10 Best Places to go Canoeing in Michigan

The abundance of lakes and rivers makes Michigan one of the finest destinations to visit. Although surrounded by beautiful lakes, the rivers here are the canoeing hotspots for people hoping to get in their groove.

This listicle features the best spots for you to visit on your next canoeing edition in Michigan. The many calm lakes, fast-flowing rivers, and serene shorelines guarantee that there is something for everyone and you are sure to find the perfect site for you to paddle.

canoeing in Michigan

1. Manistee River 

The Manistee River is popular for its beauty and excellent fishing opportunities. The river supports additional leisure activities like wildlife viewing, hiking, canoeing, and hunting, which attracts a large number of tourists during the spring and fall seasons.

The river’s source can be traced to Mancelona Township in the Northern Lower Peninsula. It travels for about 12 miles parallel to the Au Sable River before turning southwest and spilling into Lake Michigan. The Manistee River is peaceful and calm in the early hours of the morning or on multi-day journeys.

On long floats, you may encounter some tough dam crossings depending on whatever portion of the river you decide to paddle. If you need to hire canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards in Manistee River, check out Pine River Paddle Sports Center.

Manistee River

2. Backwaters of Tippy Dam

Tippy Dam Backwaters is a Hidden Gem in Wellston that sprawls over 1,540 acres and was built between 1916 and 19118. The pond, as called by the locals, is where the pine river (a major tributary of the Big Manistee River) empties into the Manistee River and is notable for its enormous variety of fish species.

In addition to being a great fishing area, the backwater is known for its beauty as you will be surrounded by nature and wildlife.

3. Turnip Rock

If you’re looking for something fresh and exciting to do when visiting Michigan in the summer, look no further! Take a trip to Lake Huron to see Turnip Rock. This location is just an hour’s drive from Detroit, and it’s only a short boat ride or kayak paddle away once you arrive. Turnip Rock is a sight to behold; the limestone edifice, with its gravity-defying rock, appears like something out of a movie.

Turnip Rock is a one-of-a-kind kayaking destination in central Michigan accessible exclusively by water. This lake is better suited for more experienced kayakers because it is a bit of a journey. Although the water is shallow enough for you to get out and explore, however you should be cautious of the slippery rocks. It is important to limit your exploration to the water as the beach is private property.

4. Platte River

The Platte River strolls through scenic Northwest Lower Michigan for about 30 miles. Canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are all popular activities on this river. The Platte River has two sections: The Upper Platte River and the Lower Platte River with the upper Platte moving significantly faster than the lower Platte. Although there are no whitewater or rapids, it is quite thrilling and best suited to experienced paddlers. Deer, ducks, fish, and otters are among the animals that are visible on this river.

This stretch of the Platte River is very beautiful, however, there are limited spots to rest along the way. More so, you should bear in mind that this segment of the river takes about 3 hours 30 minutes to complete and ends at the Dead stream road.

The Lower Platte is the river’s second section. It’s a river that flows gradually and makes smooth twists. As you travel down the river, you’ll come to a little lake known as Loon Lake. You can simply paddle along the right-hand side of the river to rejoin it in this part of the Lower Platte. This portion of the river takes about 20 minutes to complete.

5. Huron River 

The Huron River Trail is a 130-mile inland paddling path that connects people to the calm, serene environment around the river. The Huron River is a typical Southeast Michigan stream, complete with mud banks, moderate streamflow, and a low gradient. Regardless of what you’re searching for, the Huron River is a terrific area to kayak. The river near the mouth is calm, making for a more enjoyable ride.

Visitors to the Huron River can go on day trips or multi-day journeys, and there are roughly 36 access spots and four campgrounds along the way to choose from.

6. Two-Hearted River

The Two-Hearted River, located in Michigan’s upper peninsula, is a short yet beautiful river. Before spilling into Lake Superior, the river travels about30 kilometers. There are plenty of animals, gorgeous landscapes, and sandy beaches along the route. There are campgrounds along the river if you want to go on a multi-day journey. With just small rapids no more than class II, the Two-Hearted River is a fantastic place for beginners to learn.

7. Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake is just the place for you if you Want to view dunes while paddling around a Lake. This lake is a popular destination for visitors and locals when it comes to Lakefront scenery and adventure in Michigan. It covers roughly 10,000 acres in the lovely Benzie County in the Lower Peninsula, making it Michigan’s ninth largest inland lake.

The name “Crystal Lake” comes from the fact that its waters are crystal clear. On a bright day, the turquoise tones of the lake may fool you into thinking you’ve been transported to a tropical location. The sandy beaches, in particular, make it a favorite kayaking spot.

8. Pictured Rock National Lakeshore

The Pictured Rock National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a stunning canoeing location along Lake Superior. The National Lakeshore is 42 miles long and features stunning views along the way. Massive sandstone cliffs tower above the lake for 15 miles, with some reaching 200 feet in height.

The colors of various minerals combined with groundwater generate some streaks of red (iron), yellow-brown (limonite), and pink-green (copper) because of the multifaceted geology of this location. Other physical characteristics of this lake, such as dunes and waterfalls, are inside the park’s borders, but the multicolored cliffs are the main center of attraction to tourists.

Local operators also encourage visitors of all abilities to view and appreciate the cliffs. Boat trips, kayaking, and hiking are just a few of the activities available. The pictured Rock National Lakeshore is without a doubt, one of Michigan’s top paddling spots.

Pictured rock National Lake

9. Lake Dubonnet

The Lake Dubonnet State Forest campground is an excellent place to stay the night before going kayaking on the lake. The few dwellings on this lake make it a peaceful place with plenty of wildlife.

Tip – When visiting this lake, ensure you go along with your fishing equipment as the tranquil waters of Lake Dubonnet, and the abundance of fish make it an ideal spot for your stand-up fishing kayak.

10. Detroit Canals

The canals that flow through the neighborhoods of Detroit’s east side are one of Michigan’s remarkable canoeing destinations. The variety of scenery is what makes paddling the canals of Detroit so special. It takes around 3 hours to explore the entire canal system, and there is plenty of sightseeing along the route. To get to the canals, you’ll have to kayak along the Detroit River for a while, but once inside, you’ll see communities ranging from abandoned houses to stunning mansions.

Before you set out to Michigan with your canoe, here are some of the rules and regulations that apply to using canoes on its waters

Michigan Kayak Laws

Kayaks and canoes are considered non-motorized watercraft under Michigan law. In Michigan, non-motorized kayaks and canoes that are not used for commercial purposes are not required to be registered.

Kayak Operator Licensing in Michigan – Anyone who operates a vessel in Michigan after June 30, 1996, must obtain a boater education card.

Age for Motorized Kayaking – Anyone under the age of 12 may lawfully and without limits operate a boat with a motor of no more than 6 horsepower.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Statute in Michigan – Michigan has a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law. A BUI charge is a misdemeanor violation in Michigan. When a person’s blood alcohol content is .08 percent or higher, they are operating unlawfully. 

Kayaking Life Jacket Law – Each person on board must have a Type I, II, or III personal flotation device (PFD). 

Unpowered watercraft smaller than 26 feet long must have at least one lantern or flashlight emitting white light at all times while in motion, according to the Kayak Lights Law.

Sounding Devices for Kayaks and Canoes — Sounding devices are not required in Michigan for kayaks and canoes. The Great Lakes, however, are subject to USCG federal regulations, and you must carry a sounding device such as a whistle.

VDS Law for Kayaking – All vessels must have night signaling systems. Manually propelled vessels do not require day signaling equipment. All vessels operating in federally restricted waters must carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS equipment.

In a nutshell…

Without a doubt, Michigan offers a series of lovely canoeing destinations for your consideration. What is most exciting is how there is something for everyone regardless of their skill level, so you can make memories you would not soon forget.

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