Circumnavigating Cana Island (WI) - how to know about currents and other dangers?

Over labor day weekend we’ll rent a house near Cana Island in WI (Door County, Lake Michigan side). The house is West of Cana Island on Blues Point Rd and butts right on the Lake. One can see Cana island from there. My plan is to circumnavigate Cana Island counter-clock wise. There is a causeway that sometimes is flooded and I may have to portage.

We stayed at the same house last year and I actually took the recreational kayak that belongs to the house out in the water. But that vessel and my skills prevented me from going far. Since last year I paddled quite a bit on our local lakes and rivers (not Great lakes!).

I’ll be using my Nixy Monterey iSUP that is pretty stable and has a dual-air chamber. I will sit on a stadium seat and only kayak (no standing up…). I can do about 5-6 km/h. So if weather isn’t too bad, this should be adequately safe. (yes, PFD too). I also will stay close to the shore. that all should take me much less than 2 hours.

2 dangers come to mind:

  • Tide seems to have about 3ft . It looks like tide rises up to around noon, then flows out. So I think I should go out early (while the water comes in) and make sure to be back before noon. Is that right?
  • Currents other than tide that could spill me out into the wide lake. I couldn’t find any information.

I couldn’t find reliable water temperature data, but remember from last year it not being too bad. I also only will go out on a calm time and it should be easy to climb back on an iSUP. I was at Sturgeon Bay (south of Door County) a few weeks ago and paddles and the water was fine. But that is not exposed to Lake Michigan.

Once I mastered going around Cana island, I may want to venture out to the Blue Point Boat Ramp. Since we only have one car, it isn’t practical for me to drive to a better paddling location. At least not more than once. So the choppier side of Door County is my best bet to paddle. Maybe I can arrange some time to sail around Peninsula State Park. but the water there is much calmer.

Some questions:
Is my plan crazy and suicidal?
Is it correct to out with the tide coming in and hope to be back before the tide goes back out?
Is there a way to find out more about currents?
Anything else I should consider or prepare?

3 foot tides on Lake Michigan? Maybe a 3 inch seiche under extreme weather conditions.

We looked at walking the causeway when the water was about 6" deep but it was very cold. I wouldn’t think you’d have issues under the conditions you describe. Just check the weather forecast and radar for surprises before you put in. I doubt there will be noticeable currents if there aren’t waves.


I would not worry about tide. Do check the weather carefully and be aware lake Michigan is cold year round, although the shallow water near shore can be deceptively warmer. No major permanent currents in that area (the tip of the peninsula/mouth of Green Bay is another matter).
You say “it should be easy to climb back on an iSUP”. I would be more confident in the safety of your plan if you said “It is easy for me to climb back on my iSUP in deep water with whitecaps” I suggest testing this prior to your planned circumnavigation.


Wind is a factor that you haven’t mentioned. Sups are easily affected by wind because the paddler acts like a sail.

Water temperatures on lake Michigan are 77 in August on the average but there may be pockets of colder water.

I’m not familiar with the water around Cana Island but I’ve paddled a few miles south from there and ran into confused seas around Cave Point which you may run into.

1 Like

Water temperature in Sturgeon Bay today is 70°F. Air temperature 65°F and west winds 6mph gusting to 15.

1 Like

Thanks for the responses.

I got he tide information here. Is that wrong? But they also show 54°F water temperature, which also seems odd.

I had practiced entering my iSUP on lake with maybe 15 km/h wind and waves. Sure not like Lake Michigan, and I may practice that there.

Compared to my former IK, the iSUP actually has less surface for the wind and I will sit. I would compare it to a SOT. I feel most wind goes towards the shore, no? So if worst comes to worst, it should push me to shore, and not out into the open. I’ll keep it in mind, it sure is not a sit-in kayak.

I admit that l don’t fully understand this. But l looked at Toronto, which also shows about 3 ft of changes in water level.

So while this is clearly not caused by coastal tides from the ocean, there is a change due to meteorological conditions. Moon is apparently involved as for salt water.

That said, l suspect this area has less flow/current as a result of these water level changes than on the ocean. Hence less of a consideration for paddling if l am right.

1 Like

I think the big factor you are not taking into account are winds. I lived in Wisconsin and Michigan several years ago. Late summer afternoon thunderstorms build up often over the lakes and they can be extremely violent. Inflatable SUPs with seats are made for flatwater paddling only. Have you ever paddled your ISUP any distance in unprotected waters with 15kt winds? For your first taste of rough water and strong winds you probably don’t want it to be on exposed Lake Michigan, the problem with the thought about prevailing winds is that the storms tend to be cyclonic with wind directions changing rapidly. Don’t paddle alone when you are not experienced in paddling in the area, and if you do choose to paddle an ISUP , go very early in the morning so you are off the water before winds pick up. Make sure someone knows your intended route and when you expect to be back. If you have a waterproof cell phone case or marine radio take it with you. If you want to paddle the great lakes, get a decent kayak.

1 Like

49 degrees Aug 11

Shallow water is always warmer in summer near shore especially with mud bottoms. Temp readings are often from bouys in deep water.

1 Like

A lot of good advice already, so I won’t repeat it.

I would add, another safety measure you should consider especially in open water with wind and waves is a leash. I know you’re “kayaking”, but in the event of a capsize a SUP is much more susceptible to being blown/pushed away from a swimmer than a kayak.

1 Like

Lurker, be careful not to base your kayaking adventures on best case experiences. It pays to first partner with an experienced local kayaker, and learn the nuances of a region. Last week I set off on a trip that seemed great for an east bound trip across the Upper Chesapeake Bay (10.5 mile crossing, about 4.5 to 5 hour trip). Ebbing tide, winds N 2 mph, air 89°, water 83°, barometer falling.

Within 2 miles, it was obvious winds had already veered from N 2 mph to SE 7 mph (under 10 mph). South winds would amplify waves in the mid-passage on a falling tide - resulting in more disruptive following waves on the return leg. I decided to cut short and turned right for a routine paddle which let me watch the western horizon for changes.

On the return leg, winds increased S 10-15 mph, eventually gusting to 20 mph. A strong thunderstorm reported 70 miles north in Pennsylvania, typically not an issue, but there were subtle differences locally in the stable clouds. One I’d been watching developed icey streaks in the top. It dissipated so quickly, I barely had time to capture a shot on my phone camera. If paddling east on a bay crossing, I would have missed that sign, as I would have been still approaching the far shore.

Still no local weather hazards noted on VHF weather channel. If I had not payed attention to the wind and dropping barometric pressure, the timing would have put me 15 to 30 minutes from landing on the opposite shore, and 2 1/2 hours additional paddle time back. That would have put me at the mercy of an intense unforcasted storm front with hail, intense lightning, and winds gusting to 60 mph.

Its easy to miss the subtle changes or interpret them wrong. Be careful, because missing a sign can be a once in a lifetime mistake. Don’t just depend on weather reporting, because you need to anticipate; a report is too late. There’s also a big difference between 83° water and mid 40°.

1 Like

Yes, that is WRONG!!!

I have no idea what from planet in what universe the site is getting it’s information from. I just looked up a purported location in Jackson County Michigan (just south of me). That is a long way from the Great Lakes but is still reporting 3’+ tides at a location that doesn’t exist in that county.

Instrumentation does suggest that there are indeed tides in the Great Lakes but they max out at less than 5 cm (~2 inches).


As is Toronto, equally unclear to me how they would have a 3 ft tide.

OPer is rightfully confused. So am l.

1 Like

seiche not tide?

I was surprised reading that so I googled.
This is from NOAA:

bottom line: whatever it’s called, apparantly there could be a several feet variation in water level.
I don’t remember ever experiencing this in the years I paddled Lake Superior.

1 Like

Thanks for the replies. All good advice.

To clarify:

  • I always put the leash on (sitting, or standing). And PFD, of course.
  • I have zero trust in those online water temperatures. We’ve been at Door County many labor day weekends and people are happily swimming at the beach on the Michigan side (white dunes etc.). Same where I live. I remember believing such site indicating it would be cold, I put the full wet suit (inc. socks!) on on a 90°F day just to make a fool of myself when I realized water is warm and people are happily swimming in bikinis. I never measured the temperature (and the shallow where on measures may be too warm anyway). I have no idea where those websites get data. Any warm-blooded body could make better guesses.
  • I’ll be alone. No one who knows the waters is an option. It’s that, or not going out at all. Best I can think of stay within a few hundred feet of the shore. I remember from last time waves got much higher in the shallows. So maybe i go as far out till the waves calm down. It is quite rocky there and i also need to keep my fin clear of rocks. So maybe 500’off the shore?

Looks like there is a Seiche (not tide from moon). Is that creating a current I should worry about? Sounds like that doesn’t follow a predictable cycle.

Please let us know how your paddle goes. Using Google maps/satellite I found Cana Island. Assuming you launch from off Bues Rd at point closest to Cana Island, it appears your journey is about a statute mile and fairly protected from the north and west. From the safety of my desk, it appears the worst threat are rocks against your inflatable hull.

1 Like

I recall rocks there can be slippery due to water. I carry/push my iSUP into the water until it is deep enough to clear my 9" fin. Since there are waves, that may be some distance out. So I don’t think rocks will damage the hull assuming I manage to not have them hit my fin.

Be careful and don’t over extend yourself. Build up to it.

1 Like

The main concern I would have with an iSUP on open water would be winds. SUPs in general float above the water, so don’t get a bite into it like a boat would have. This means they can be blown pretty easily by winds. Worse yet when standing, as the paddler acts like a sail (so perhaos not as bad when sitting).

The second worry would be a storm popping up, and the corresponding winds and waves it could create.

Check weather reports for winds/storms, watch the weather as you paddle, and stay close to shore and you should be able to mitigate these risks.

A waterproof VHF with weather alert is highly recommended. Storms can pop up and move very rapidly on the Great Lakes.

Try and research what the shoreline is like if you have to put ashore due to changes in the weather. Doesn’t look too friendly on Google Earth, but it’s hard to tell.

Water temperatures for this area area bizarre. Depending on what website you choose they range from 49-70°F.

Tides on the Great Lakes are about 2 inches. Lake Michigan is about 2½ feet over what charts list a low mean water, but lower than it has been from the last two years and projected to drop further through the rest of this year.