Paddling is becoming an even more popular recreational activity and Paddle Antrim is offering kayakers a great way to get out on the water with the third annual Paddle Antrim Festival. The festival celebrates Northern Michigan’s waters and communities and highlights the diversity of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail, a new non-motorized water trail being developed by Paddle Antrim with help from local organizations and city/township governments.

The Paddle Antrim Festival, September 15–16, is a fun, non-competitive kayak event where paddlers can enjoy being out on Antrim County’s Chain of Lakes. There are opportunities for all levels of paddlers, from beginners to advanced, to enjoy a great time both on and off the water. Kayakers can choose to paddle one or both days and choose the distance they want to travel. Those looking for a relaxed paddle may exit after 7 miles, while those looking for a challenge may continue up to 42 miles, with many exit points in between to make it the ideal paddle for anyone. There’s live music, great food, and drinks all weekend long for both paddlers and the entire community. (Registration ends September 10. Festival details here.)

This event highlights the wide-range of paddling opportunities that Northern Michigan’s Chain of Lakes provides. The first day begins with a series of small calm lakes which are a must-see and perfect for all paddlers. The second day you can explore up to five lakes and two rivers including the tranquil Grass River Natural Area and the crystal blue waters of larger lakes such as Torch and Elk. Over the two days, paddlers will enjoy the charming communities of Ellsworth, Central Lake, Bellaire, Alden, and Elk Rapids as they make their way down the waterway. To make the event stress-free, meals and shuttle service can be added at the time of registration.

“We are excited to offer a paddling experience for all levels of kayakers to get out on the water,” says Deana Jerdee, executive director of Paddle Antrim. “This is a great opportunity to highlight the different types of paddling the Chain of Lakes Water Trail offers and have the entire region come together to celebrate the remarkable waterways and region we live in.”

Beyond great paddling, the weekend is filled with food and festivities. Beginning Thursday night, there are local events with music and refreshments open to all. The festival ends with a bang at the Final Bash Saturday night in Elk Rapids hosted by the top sponsor, Short’s Brewing Company. This all-ages party is for paddlers and the entire community to come out and enjoy live music and great food and drinks. Short’s Brewing Company and festival sponsor, Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen, will be there serving up amazing food and the finest brews for all to enjoy.

The Paddle Antrim Festival not only encourages folks to get out and enjoy the lakes and rivers but also raises money to support Paddle Antrim’s mission to protect the waterway, focusing on stewardship, education, and increasing access for all through development of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. The water trail, the aquatic equivalent of a hiking trail for non-motorized boats, provides information on available access sites and paddling experiences for everyone to enjoy all season long. By working with local jurisdictions and other supporters and champions, Paddle Antrim is leading efforts to create a premier water trail for all to enjoy in Northern Michigan.

Paddle Antrim Festival

For additional information on Paddle Antrim, the Chain of Lakes Water Trail or Paddle Antrim Festival, go online to or contact Paddle Antrim at or 231-492-0171.

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Photo(s) by Paddle Antrim