Big Sable River - Michigan

Will be camping at Ludington and the map looks like you could paddle down the Big Sable from Hwy 31 into Hamlin Lake and over to the state park.

Also, will be very close to the Pere Marquette and would like to paddle it too, maybe Baldwin to Scottville?

This will be a return trip this summer. We really enjoyed our brief visit to MI last summer and are taking our bikes and canoe back this summer.

If you have paddled these areas, please let me know it is like.


Have paddled
the Pere Marquette…it’s really pretty. There are several liveries that will shuttle you if not the boats (some have insurance probs with moving private boats, but will move people). There can be fly fishermen in the river and it’s not very wide, but let them know you’re coming and you shouldn’t have any problems. Never paddled the Big Sable.

Big Sable River
The Big Sable is a wonderful small river to paddle. If you put in at 31 you will have to portage a dam before Hamlin Lake. It is a easy portage. If you go upstream of 31 the river is really fun. Not nearly as used as the Pere Marquette.

dam portage?
I’ve never portaged a dam. What exactly is involved in the Big Sable dam portage? Is the dam easily seen as you approach it? This will just be a day trip so my gear will be minimal…cooler, a few odds and ends, etc.

What did you mean by upriver from Hwy 31 is really fun? Would I still be able to make a day trip out of it if I started further upriver? My plan would be to paddle all the way back to the state park, along the shoreline to avoid wind/wave issues.


Big Sable River
I miss spoke the dam is after Lake Hamlin in the State Park before Lake Michigan.

yea, I’ve seen that dam.

The wonders of the internet, I google earthed the area and it appears the Big Sable ought to be renamed the Little Sable. I doh’t see what’s so “big” about it.

It looks like it would be a great canoe outing to put in around the mouth of the Big Sable and cruise the lake, putting in at the numerous large sand dunes on the northern shore of Hamlin Lake and then proceeding down to the State Park.

Last summer I rented a short kayak and took the State Park canoe trail. That marsh area really is hard to paddle thru, I think you’d be better off using a pole instead of a paddle. Those sand dunes off in the distance, on the north shore, looked close to 200’ high!

You’ve brought up a great idea
I’ve camped at Ludington as well. The trip sounds like fun. I would like to try it, too.

Here’s a link, more for fishing:

Paddled the PM
all up and down, busy place, go mid week. Best time for that river is now. take a look at the Manistee, Pine, mid week or Little Manistee, most challenging. They are all pretty close to Ludington SP. Not sure on the Sable these days.