Lazy rivers and big-water wading
Floating the lower Platte River to Lake Michigan
The lower Platte River is a slow-goer’s paradise. You can cruise its sunny surface all the way to the big water, land your craft, and then spend the rest of your day splashing in the Lake Michigan shallows.
Lash your trusty tube or kayak to the car and motor over to the Platte River Picnic Area. There’s easy access to the river — skip the stairs and take the long ramp next to the restrooms — and from here you’re about 21"2 hours from the river mouth. (Don’t have your own float-craft? Rent one from Riverside Canoe Trips, right across the river from the picnic area, 231-325-5622).
The wide river bends and twists, its low banks interrupted here and there with quaint cabins and cottages, grassy islands and the fish weir. At Platte River Point the river curls around a long spit of land crowded with low, grassy dunes. If the piping plovers are done nesting — usually around mid- to late-summer — the "Do Not Enter" signs along the mouth will be gone, and you can beach your boat or tube on the land spit, climb over and jump into Lake Michigan on the other side. If the plovers are present, pull out on the banks of Lake Township Park (directly across from the land spit) and wade down the waist-deep waterway into Lake Michigan. A giant sandbar spreads beyond the spit, so the water keeps to less than 10 feet deep for about 200 yards out. Folks with their own kayak — tubes are not recommended, and Riverside rentals are not permitted to enter Lake Michigan — can keep paddling north up the coast to Platte Plains Beach, which is otherwise accessible only by hiking trail.
Platte Plains Picnic Area is west of M-22 on Lake Michigan Road. You’ll want to keep a second car at Lake Township Park’s parking lot, which is located at the west end of Lake Michigan Road. Parking fee is $2 per car.
Stay the night:
- Platte River Campground, modern camping, 179 sites. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore park entry fee, plus $12+ nightly camping fee. 231-326-5134
- White Pine Campground, backcountry camping in a ravine between two forested dunes. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore park entry fee, plus $5 nightly camping. 231-326-5134.
- Betsie Bay Inn, exquisite inn inside the old Frankfort Hotel building, two fabulous restaurants, $135+ nightly. 231-352-8090.