Paddling Three Quiet Lakes

Diane Kolak

Backwaters

A canoe or kayak, a quiet lake, a calm eve–Lordy, it's good.

Find peace on a quiet float Even in Northern Michigan, lakes like these sound too good to be true. Hardly any houses (or none), hardly any motors (or none). They take a little work to reach, but that's part of the adventure. Shove off, and yours are likely to be the only ripples spreading across the water.

French Farm Lake, Mackinaw City. Drive the two-track to the shore and drift into this 585-acre wildlife flooding. Cast for pike, perch and bluegill in the clear water. Motors allowed, but not often seen. State land surrounds, so no houses, and you can camp on the shore. Get a free permit at any DNR field office. From Mackinaw City, west on Central Avenue to the T, left on Wilderness Park Dr. to the T, jog left onto the dirt road that heads into the forest across the road.

Sand Lakes, Acme. Portage your boat (wheel carts allowed) about a half mile to these silent (no motors) and well-stocked fishing holes. Find rainbows in Lake One, brookies in Lake Two, and bass and bluegill in both. Some bait restrictions apply. To camp on shore get a free permit at any DNR field office. From M-72, turn south on Broomhead Rd., go about 3 miles, look for trailhead signs on the left.

Pine Lake, Wellston. Dynamite largemouth bass fishing, hungry bluegills and the occasional brown trout. Motors are allowed, but quiet prevails. Just ask the loons and the bald eagles that nest near shore. A small gravel launch site keeps access easy. Camp in the primitive campground or stay at Pine Lake Villa–8 cottages on shore. 231-848-4505. From Wellston, take M-55 west about 1 mile to left on Bosschem Rd., go about 1 mile to right on Pine Lake Rd., take to end.

Discovery: Watery Wonders

Fish aren't the only captivating life forms to discover on a peaceful lake. We called Doug Fuller, aquatic biologist with SEE North, Petoskey, and asked him for tips on becoming a savvy lake explorer.

  • Wear polarized sunglasses. You will see far more good stuff under the water–fish, crayfish, frogs, turtles…. Know that glasses with UV protection aren't necessarily polarized.
  • Take a mason jar and a magnifying glass. Dip the jar into shallow water and you will catch all sorts of phytoplankton and zooplankton, like copepods, cladocerans–microscopic animals with antennae and outer skeletons.
  • Pack a good pond life identification guide. Fuller likes the Golden Nature Guide to Pond Life (widely available). For the more hardcore, Pond and Brook, Guide to Nature Study and Freshwater Environments.
  • Buy an underwater viewing scope. It's like snorkeling without getting wet. Aqua-Scope II, $64, Ben Meadows, www.benmeadows.com.
  • Be quiet. "Don't bang the oars–turtles have ears too," Fuller says.

Gear: Wheel Easy

Ease your journey to quiet water with a cart for your kayak or canoe. The Atlantic Cart 260, by Eckla, sports fat tires to get you through mud and sand; a wheel without bearings stands up to water and grit. At The Outfitter, Harbor Springs, 231-526-2621, www.outfitterharborsprings.com.

More Ways to Get on the Water!

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