Our Favorites: 3-Hour Paddle Trips

We talked to five Northern paddlers and asked them to share a favorite three-hour paddle trip. So, if you’re itching to get in the water, but don’t know where to start, or just want to expand your paddling universe, here are some recommendations from those who know. Look for four more great 3-hour paddle trips in the July 2009 Outdoors department of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

The Leelanau Narrows

Park and put in at the Narrows public boat launch just northeast of the town of Lake Leelanau. Paddle north along the shore toward Leland. Watch for swans, blackbirds and other wildlife in the Narrows before you paddle out on to beautiful Lake Leelanau. There is a public park and boat launch in town where you can leave your gear when you head to downtown Leland for some well-deserved ice cream or coffee. After a short break, you will be ready for the return trip. Lake Leelanau is a popular lake, so be on the lookout for on-the-water traffic. The trip should take from one to one and a half hours each direction, depending on your skill level. About 7 miles round trip. —Recommendation by Susie Graham, owner, Backcountry Outfitters, Traverse City. 231-946-1339, backcountrytc.com.

Lone Pine Rapids on the Boardman River

The drawing down of Boardman Pond has produced rapids that only make scenic Boardman River all the more exciting to paddle. Those who know the Boardman will find new water to explore as the forested river reclaims and reforms land it hasn’t touched in a century. Put in at Shumsky Landing off of River Road and navigate the now fast-flowing river all the way down to Boardman Dam. Be careful, though. Getting out of the water down by the dam can be tricky. About 7 miles of river.—Recommendation by Steve Largent, Director of Land Management Services, Grand Traverse Conservation District, gtcd.org.

The Pine River

The Pine is a wide, faster-moving river that can be loads of fun for those with some paddling experience. Put in at Dobson and paddle downstream past 100-foot sand bluffs that hem in the river. Resist the urge to climb one, though–it causes erosion and degrades the river and is just plain forbidden by the National Forest Service. Take out at Peterson Landing on M-37 just south of M-55. Keep in mind that parking and paddle permits are required on this river and can be obtained from the U.S. Forest Service.—Recommendation by Norman Fred, vice president, Traverse Area Paddle Club. traverseareapaddleclub.org.

Lake Michigan Coastline Along Wilderness Park

This is one of the most wild and varied stretches of Great Lakes coastline in northern Michigan. The rocky areas and Great Lakes marshes of Wilderness Park make for stunning scenery, and the park’s sandy beaches are perfect for a mid-paddle picnic. Put in on the south side of the park; there are several access points just off the road around Sturgeon Bay, or on the north side, around Wilderness Park Drive. The park has 18 miles of shoreline. –Recommendation by Doug Fuller, Director of Stewardship, Little Traverse Conservancy, landtrust.org.

Up for an All-Dayer? Inland Waterway-Crooked River

This is a 15-mile paddle one way. Put in at Crooked Lake, just a few miles up U.S. 31 from Petoskey. Paddle east across the lake and along the aptly-named Crooked River. Enjoy the scenery of the narrow, curvy river and the experience of using the small lock and dam you’ll find along the way. Take a break for ice cream about halfway at Spanky’s in Alanson, near the swing bridge. You will end at the public boat launch at Burt Lake State Park. Boat traffic on Crooked River can get thick during peak summer days, so consider midweek or spring/fall. This trip is especially beautiful in the colors of autumn.—Recommendation by Josh Baker, owner, The Outfitter, Harbor Springs. 231-526-2621, outfitterharborsprings.com.

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    If you put in where the Platte River dumps into Lake Michigan and paddle the shoreline to the north it is pretty spectacular view of the Empire bluffs. Hang on the beach for a while and turn back when you want. I think the shoreline is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park but I am not positive. It’s a coastal (exposed) paddle but when the weather us right, it does not get much better.

    Fare thee well–Anonymous Dave