2, and 3 below) 8.6 miles on the river, 0.4 miles on the Deadstream 2.5 to 3.3 hours Map The standard and complete "Upper Platte River trip."

For intermediate paddlers and above.

Section 1.
US-31 East (near Fish Hatchery) to the South Street bridge
5.6 miles

Along the way, its...

• 0.9 miles to Haze Road bridge.

• 1.9 miles to Jean Lane bridge.

• 3.4 miles to Pioneer Road bridge.
1.5 to 2 hours Map

THE RIVER:

The fastest part of the paddle-able Upper Platte and skips going through Honor.

For intermediate paddlers and above.

Soon after a good rain this section can be higher and faster, but then seems to drop back down in less than a day.

ACCESS:

US-31 / Veteran's Park access — carry-in access at Veteran's Park at the southwest corner. Parking and restroom. About 4 miles east of downtown Honor on US-31.

South Street access — carry-in access on the east side of the road and north of the bridge in a ditch where the river first becomes parallel to the road. South Street is just east of downtown Honor and heads south off of US-31.

If you're going under the bridge — although both "tubes" will work, take the right-hand tube to be lined up with opening in the little rock dam past the bridge.

There are two alternate access points here...

  • There's a short path on the east side of the road to the river on the inside of the bend just before the river goes through the culvert.

  • There are stone steps leading to a "pool" in the river on the southwest corner (west side of road, just south of the bridge).

Section 2.
South Street bridge to Indian Hill bridge
1.4 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.3 miles to Henry Street bridge.

• 1.0 miles to US-31 west bridge.
0.5 hours Map THE RIVER:

Goes along the south edge of the town of Honor.

ACCESS:

Indian Hill Road access — Not an official access site, but there is carry-in access on the southwest corner (south side of river, west side of bridge). There's a nice sandy bank to beach your boat to exit (or launch). There s very short, not-too-steep grassy hill from the road to the river. Roadside parking south of the bridge, or at this gravel parking lot.

There's also a path through the tall grass and weeds from the road to the river on the northeast corner. The river is around 18" deep here, so the other access is easier.

As convenient as it looks, the southeast corner is private land, so there's no public access.

Section 3.
Indian Hill bridge to to Deadstream Road
1.6 miles on the river, 0.4 miles on the Deadstream 0.8 hours Map THE RIVER:

After a few cottages at the start, this is a very wild and "unspoiled" section.

There's a "T" near the end, turn right. Then 300 feet along on the right is the Deadstream. Take it 0.4 miles to the access point at Deadstream Road.

ACCESS:


Deadstream Road south access — carry-in access where Deadstream Road crosses the Deadstream on the southeast corner. Roadside parking only.

SIDE TRIP: The Deadstream from Little Platte Lake to the Upper Platte River 1.1 miles from Little Platte Lake to the Upper Platte River.

0.7 miles from Little Platte Lake to the Deadstream Road.

0.4 miles from Deadstream Road to the Upper Platte River.
Perhaps 0.6 hours paddling downstream from Little Platte Lake to the Upper Platte River. Map of area

Map of stream
THE CREEK:

In the central area of Benzie County, northwest of Honor.

Beautiful but very short, slow-moving, nearly river-sized creek.

The southern piece from Upper Platte River to Deadstream Road is the final part of an Upper Platte River trip.

Use the northern piece as an alternate access to Little Platte Lake.

There's a dam at Deadstream Road that maintains the height of Little Platte Lake.

North of Deadstream Road, look for two creeks coming in from the right... go up them if the water is high. Interesting places but, they are dead ends. The southern (first one) is a combined feeder of many smaller creeks in the "swamp" to the east. The northern (second one) is one of three channels of the North Branch Platte River. (The other two channels flow into Little Platte Lake.)

The Deadstream is technically the final piece of the North Branch Platte River – most of that river is not paddable.

In the spring, there are pitcher plants here and there on the east side.

There are many swans on the northeast area of Little Platte Lake, be aware of them. See if you can see the eagle's nest, and maybe the eagle, in the northeast area of the lake (on your right as you enter the lake from the Deadstream).

Deadstream Road south access — see Section 3 just above.

Deadstream Road north access — carry-in access at a finger of the creek 120 feet to the east of where the main stream goes under the road. Roadside parking only.

Lower Platte River

Section 4.
Platte Lake Arborvitae launch to M-22 launch
1.3 miles Less than an hour. Map THE RIVER:

This section is for those who want to do ALL of the Lower Platte and don’t mind paddling in a lake for a little while. Travel less than 0.9 miles along the west shore of Platte Lake to the beginning of the river, then 0.4 miles to just past the M-22 bridge – the platform for the access site is on the right.

ACCESS:

Arborvitae boat launch — hard-surface ramp near the west "corner" of (Big) Platte Lake. Parking and restroom.

M-22 carry-in access — carry-in access on the east side of the river. From the parking lot on Lake Michigan Road just north of M-22, there’s a short sidewalk and stairs down to a wooden platform at the river. Parking and restroom.

M-22 launch to El Dorado launch (combined trip of sections 5 and 6 below) 2.7 miles 1.3 hours Map  

M-22 launch to Lake Township Park landing (combined trip of sections 5, 6, and 7 below) 3.9 miles 2 hours Map The most common (and popular) trip.

Pretty slow and easy – this may be the easiest river trip around.

Section 5.
M-22 launch to Loon Lake launch
1 mile 0.5 hours Map THE RIVER:

Include this section if you want to do most of the river but do not want to go on Platte Lake.

About two-thirds of the way along on the right is the 600-foot creek going up to the pretty and wild 59-acre Mud Lake. Give it a try if the water is high enough. Early on there are a few fallen trees to maneuver around then the rest of the way is clear.

Once at the lake, if using Loon Lake Launch it’s 600 feet to the left (south). If you’re continuing on down the river, turn right at the lake and follow the shore about 0.5 miles to the northwest corner where the river continues.

ACCESS:

Loon Lake boat launch — hard-surface ramp on the east side of Loon Lake, accessed from M-22. Parking, restroom, and picnic pavilion.

Loon Lake launch to Lake Township Park landing (combined trip of sections 6 and 7 below) 3.1 miles 1.5 hours Map A common trip for those wanting to do most of the Lower Platte River.

Section 6.
Loon Lake launch to El Dorado launch
1.9 miles About an hour Map THE RIVER:

On Loon Lake, follow the right-hand-side (east and northeast) shore for about 0.6 miles to the northwest corner of the lake where the river continues. Along the way, watch out for where the river enters the lake – move out from the shore a bit to avoid running aground. Once beyond the lake and on the river, about 0.6 miles from Loon Lake is the gate for the weir. It’s open most of the time but in the early fall it’s closed to harvest salmon. On the left (west) side of the river is a short and easy portage around the gate.

ACCESS:

El Dorado boat launch — hard-surface ramp on the north side of river, accessed from Lake Michigan Road. Parking and restroom.

Section 7.
El Dorado launch to Lake Township Park landing
1.2 miles 0.7 hours Map THE RIVER:

Expect to encounter a few wider and shallower areas where it’s easy to run aground during lower water conditions.

ACCESS:

Lake Township Park boat landing — carry-in access at a sand landing for small boats just "behind" (west of) the restroom building. This is also the end-point for local canoe and kayak liveries. Parking and restroom.

Section 7 Extension.
Lake Township Park landing to Lake Michigan Road End launch
0.1 miles 3 minutes Map THE RIVER:

Use this short extension is used when exiting at the boat launch at the end of Lake Michigan Road. Where to end your trip mostly depends on where you parked and if you want to paddle out to Lake Michigan (800 feet downstream) and back.

The mouth of the Platte into Lake Michigan is just beyond this point..

ACCESS:

Lake Michigan Road End boat launch — hard-surface boat ramp at the end of Lake Michigan Road. This is an alternate end-point for those doing a Platte River trip. Parking and restroom.

RAPID RIVER

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NOTES

  • This river is 17 miles long. The paddle-able portion is much shorter, perhaps only about 5 miles.
  • It's all in Kalkaska County and starts here (east of US-131 and just south of Twin Lake Road NE, and NNE of Kalkaska). From there, it flows 8 miles southwest to Rugg Pond, crossing under US-131 along the way. (The Little Rapid River "joins the fun" at Rugg Pond.) From Rugg Pond, the river flows northwest 9 miles to the Torch River, passing through Rapid City (at the north end) along the way.
  • Thr river's end point is here, where it empties into the Torch River.
  • From the end point at the Torch River, one may be able to paddle upriver northwest 0.5 miles to community of Torch River. Or, for sure you can travel downriver 1.7 miles south to Lake Skegemog. (The Torch River flows from Torch Lake south into Lake Skegemog.)
  • The Clearwater Kayaking kayak livery is a great help for renting boats, or shuttling you or your vehicles if you have your own gear.
  • This river is under investigation — not a lot is yet known about paddling this river. We know folks paddle this, but we have not done it yet, nor talked to anyone who's done it.
Section Length Time Map More details
The whole river 17.0 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 3.2 miles to US-131.

• 5.3 miles to Wood Road NE (east).

• 7.9 miles to Rugg Pond entrance.

• 8.0 miles to Rugg Pond exit.

• 8.7 miles to Wood Road NE (west).

• 9.6 miles to Dundas Road NW.

• 11.4 miles to Underhill Road.

• 12.0 miles to Kellogg Road.

• 13.4 miles to Glad Valley Road.

• 14.6 miles to Rapid City Road.

• 16.1 miles to Aarwood Road

• 17.0 miles to the end and joining with the Torch River.
  Map of whole river area

Map of last third of river
We've not done this river; it needs further investigation.

The river above Rapid City — at first glance it looks too shallow and with a fair amount of tree-fall. We need investigate further. It would be nice to know if there are any organizations doing any sawing or river clean-ups. Also, does the river level drop a lot from spring throughout the summer?

Rapid City area — the river looks paddle-able, but with a good likelihood of tree-fall and log jams. The river looks similar to the upper Platte in width and depth, but with a slower current.

Not too far from Rapid City, the river begins to gradually widen. At 0.9 miles from Rapid City, the river is perhaps 80 feet wide. At 1.4 miles from Rapid City, the river is much wider and shallower than at Rapid City. For the 0.4 miles portion around Aarwood Road bridge (0.2 miles before and 0.2 miles after), the river is quite shallow and finding a channel deep enough could be an issue. At 0.2 miles past Aarwood Road, the river gets VERY wide — 200 to 300 feet, in fact.

At 2.4 miles past Rapid City (0.9 miles past Aarwood Road) the river joins with the Torch River.

ACCESS:

Access points need to be investigated. We know about a few...

Kellogg Road — Little is known about this site, yet. The Clearwater Kayaking Web site shows there's access coming soon at the bridge here.

Freedom Park in Rapid City — carry-in access down a short, hilly path. Parking, restroom. Put in downriver from the footbridge a little ways to avoid some obstructions.

Torch River boat launch — hard-surface ramp and short dock on the east side of river; parking, restroom. The site is 0.3 miles down (south on) the Torch River on the left (east) side. A Michigan Recreational Passport is required to use the area.

SHALDA CREEK (aka Sucker, Good Harbor, and Pyromid Creek)

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NOTE:

  • This creek is in the central northern area of Leelanau County, north of Maple City and northeast of Glen Arbor.
  • The use of any area within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL) requires a national park pass. This includes most of Shalda Creek (except the very beginning by Traverse Lake Road). See here for more details about SBDNL passes.
Section Length Time Map More details
Little Traverse Lake to Lake Michigan 2.9 miles

Some distances involved from Little Traverse Lake...

• 155 feet to the beginning of the creeka t W. Traverse Lake Road.

• 0.4 miles to CR 669 (S. Bohemian Road).

• 1.7 miles to outlet creek coming in from Narada Lake.

• 2.8 miles to Lake Michigan Road.

• 2.9 miles (at least) to Lake Michigan – the creek can vary greatly at Lake Michigan beach.
At least 3 hours?!? Map #1

Map #2

THE CREEK:

This creek flows trom Little Travrse Lake to Lake Michigan.

Excep for about 1 mile in the middle, this is not really a do-able trip. But below are details, questions, and notes that should help if you are interested.

Starting at the Little Traverse Lake west access, can one make through the culvert at Traverse Lake Road? And the access and chance for portage there looks difficult.

Next, is the creek even do-able from Traverse Lake Road to County Road 669? It might be too shallow most of the time, and there appears to be a "nice" amount of tree-fall and log jams.

For the section from County Road 669 to Lake Michigan, below are notes from two adventurous relatives that did that once, then swore they'd never do it again (in this lifetime). [So the fact that this creek is also known as Sucker Creek might be quite appropriate... (:->) ]

"The first mile (from 669 where we started) is pretty nice, it appears someone has chain-sawed and removed all obstructions down to an old beaver dam with three large beaver houses.

Beyond that point, obstructions became increasingly unbelievable. With windfalls of up to 20 feet tall and nearly continuous, we dragged our boats over a mile through brush, windfalls, woods, briar patches, and muck until we returned to the stream about 0.3 mile before Lake Michigan. At this point it was easier to drag the boats in the stream than through the brush, as windfalls thinned out near the end."

ACCESS:

Little Traverse Lake west access — carry-in (or better) at public boat launch on the north side of the lake near the west end. Parking and restroom. But — can one make through the culvert at Traverse Lake Road? And the access and chance for portage there looks difficult. And the creek to County Road 669 might not be paddle-able.

County Road 669 (S. Bohemian Road) access — no official access. Rough carry-in access only. Roadside parking only.

Lake Michigan Road access — no official access. Rough carry-in access only. Park on the roadside or at various spots nearby cut in the woods.


TORCH RIVER

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NOTES

  • This river is 2.1 miles long. It run from southwestern tip Torch Lake to the middle of the northwestern side of Lake Skegemog.
  • 0.4 miles south of Torch Lake it's joined by the smaller Rapid River, which comes in from the east.
  • The paddle-able portion is much shorter, perhaps only about 5 miles.
  • It flows along the border between Antrim and Kalkaska Counties.
  • The Clearwater Kayaking kayak livery is a great help for renting boats, or shuttling you or your vehicles if you have your own gear.
  • This river is under investigation — not a lot is known yet about paddling this river. We know it's wide, slow, and sees a lot of pontoon boats during the rummer.
  • The width ranges from 60 feel by Torch Lake to as much 530 feet, with an average of maybe 200 feet.
  • Depth — unknown other that it's deep enough for power boats.
  • Is there a speed limit? I hope so.
Section Length Time Map More details
Torch Lake to Lake Skegemog 2.1 miles

Along the way, it's...

• 0.4 miles to the Rapid River

• 0.7 miles to the Torch River access site

• 2.1 miles to the delta for the river at Lake Skegemog

• at Lake Skegemog, it's another
0.7 miles to the Fairmont Drive access going southwest along the right (northwest) shore
About an hour?? Map THE RIVER:

Wide, slow river, lined with cottages and homes; yet still wooded along the shore. Sees a lot of pontoon boats during the summer.

ACCESS:


Cherry Avenue Torch Lake/River access – narrow, hard-surface (wide concrete) boat launch, short dock, parking, port-a-pottie. (A Michigan Recreational Passport is required to use this area.) From here, it's just a few feet to the east to the mouth of the river. At the very southern end of Torch Lake next to the start of the river, at the northwestern corner of the river and Cherry Avenue (CR 593) / Crystal Beach Road.

Torch River access – hard-surface (wide concrete) boat launch, short dock, parking (including those with trailers), restroom. (A Michigan Recreational Passport is required to use this area.) From here, it's 1.4 miles south on the river to the Lake Skegemog, or 0.7 miles north to Torch Lake.

Directions: From the intersection of Aarwood Road and Rapid City Road in Rapid City, take Aarwood Road west (then northwest) 1.3 miles to Aarwood Trail (may show as Chaney Road on some maps). Turn left (west) and go 0.6 miles to bend. Turn left (south) and go just 200 feet to the entrance to the access site. Turn right (west) to enter the site.

Fairmont Drive access — carry-in access at the south end of the road. Shallow launch area; very limited parking, maybe for one car and then a few roadside before the short access road; no restroom. This site is 0.7 miles southwest from the end of the river.

Directions: From the intersection of Aarwood Road and Rapid City Road in Rapid City, take Aarwood Road west (then northwest) 2.1 miles to Crystal Beach Road. Turn left (west) and go 0.7 miles to Torch River Road. (Note: along the way, Crystal Beach Road becomes Cherry Avenue (County Road 593).) Turn left (south) and go 1.8 miles to a fork. Turn right (southwest) and go another 0.4 miles Fairmont Drive. Turn left (south) and go 0.2 miles to the end of the road.



Recommendations For Your Paddle Trip:

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