First Time Out

Okay, I am new here and this is my first post. I have owned a couple of 14’ kayaks and a 17’ canoe for several years. I have been on a few slow rivers, no whitewater. My wife and I go to lakes, mostly.

We are planning on going on a camping trip here soon. We have always stayed in state parks and established campgrounds. I have always wanted something more. This time, the plan is to paddle somewhere, hopefully within an hour of our vehicle, set up a base camp, and spend about a week there. If there is a good reason to move camp, I am not opposed, I just don’t want to be on a river trip camping somewhere new every night. Plus, I want to be able to paddle back to our vehicle.

This is basically a test run and want it to be fairly safe. I am not new to the outdoors by any means but haven’t tried this before. We are looking at Manistee National Forest, perhaps. We are planning on Michigan, preferably the Lower Peninsula, strictly for distance reasons.

I was wondering if anyone had any advice on a good place to go for a first timer. Any advice is welcome on any aspect of this. Thank you.

Sleeping Bear Dunes?
Have you thought about the Sleeping Bear Dunes area? I believe there are two islands you can paddle to (Manitou?) which would make for a nice base camp.

Rock Island State Park in Door County, WI sounds similar - access by boat only.

Paddling the big lake
While South Manitou and Rock Island are both beautiful places, unless you a are very experienced paddler, I would avoid paddling Lake Michigan for a first trip. Unfortunately, I am not that familiar with Michigan so I can not offer advice there. Now in Wisconsin I could suggest some places to paddle.

Manistee …
The forest service has multiple reservable backountry sites on the dam-ponds on the Au Sable and Manistee rivers. This would probably be the closest thing to “backcountry”.

There is a small wilderness area (that means backcountry, wilderness camping) called Nordhouse dunes immediately North of Ludington State Park that would offer paddling on Lake Michigan.

If you’re willing to cross the bridge, you might consider the Les Cheneaux Islands. Most are private, but there is some NFS land on lake Huron just to the west, and an island somewhere in the middle that is part of the Nat’ Forest (Hiawatha NF, I believe). This would be a good area to have a base camp and explore, and would offer protected paddling and open Great Lakes, if desired.

The manitou islands are part of Sleeping Bear National seashore, and they are great. The north island is all backcountry. But, they are a 9-mile crossing from the mainland that can be pretty rough and unpredictable. A ferry runs out of Leland that can take you and your boats to either island.