Solo Options in Michigan

Hello! I am hoping to do a 5 day solo trip and live in the Detroit area. Because I would like to spend more time paddling than driving, and I’m not comfortable driving excessive distances in one day alone, I’m leaning towards staying on the Lower Peninsula, but I might consider the UP or Ontario, if the border opens up in the next month. I have a small bias towards rivers, but also enjoy lake paddling!

I am looking for recommendations of both routes and outfitters that I can work with for the trip. I am okay with either a kayak or a canoe, but while I have fairly extensive experience doing trips in tandem canoes, I have not done a solo trip before and feel unsure about portaging a kayak, and the space available in canoes is appealing. From what I have seen, most of the canoe liveries do not rent solo canoes, or do not advertise it. Unfortunately, buying a canoe is not an option for me at this point as I don’t intend to live in the area permanently. What are my best options for a trip in the area?

Stay close to home. Find some rivers with minimal gradient. Rent a kevlar canoe even it if is a smaller tandem.

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The Manistee & the AuSable are your best choices followed by the Pere Marquette. I’ve used Shel-haven years ago for shuttle on the Manistee but I’m not sure if they are doing long trips this year. There are some State Forest campgrounds on the Manistee & the National Forest is managed for dispersed camping. On the Ausable, Penrods is a good choice for the Ausable. Camping is managed differently in the National Forest on the Ausable. There sites are designated and need reservations in season.

Only two portages on the Manistee and the first at Hodenpyle is a long way down. Five on the Ausable with the first at Mio, maybe 3 - 4 days down.You can probably get away using a smaller tandem canoe. ideally paddled from just back of center but, with gear, people will paddle backwards from the bow seat & load the gear forward to trim the boat.


Thank you, this is very helpful! Those all seem like good choices. I have paddled backwards from the bow seat before but not for an extended trip!

Is the AuSable reasonable to complete in 5 days? I have seen 7 days quoted, but I am fine with some slightly longer days and tend to paddle hard more than I float.

I paddled the AuSable in 1962. It was a great river for getting used to moving water.

Five days? One guy did it in 13:58:08 in 1994. But I’m being facetious as he was a paddler in the AuSable Canoe Marathon (sadly canceled this year because of Covid).

You’re going to love it up here.

So, Rookie has it for the marathon record (except @Rookie it’s 2 paddlers in the race canoes in the Marathon) . The 2019 winning time was 14:15:34. In 2017 first and second place were one second apart. Can you imagine sprinting to the finish after over 14+ hours of high speed paddling. The cut-off time at Oscoda (120 miles) is 19 hours.

I have only done the river in sections - two days with one night camping. I’ve contemplated doing it in three days/ 2 nights. Five days, four nights should be very doable. You will have 5 dams to portage and about 1/3 of the river is backwaters from those dams. You will also need to identify the campsites in the National Forest and, in season, make reservations.

Yeah, I realize there are two race paddlers. Was just copying the Hall of Fame stat of Serge Corbin for setting the course record in '94.

I think that amazing 2017 sprint to the finish is at 2:57 in this video - which is my personal motivator when I don’t feel like working out.

Yes, I am in awe of that sprint.