Kayaking In Michigan

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Have you ever considered going kayaking in Michigan?

Would you like to learn more about the best destinations for paddling adventures in Michigan?

Is this really a good place to visit for a kayaking vacation?

Michigan is an excellent destination for kayaking, and it’s one that many people seek out in order to expand their paddling horizons. There is a lot of beautiful, pristine scenery to enjoy in this state, and with abundant bodies of water, there are many opportunities for paddling, too.

If you’re thinking of kayaking in Michigan, check out our list of location options below to help you get started!

Option #1. Ausable River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Grayling
Recommended Duration: Half-Day or shorter

One of the most popular and beloved kayaking and fishing rivers in Michigan, the Ausable River is located in North Michigan. The river is the subject of strong conservation efforts in the area that work to prevent it from being overfished or over-paddled and allow it to remain as natural as possible.

Pros

  • This is a beautiful river with a gentle pace that’s perfect for beginners.
  • The river water is clean and safe.

Cons

  • There are many regulations on this river, so you will need to familiarize yourself with them ahead of time before your trip to ensure you don’t break any rules.
  • The river may be populated on some days.

Option #2. Crystal River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Glen Arbor
Recommended Duration: Whole-Day

When you want to get up close and personal with birds and other local wildlife, the Crystal River is a great way to make that happen. This kayaking trip is a short and sweet way to get out on the water with no previous skill or experience required.

Pros

  • Groups are welcome on this river and group rates are available from many outfitters.
  • Kids are welcome on this river as well.

Cons

  • The trip on this river may be too short for some more experienced paddlers to enjoy.
  • This is a popular location that can be crowded at certain times of the year.

Option #3. Detroit Canals

Difficulty: Intermediate
Price: $$$
Location: Detroit
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Take a historical tour of the canals of Detroit on this unique paddling experience. Informative guides will teach you all about the local history and some local legends, too, as you paddle through a suburban setting.

Pros

  • This paddle gives intermediate kayakers a chance to enjoy some wind and waves while still staying in a relatively safe paddling environment.
  • Rentals are available at an additional cost for this tour.

Cons

  • Children must be at least 14 years of age to join this kayaking trip.
  • If you bring your own kayak, it must be at least twelve feet long.

Option #4. Huron River

Difficulty: Intermediate
Price: $$$
Location: Delhi Mills
Recommended Duration: Full-Day

Although the Huron River is quite large, the Delhi Mills put-in point allows kayakers to enjoy the parts of the river that are packed with scenic views and beautiful nature. Paddlers can enjoy short trips or take longer excursions on the river, and those who bring their own watercraft can travel even further based on their individual skill levels.

Pros

  • Other types of rentals are also available along the Huron River, including canoes and tandem kayaks.
  • There are many departure times available during the open season for kayaking on this river.

Cons

  • Many outfitters on the river are first-come, first-served, so you may need to arrive early to get a spot on a kayak.
  • Children under ten are usually not permitted to kayak or canoe on this water.

Option #5. Lake Superior

Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
Price: $$$
Location: Munising
Recommended Duration: Full-Day

One of the most popular spots to sightsee while paddling in Lake Superior is Pictured Rocks. On this kayaking trip, you can easily view this incredible scenery and enjoy other exciting locations along the trip’s itinerary, too. When you book with a touring company, you’ll be sure to see all these popular attractions along the water’s edge.

Pros

  • There are many guided and self-guided tours available on Lake Superior, with several customizable options as well.
  • Some touring companies include lunch or allow the option to stop for lunch during a full-day kayaking experience.

Cons

  • Trips will be canceled on this lake if there is inclement weather in the area, and this can occur at the last minute without much warning.
  • Kayakers must be at least eight years of age for this river, and no pets are allowed.

Option #6. Lansing River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Lansing
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

On a kayak, canoe, or paddle board, enjoy floating down the Lansing River near the city of Lansing. You’ll view much of the town from your kayak, and you can also put-in and take-out at certain town locations, too. Some outfitters even offer a combination pub crawl and kayaking expedition!

Pros

  • This river experience offers a unique opportunity unlike many of the others in the area.
  • There are many places to get in and out of the water along the river, so you can customize the length of the trip to your preferences.

Cons

  • Some parts of the river are intended only for more experienced paddlers.
  • Since this is town paddling, the water may not be as clear as it is in the wilderness.

Option #7. Makinac Island

Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
Price: $$$$
Location: Northern Michigan
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

This popular location is a great local getaway for kayakers and other watercraft hobbyists, too. Beginners can enjoy honing their skills in the marina area, while more experienced paddlers can venture out to the lighthouse for a different view.

Pros

  • There are many different options and ways to enjoy kayaking at this location.
  • Outfitters in the area tend to offer lessons to help beginners get out on the water with confidence.

Cons

  • Tours on this body of water tend to fill up quickly.
  • These are more expensive kayaking tours than some others in the state.

Option #8. Manistee River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$$
Location: Grayling
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

The Manistee River provides a comfortable, relaxing float that can be enjoyed in tubes as well as in kayaks. This is an out-of-the-way river that’s more popular with locals than tourists, so it stays quieter throughout most of the year and offers a nice, calm getaway.

Pros

  • Pets are allowed on kayaks when touring this river.
  • Overnight camping trips are encouraged on the Manistee River as well.

Cons

  • This river does not offer trips from Labor Day through Memorial Day due to weather and temperature conditions.
  • Glass containers are not permitted on any kayaking or camping trips on this river.

Option #9. Pine River

Difficulty: Intermediate
Price: $$$
Location: Wellston
Recommended Duration: Multi-Day

Designated as a Wild & Scenic River, the Pine River is a great way to get away from it all! This river is beautiful, clear, and well-kept, but with a lot of wilderness to see and explore as well. Those who enjoy getting “lost” in nature for a while are sure to have fun on this river.

Pros

  • Campgrounds and campsites are available along the river for multi-day excursions.
  • Several styles of kayak and raft are available for rent on this river.

Cons

  • Some kayaks for rent on this river don’t have a very high weight capacity.
  • Glass and Styrofoam are never permitted on this river.

Option #10. Platte River

Difficulty: Easy to Challenging
Price: $$
Location: Honor
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

The lower portion of the Platte River offers a gentle paddle perfect for beginners, young kids, and anyone looking to relax. The upper portion of the river is whitewater with plenty of rapids for more advanced paddlers to enjoy. Both options are great choices with plenty of scenery to explore and view.

Pros

  • Children are allowed to ride in a kayak with an adult or be pulled in a tube behind a kayak on the lower river.
  • Pets are permitted on the lower portion of the river in kayaks.

Cons

  • Over half of all kayakers tip over on the upper Platte, so it is not recommended for intermediate paddlers.
  • There are age restrictions on the upper river which vary depending on the water level.

Option #11. Two Hearted River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $
Location: Newberry
Recommended Duration: Half-Day or shorter

Enjoy a secluded, quiet paddle around the Two Hearted River with the whole family. This river is bordered by rustic-style campgrounds for those who want more of a “staycation” getaway, as well.

Pros

  • This river is an easy float that’s ideal for families with younger kids or older members, too.
  • The Two Hearted River is very quiet and many kayakers report having the water to themselves for the duration of their paddle.

Cons

  • Insects are an issue here, so bug repellant is an absolute must at almost any time of the year.
  • There is a fee to park at the State Park in which this river is located.

Conclusion

The best time of year to go kayaking in Michigan is during the end of summer or the beginning to middle of autumn. This will allow you to enjoy the cooler weather without worrying about the water being too cold, and you might even get a glimpse of some impressive fall foliage, too. Of course, if you go during the off-season, you may enjoy smaller crowds and more affordable lodging, but the weather could always be too cold or rainy for kayaking.

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