Kayaking - Michigan

Planning solo trip to Michigan in June. Flying in to Detroit…have five days to explore.

Would like to pinpoint super spot (Inn, motel) where kayak is available for safe flatwater paddling and nature photography.

Not easy to answer with the limited info
you provide. Are you traveling? How far are you willing to travel? Can you fly out of somewhere other than Detroit? Is all your time dedicated to paddling, or are you on a business trip? A good place to start is at Riverside Kayak Connection, call 734-285-2925 Tiffany and Patrick are the owners. There is not alot of flat water around Detroit until you get to the metro park system and some of their rivers. The Huron river has some of the best flat water wildlife in the area. If you can get up north 2.5 to 7.5 hour drive, the paddling is endless and spectacular. My favorites are not flat water spots, so I think you will get better advice from others who will likely post here. An early welcome to the Great Lake State and the Motorcity, enjoy your stay. I think you will find that this area is far nicer than most people expect it to be, particularly if you are focusing on the outdoors.

North towards Traverse City
I’ve spent time up near Traverse City/Leelanau County and Harbor Springs and that area has many beautiful lakes (including L. Michigan of course). Water is crystal clear and cold. Much better than the brown murky waters here in southern Ohio. This is probably 3 or so hours from where you are though. Michigan is great for paddling!

Alternative -Fly to Toronto
Do Algonquin Provincial Park

I used to live in Michigan, Ontario is a much nice place, Southeastern Michigan is not exactly an outdoor paradise and has a lot more crime, Ontario is much safer and more friendly place.

The advice to contact Riverside Kayak Connection.

They’ll really help you out and will also have some group paddling opportunities this summer if you’re looking to paddle with other people.

that I’m going to paddle this summer while in Michigan is the Pine and Pere Marquette. They are close to the Ludington area and are supposed to be part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers designation. Really looking forward to it.

Drummond Island
is about a 6 hour drive from Detroit. It’s off the beaten track, there are kayaks for rent in the area, and the island studded Potagannissing Bay is a great destination.

The Upper Peninsula
The U.P. is the place to be in Michigan. The Pictured Rocks and Grand Island area near Munising is second to none for natural beauty.

SW Michigan isn’t so bad
It beats middle Ohio.

Paddling Pine Lake near Doster, NE of Kalamazoo has some peaceful beautiful changing landscape.

Gull Lake is fabulously clean - looking below 60 plus feet to see the bottom is wild

I understand that the Thornapple River near Grand Rapids is a great ride.

The Kalamazoo has been paddled a lot lately but to me having grown up next to it - not appetizing like the reservoirs around Columbus Ohio actually - dark and dank.

Gun Lake on a holiday - running the shore line is like a big party on water - try doing this on July 4th weekend, folks are friendly and sitting in the water on their beach chairs

The Kalamazoo near Saugatuck is prettier to paddle as you wander upstream a bit - but dark water is below you.

Ask the folks at Lee’s Sporting Goods in Kalamazoo for good advice on where to paddle

Of course paddling is better and prettier the further north you go in Michigan. The Pine River near Baldwin can be a wild ride.

take that w/a grain of salt
Safety in downtown detroit can be a problem but having visited Ontario often and living west of detroit for years, it’s safe here.

I would second the recommendation to go north though. Northern MI rivals most areas, including the greater toronto area for paddling. Northern ontario is nicer still but then you’re getting more remote.

If you travel to the Traverse City or Harbor Springs areas you can find plenty of B&Bs with good flatwater paddling opportunities nearby. Post a response if you want some specific suggestions.

…not alot of flat water around Detroit?

For starters there’s this little stream called the Detroit River which has a river trail map you can get from Riverside Kayak. I spent 2 days last fall paddling the river and crossing from the US to the Canadian side and back. And you’ll see the southern most range of lilypads in a fair sized bay. And get stuck in them, if you keep paddling straight into them, as I did.

A bit further upstream is Peche Island, very beautiful just at the north end of the Detroit River.

Just north of that is Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair flats where the St. Clair River empties into the Lake. At the NW corner is Mitchell’s Bay from where you can paddle up to Wallaceburg and back, like I did a dozen years ago.

Then there’s the St. Clair river itself where you can cross over into Canada and to an Indian reservation on Walpole Island.

All this and you’re barely on the outskirts of Detroit. Of course if you really can find someone to lend you a kayak for a trip 6 hours north it does get prettier. But for a short visit, I’d rather spend my 6 hours there and 6 hours back, on the water instead.

Marty Cooperman

My mistake
Mitchell’s Bay is on the NE corner of Lake St. Clair, and it’s just as nice where it is than where I said it was.

While I agree with the observations
about the Detroit River, Lake St.Clair, and the St. Clair River, I do not think they are ideal for flat water paddling done by someone unfamiliar with the territory and possibly alone. I think it sounds like they are looking for a more laid back experience. These waters can be can be some of the most dangerous in the entire Great Lakes under certain conditions, and the boat traffic during the summer used to be pretty bad (maybe not so much anymore with the price of gas). During the work week in low winds, the south end of the Detroit River might work, or the flats area would be excellent too, but stay out of the river. JMO Bill

michigan flatwater options

– Last Updated: Feb-04-08 5:27 PM EST –

If you paddle in the metro detroit area, moparharn can probably help you as much as anyone else here. Unless you venture to the north end of Lake St. Clair in the marsh flats - great place to paddle - bill is probably right regarding his view of the Detroit River and St. Clair river. Lots of boat traffic, currents, not many places to exit and lots of seasonal motorboat traffic.

If you venture north you can make the northern tip of the state in 4.5 hours. That leaves you plenty of great options. You might try the Traverse City area, where you can get a motel or b&b room right on the Grand Traverse Bay - flatwater if it's calm. Plenty of other things to do there, including winery tours, hiking and some great biking trails. Otherwise you can venture to Glen Arbor, for example, and paddle Glen Lake, or the Platte river, or a number of other options. Once you get about 3 hours north of Detroit the scenery really takes a turn for the better.

Another option is to call these guys:


You could spend the week on an island in the middle of Lake MI with paddling right outside the door.

I live in N. MI and consider it one of the best paddling areas in the midwest. If you consider making the extra trip, drop me a line if you want additional help.

Finally, I have to respond to the claim that michigan is crime ridden. That's ridiculous. The City of Detroit has some areas I wouldn't want to find myself alone in, but I've lived in the state all my life, and can assure you it's not a concern.