Let the gaze of a full moon guide you on a nighttime paddle along Benzie County’s Platte River.

The sky transitions from the glowing orange of sunset to the deep reds and purples of the coming night. Soon, a swollen moon will rise above the tree line, shimmering on the water and lighting the wending river. Beginning at dusk, our flotilla departs from the put-in by Platte River Campground off M-22 in Honor. We’re planning to paddle from the campground to Platte Point Beach, which should take about two hours.

I’ve linked up with a group from Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak out of Empire. The shop hosts free, guided, full moon paddles on the Platte and other nearby waters, offering SUP rentals if you don’t have your own. Staff transport rented equipment to the start of the trip and help shuttle participants back to their vehicles at the put-in. Note, if you have your own equipment, you’ll have to coordinate a spotter vehicle at the Platte River Beach parking lot. (All non-motorized watercraft are welcome, so if you have a kayak or canoe, you’re invited, too.)

Follow Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak on Facebook to view upcoming full moon paddles and other events.

Shallow and warm, the Lower Platte River has a gentle current that meanders downstream (the Upper Platte is fast, and best navigated by kayak). We stand on our paddleboards and make smooth strokes as the moonlight guides us down the river. The steady, rhythmic paddling is calming as our group glides under the cosmos.

Shortly after leaving the campground, the river empties into Loon Lake where participants have to put in some muscle to paddle across the placid surface. Later, my headlamp comes in handy navigating the weir, a ways past Loon Lake.

After the portage, the final stretch is easy going. Soon we hear the sound of waves on Lake Michigan and the journey nears its conclusion. As we maneuver toward shore and drag our boards into the dewy grass, the moonlight spilling across excited, happy faces, I know this will be a highlight of my summer.

Paddle Equipment

  • Paddleboard and leash
  • Paddle
  • Life jacket
  • Headlamp
  • Fleece jacket or neoprene (nights get chilly)

Photo(s) by Liam Kaiser