We are looking to take a week long canoe trip in Michigan next year. Anyone have suggestions on a trip that would be comparable to Ontario. We are trying to find the same type of solitute & wilderness experience that we have enjoyed in Canada without the hassle of customs and the drive. Good fishing, wildlife, primitive camping, and very few people are a must.
all you asked for and more
Drive to Houghton or Copper Harbor, Michigan, and take the ferry to Isle Royale. Isle Royale has 26 named interior lakes with game fish, over 160 miles of hiking trails, and if you’re really ambitious you can circumnavigate it by paddling 120 miles.
Isle Royale is the trip of a lifetime
A whole 45 mile island without motors (inland). Fjords that are gorgeous, great fishing, moose, wolves howling at night and loons calling at daybreak. Last time I went in September and there were no insects and ripe berries everywhere. It’s hard to top fresh blueberries for your pancakes and just caught walleye for dinner.
But if it is too difficult to get to, then I’ve heard good things about the Sylvania wilderness in the Upper Penninsula, and there a many lovely rivers to run in the Lower Penninsula–not wilderness but gorgeous country.
is a great place. In September when I have gone the last 2 years the township campground is virtually empty. Circumnavigating the island is a good trip (approx 85 miles), daytripping into Potagannissing Bay, or making the overnight to Lime Island.
How remote is Isle Royale?
How many people do you see?
I wanted to go there & heard reports it can be fairly busy/see lots of people. Maybe it was the time of year they went-summer? Or is this an inaccurate report altogether?
I had this on my list of places to see. Any info appreciated on hiking & paddling in terms of solitude. Also, are there parts that are more remote than others?
Another possibility is…
…the Grand Island section of the upper penisula on the south shore of Lake Superior. The island has northside and southside bays, with the one on the southside offering excellent weather shadow protection from nasty winds and roiling waters.
The campsites get little use during the week and are nicely arranged with separate areas for food storage, cooking, and sleeping… there be bears, one of which popped a nice hole in my tent to score a sniff (and came up with nada).
And if you happen to pick the south bay (Murray Bay), you can see the lights of the small town of Munising. But you will hear nothing. And if you just have to have pizza, it’s only about five miles away:)
After Labor Day
The trails and waterways thin out nicely. Less people, particulalrly the trails and lakes of the middle part of the Island. Good fall fishing.
We are going up in 2 weeks to kayak and fish the Malone Bay area. We don’t expect to see many people.
Isle Royale is a good bet. I’m guessing that Grand Island won’t provide enough paddling for you- plus that’s not really canoe water. Even though the island shelters some of the water around it it still isn’t really where you want to be. There are too many cliffs that are too big to make it safe to paddle all the way around. You could cut over to Pictured Rocks, but it’s a similar story there. That’s sea kayak territory, and even then it’s all weather dependent.
People go to Ontario and the Boundary Waters because there is a lot of space- easily a week’s worth of water. The UP is relatively small with less water to sustain a longer trip. Your best bets would be looking at the Michigamme or Indian Rivers. A leisurely trip down either could be stretched into a week.
Thanks for the info. I have been to the Island backpacking. I think it would be a great float however do you have any ideas for trips inland. Possibly the porkies? I’m live in northern Indiana and we are trying to save some travel time if possible.
We typically travel in canoes…how would that be for Drummond? How is the camping?
Drummond is mostly sea kayak
territory unless conditions are ideal. There is a trip into the interior however that I hear is very isolated, and is definitely canoeland. From Potagannising Bay there is a river that connects three lakes takes you into the undeveloped interior. Based on how the island empties out in the developed portions after Labor Day, I’m guessing the interior would be devoid of people.
Overall visitation to the U.P. and Drummond Island is down due to the poor economy in Michigan and the rising cost of the ferry from the mainland.
Try the BWCA
I lived in MI for a long time, and except for Isle Royale by sea kayak, I can’t think of anything that would meet your requirements. Especially not for a week. You should definitely look into the BWCA, as I believe that’s as close as you’re going to get to what you want in the upper midwest. And a little sweat equity can get you into some remote places.
If you want to drive a little further, check out the Allagash in Maine, or the big rivers (Yellowstone & Missouri) in Montana.
The BWCA of the UP.
Drive? Customs? Takes us a day
from Atlanta to lower Michigan, and by the second day we’re in Ontario. Customs going was nothing, and coming back, we took a lesser crossing where we were through in a flash.
THE MANISTEE RIVER
For what you are looking for, the Sylvania Wilderness probably does best fit your description. Although Isle Royale is great, the big drag for me was the whole group campsite thing. I don’t mind crossing paths with other paddlers during the day, but when I camp I don’t want to see anyone-and it doesn’t sound like you do either.
Anyway, all this said I would strongly recommend the Manistee River. Has ALMOST everything you’re looking for. Obviously it would not be as “remote” as what you are looking, but that’s what makes Ontario-Ontario. You may see lots of cottages and other canoes on certain sections of the river, but you will be able to find great sites to camp by yourself. There’s about fifty good hours worth of paddling so you could definitely get a good sized trip out of it. I know and love every bend of this river, so email me or post here with any questions.
I would have to agree with liveslow. We just finished 8 days on the Manistee River, and for the first 3 days we say nobody else. 4 out of the 7 nights we were alone. Really didn’t see a lot of people untill after Tippy Dam
Remember, more people visit Yellowstone in a day than isle royal in a year.
Its a big island, and you may see some people by the main points of demarcation, but get away from those and they fade away
…from Tippy Dam to Manistee Lake will be overrun with meat fisherman this time of year as the salmon are running. There are good trip opportunities upstream, however, that would suit you well, though camping can be limited until you reach the the Manistee National Forest.
Long trip worth taking
I paddle the great lakes a lot and the two greatess destinations to take on are: 1. Isle Royal/Lake superior 2.Painted Rocks State Park/Michigan.
I kayak on my own most of the time, as I am retired from the U.S. Army and living along the the lake michigan lakeshore in Indiana.
For my money, Algonquin is not that much further, and would likely be much more satisfactory. My favorite put in is Rain Lake entry point. It’s 8 hours from Detroit and the customs are very seldom any problem or delay at all, for U.S. born citizens. Gone over many times.