In September, the non-profit organization Paddle Antrim hosts their annual event celebrating our amazing waterways of Northern Michigan. Held September 16 and 17, water lovers are invited to kayak over 40 miles through the Chain of Lakes in Antrim Country during the Paddle Antrim Festival. There are dropout points placed along the route, so you can paddle as little or as much as you want. Plus, the whole community comes together for celebration parties (Short’s Brewing Company, live music, and food included, of course!) at the end of each day.

Registration for Paddle Antrim Festival 2016 opens on Wednesday, May 25. The event for passionate paddlers is limited to 300 kayakers per day, so early registration is recommended.

We talked with Deana Jerdee, Executive Director of Paddle Antrim, to get all the details about the Northern Michigan paddling event.

Paddle Antrim Festival 2016

How does the Paddle Antrim Festival celebrate our waterways? 

The Paddle Antrim Festival connects people to our lakes and rivers with a two-day non-competitive 42-mile kayak event through the incredible Chain of Lakes here in Antrim County. Beginning in Ellsworth, this paddle travels through four towns on ten different lakes and ends in Elk Rapids where Elk River flows into East Grand Traverse Bay. Each community participates in making it a pretty spectacular celebration along the entire route.

The route is pretty long! Do paddlers have to kayak the entire 42 miles to participate?

Definitely not. We want people to get out and enjoy the amazing lakes and rivers that we have and make it a perfect day of paddling for them. Folks can choose to paddle one or two days of the event and each day choose how far they want to go. On both days there are checkpoints along the route so people can choose the right amount of paddling for them, whether it is seven miles, 42 miles, or somewhere in between.

What will people encounter along their travels down the Chain of Lakes?

On both days the routes are remarkable but are totally different experiences. Day One, Ellsworth to Bellaire, is made up of smaller lakes which leads to calmer waters and a more intimate encounter with nature and the shoreline. If you choose to do the whole route, it is 15 miles and takes about four to six hours to do.

Day Two, Bellaire to Elk Rapids, is mainly larger lakes and includes Grass River Natural Area, the crystal clear turquoise waters of Torch Lake, and Skegemog Lake Wildlife Area. If you choose to do the whole route, it is 27 miles and takes about eight to 10 hours to do, depending on ability and weather conditions. Paddlers who choose to do Day Two and go beyond the first checkpoint (more than nine miles), should be prepared for paddling in larger bodies of water and crossing Elk Lake.

Throughout the route paddlers will find stunning views and landscapes as well as opportunities to encounter wildlife.

Paddle Antrim Festival 2016

When does registration for Paddle Antrim Festival 2016 open and what does it include? (Besides an amazing time on the water!)

Registration will be open next week and includes a lot of great things to make it the ultimate paddling experience. Paddlers will get a fantastic lunch each day provided by our local restaurants as well as a custom t-shirt, participant number, and event sticker (great for on your boat or anywhere really). On the water paddlers can rest assured that there are safety boats to help and they will find bathrooms and water bottle filling stations at each checkpoint. To make the experience even better, we provide portage service (between Day 1 & Day 2) and overnight security so paddlers can drop their boat off the night before and come ready to paddle in the morning. Paddlers can even choose to add shuttle service and a hot breakfast each morning. Lastly, but certainly not least, there is a party to celebrate after each day of paddling.

Tell us about the post-paddling parties, please! 

On Friday afternoon, the Bellaire Chamber of Commerce will throw a great block party for paddlers in Richardi Park with food, music, and fun games. It’s a great opportunity to relax and enjoy some time with new friends off the water.

We end the Festival with a bang Saturday afternoon and into the evening with our Final Bash in Elk Rapids. This party is not just for paddlers but we invite the entire community to come and celebrate our waterways with us. There will be amazing live music, local food, and of course great beer made by our top sponsor and friends at Short’s Brewing Company. We also will recognize those amazing paddlers who do complete all 42 miles and will be added to our Paddler’s Hall of Fame.

Is there anything for people who want to be involved in Paddle Antrim Festival 2016, but don’t necessarily want to paddle?

For those who want to be involved in this super cool event but don’t want to paddle, there are many great volunteer opportunities available. For more information about the event details and volunteering, find us online or contact us at or 231-492-0171.

All Paddle Antrim Festival 2016 photos were provided by Paddle Antrim.

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Photo(s) by Paddle Antrim