Indian River, MI/Mackinac Area Suggestns


I’m looking for destinations to paddle in the general area of the Mackinac Bridge, Burt Lake, Indian River Area. If anyone has some good suggestions of put in/take out’s, I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,

Joan Visser

Big Lake Paddling?

– Last Updated: Sep-19-07 2:39 PM EST –

Earlier this summer, my brother and I did a camp-and-paddle at Search Bay, about 30 minutes east of St. Ignace. If you are interested in getting on the big lakes, it is a decent paddle, and protected from west-northwest winds/waves. About half of the shore of the bay is National Forest - there are only one or two houses on the rest of the shoreline.

Follow M-134 towards Detour Village. Take the first national forest road after St. Martin Point Road. There is a gravel "boat launch" off of the Nat'l forest service road - basically a rocky carry-in. There did appear to be a small sand beach .25 miles before the launch, but we didn't use it.

Saw your profile - two of my younger brothers played at Hillsdale. Love watching D2 football.

Big lakes, little lakes, or rivers?
The Sturgeon River in Indian River has he highest vertical drop per mile in lower Michigan. It’s not white water, but it’s fast, narrow, and not developed.

Burt Lake is a really pretty inland lake with a nice Michigan State Park access in Indian River. The water is shallow, warm, and crystal clear. You will see a large contingent of power boats and jet skis here, though.

As for big water, the Straits of Mackinaw is fantastic paddling, but well known for big winds and big waves. A good launch spot here would be the Mackinaw City public beach directly under the Mackinaw Bridge.

Better yet, Wilderness State Park is about ten miles west of Mackinaw City and has excellent launch spots. Depending on your abilities, a trip to the offshore lighthouse can be fun but is very exposed (3 miles open water out and back). A calmer alternative is paddling around the small islands at Waugoshance Point and into the nicest beach/dune area in Northern Michigan, Sturgeon Bay.

Good opportunities in the area–be safe and have fun!


Sturgeon & Pigeon
Sturgeon R from Wolverine to Burt Lake. Some of the fastest water in the Lower P. Easy rapids though, no more than C-I+. Use the canoe livery in Indian River for takeout & shuttle.

Pigeon R. is good too & is on the other (east) side of I-75. Might see some elk on that one. Same livery can shuttle there too. Can’t remember the Pigeon R. PI & TO…been too many years since I was there. Both rivers flow south to north & parallel I-75.

Burt Lake State Park
From Burt Lake State Park you can paddle a ways up the Sturgeon River. The current is VERY fast for a Michigan River so you won’t get UPSTREAM more than a mile or so.

The waves can really kick up on Burt Lake, making surfing kayaks or sea kayaks fun to surf. My son and I would surf the shallows well up into the mouth of the Sturgeon with a moderate, steady wind - great fun!

The Indian River area has a WIDE channel between the big inland lakes. Long flatwater trips are possible on this chain which is called the Inland Water Trail.


Loved Search Bay!
Camped there when I was 15 with my buds over spring break. When I was there though, there were no signs; just a two track in the woods that someone in the group had to know about to find. There were NO houses there at the time either. Rained every day we were there, the water was degrees above freezing…it was wonderful. Makes me want to be a teen again…but only for a moment. :wink:

Be advised if you’re thinking about doing the Pigeon or Sturgeon after Labor Day; liveries stop clearing strainers for the year and water levels can be up significantly with the fall rains.