Top 10 Places to Kayak in Michigan

Kayaking is one of the most popular sports that is enjoyed all around the world. Michigan is no different. There are so many bodies of water in the state which is why kayaking is a popular sport in the area. This article will tell you about the top places in Michigan where you can enjoy kayaking. 

Aside from listing the top places to kayak, you can also read about the training centers that are dedicated to this water activity. Michigan offers a variety of kayaking, and probably some of the best kayak fishing lakes.  All about kayaking in Michigan is compiled into this article keeping in mind the interest of the users. Continue reading to learn about Kayaking in Michigan. 

History of Kayaking in Michigan 

Kayaking has been around for a long time. Any place where there is a body of water, it seems plausible to have the option to go kayaking.

Michigan is great spots for this water sport. The various lakes and rivers introduced kayaking in the late 1970s when the bodies of water had access through the shorelines and the trails that followed the rivers. Even though it initially was only for sports and competitions, it soon became popular for tourists to enjoy and for locals to have fun too. 

Early on people rented out kayaks and gear that would help the enthusiasts but now many people have their own which is why the rent prices have reduced over time. 

The laws developed with time to ensure that nature is as preserved as possible in the water. Most people like to fish while kayaking, which can be done in most bodies of water in Michigan but some places have laws against that.

As the population started growing and the state became more developed, the parks and the beaches started to be more accessible. Most of the access to these bodies of water are now a short city distance from the cities while some are also entirely in the city to enjoy.  

10 Best Places to Kayak in Michigan

Michigan is filled with places that attract tourists and locals that love to go kayaking. A few of these locations are mentioned below. 

1. Lansing River

The Lansing River runs parallel to the Grand River and to the Red Cedar River. The river trail hosts a number of events, including big international music festivals, making it one of the most popular destinations for local and tourist destinations. 

The trail of the river allows users to enjoy by the riverside and have many different activity options to make it a great day with their loved ones. People can use the place to walk and go on their morning jog as it is one of the most refreshing and safe sites. You can easily rent a boat or kayak there and have a competition with your friends or you can enjoy some leisure time.  

There are several other trail activities that you can do, like fishing that you will often see people doing early in the morning. Fishing has a few laws which you need to follow in order to enjoy it properly. Trail activities include bike riding and skating as the most popular ones. In winter, cross-country skiing is also considered a great activity. With wheelchair accommodations too, this park has something to give to almost everybody. 

2. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is truly a photogenic place with endless activities to enjoy with your loved ones.  This lakeshore has beaches that you can enjoy your tanning session at or enjoy a beach picnic. You can also get your kayak and enjoy some leisure time without a problem. Or if you want a more intimate session, you can go kayaking during sunsets. The view is great with sandstone cliffs that go up to 100 miles. You can easily go for a hike and enjoy the view from up there. 

Spring adds a touch of beauty to the place with wildflowers and fresh air. In summers, you can enjoy the warm days by the beach. Autumn looks beautiful with the orange and the different colors to show that nature is changing. And in winter the snowy and windy days make for amazing sunlight. This lakeshore will give you something in every season and for everyone. 

3. Elk Rapids

Elk Rapids is a small village in the Antrim County in Michigan. North of the village, you can find the Traverse City and the Elk River which is the perfect place for kayaking and enjoying a day outside. The river is short and small but it holds great importance. The river forms a waterway and a harbor for the municipality of the Elk River. It was named after a few elk antlers that were found in the rapids. 

The small body hosts locals almost all week for picnics on the riverside or for boating or kayaking. You can also rent kayaks and enjoy time on the river. Fishing is also an option but with rules that you will have to follow very seriously. You will also find small local water sports competitions that are held at different times of the year. The river makes the village a much more significant place and gives the people a close place to enjoy leisure time with their family and friends. 

4. Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground

Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground is a very popular tourist spot and a great spot for locals as well. The park has up to 50 sites for camping which allows many people to enjoy time with nature for a couple of days. Since pets are allowed too, people like to come here to spend time with their pets as well. 

Small trailers can also be used in this park which makes it another advantageous spot. Just parallel to the campground, you can find a horseback riding opportunity. Here you can also find hiking and riding trailers that add to the amount of activities in this park. 

The Lake Dubonnet allows you to go pan fishing early in the morning. You will usually find a group of people enjoying fishing early in the morning. There are certain laws that clearly need to be followed before fishing. People love to have a canoe ride and a boat ride in this lake. They use the lake to enjoy a romantic evening with their loved ones on a canoe ride or simply for leisure time in a kayak. The park is made with many other facilities like wheelchair and toilet facilities. This makes it a great place to spend your weekends or your evenings. 

5. Two Hearted River

The two hearted river is considered one of the best trout streams in Michigan. The lake has a rustic campground where many people come to have a camping experience that includes fishing. The campground provides a lush view and a great place to relax. It became popular after Hemingway used it in one of its books ‘The big two-hearted river’. 

One of the most popular activities here is canoeing followed by kayaking. People love to gather together and go on a water adventure while also relaxing and getting some Vitamin D under the sun. The two access points of canoeing are available for one day or even for multiple days. 

The river mouth is surrounded by sand dunes which make it a sheltered campground. The view becomes very photogenic. The best time is during the spring when the birds sing and are flowers are blooming. The river attracts otters, fish-eating birds, and many fish. It is a very pleasant site in Michigan and should be visited if given the chance. 

6. Huron River 

The Huron River in Michigan has a length of 104-mile water which allows people to stay more connected to the natural river. The river touches the lower peninsula of Michigan and provides a great view. There are many different water activities that locals and tourists can enjoy because of the trail that has allowed the connection. 

Users can enjoy kayaking by renting a kayak or bringing their own and can also have a great time taking photos. Canoeing is another very popular activity that you can do here. Fishing can be done under certain laws but mostly, it is done on a weekly basis in the early morning; you can do it privately or get people from the trail to join you and help you out. 

There are many other freshwater pursuits to follow in the Huron River. The best part is that you can simply paddle for one day, for one weekend, or even for a couple of extra days as a mini vacation from the daily routine of city life. 

The trail allows you to simply enjoy a view or go out for cycling or even skating. People like to use it for jogging and even for yoga every day which refreshes them from city life. 

7. Platte River 

Platte River and the campground are located in the south of the Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore. This place is a facility all year round for everybody, which is why you find it crowded almost any time that you go there.  

The campgrounds are walking distance from the river making for easy access while you’re camping. The lakeshore has forests and abandoned farm meadows where people like to spend their days exploring. The most beautiful sights include the sand dunes that provide a scenic view where you can enjoy your time on the river. 

Recreational facilities include canoeing and kayaking for the camper and for the visitors on the river or even in the lake that is a short drive away from the river. There is also a road for people who would prefer to drive. The place is well organized with electric hookups, walk-in sites, hiking places, showers, and much more. This makes the riverside not only a great place for boating and kayaking but also for camping and for other activities.

8. Detroit Canals

The Detroit Canals are a very unusual place for kayaking in Michigan. There are several different canals across the city that allows kayaking. The best part is that there are several different canals that you can explore any time that you feel like it. You can find kayaks there to rent for each ride, or if you have your own you can simply get the life vests and enjoy a day out paddling on your own with your buddies and a great camera. The areas where the canals cross are sometimes referred to the Venice of Detroit or even the Canal district. 

The best part about kayaking here means that you get to find out and explore the rich history here. There have constantly been efforts and changes here that allow you to enjoy the place and if you have a guide with you, you can get better information from them. These canals allow you to enjoy the most unseen parts of the neighborhoods, which are usually closed for foot traffic but hold many different stories. With so much to see, this is undoubtedly one of the greatest kayaking spots in the state. Welcome to real urban kayaking!

9. Backwaters of Tippy Dam

The Tippy Dam backwaters are great for an adventurous trip on the water. There is a great deal of water activities to do in these backwaters including fishing. You will have to take your boat and your own gear over there because there is a very slim chance that you can rent them. It gets very warm in the summers and makes it almost impossible for people to enjoy because it is so hot. 

The fish seem to be only in small schools when there is such warm weather. However, kayaking is great way to cool down these summer days where you can enjoy them on the water. Many people like to have an overnight kayaking trip which is one of the greatest ways to go out on these waters.  

Camping on the water is one of the most popular activities here which make it a perfect weekend trip together. There are great sights to enjoy and you can even enjoy other water sports in these backwaters. Of course, there are a few laws to be followed which ensure safety in everything that you do. 

10. Beulah

Beulah in Michigan is a place surrounded by many different things to do in terms of water sports. The beach there allows you to enjoy a day tanning under the sun and enjoy kayaking and a swim in the water. You will find the crowd during sunsets because of the breathtaking views. Besides enjoying water sports, you can stay in the beach house, enjoy the tennis court, have fun on the playground with the little ones, and enjoy easy accessible parking around the area. The beach is located on the shore of the Crystal Lake. 

The Crystal Lake is another place to enjoy if beaches are not your first choice. You can enjoy freshwater kayaking and water sports there which are perfect for family time. The park next to it allows a great view and a place to enjoy as well. People come to barbecue and enjoy boating in this area the most. From the lake you can see the cold creek which is another body of water for leisure time. Fishing is not very popular out here since the laws are pretty strict, but they are always open for water activities and even other activities.  

Best season/ time to kayak in Michigan 

Most places in Michigan have kayaking open during all seasons as long as it is not used for fishing or disturbing the marine life. The best time to kayak is between the middle of May and the end of September. 

The spring water turns colder which is why it is not very ideal, but people do it anyway. However, it is important to take more care against hypothermia. Wetsuits are not necessarily needed in the summers, but there are separate precautions to be taken in the heat. 

The water in the lakes and beaches tend to be very cold, which is why wetsuits and gear need to be taken care of in September as well. Early fall does not change the temperature but the wind may create a nuisance especially for the amateur paddlers, the water may seem to be out of control. 

In the summer it is very hot but it still is perfect and a great part of Michigan. Hence, it is ideal to kayak from July to August in Michigan. Though the weather may not be predictable, it is still a much better time. The other times there is a high chance that it may not be ideal and it should be thoroughly checked if the weather is good for kayaking or not.

Training centers in Michigan 

If you are interested in kayaking and want to be a coach or you want to kayak often, you can join the many different kayak training centers in Michigan. A few of them are mentioned below. 

  1. Riverside Kayak Connection

The Riverside Kayak connection is a great connection to the waters of Michigan. It provides kayaking tours around the Detroit lakes and helps you enjoy the city.  You can get rentals and plan events with the company. They also offer many training classes to help provide a safe environment during kayaking. There are professionals who teach several different ways of kayaking. You can also get personal sessions with a trainer. Additionally, you will have to take tests to ensure that you are certified. 

  1. Uncommon Adventures

Uncommon Adventures is another Kayaking rentals and institute that allows you to have plenty of trips under their supervision or even independently with their rentals. You can enjoy learning about plenty of different kayaking styles on the coastal shores among the greatest professionals form the area. Plenty of workshops are conducted during the season to help interested people learn about kayaking and to practice in coasts and lakesides. 

  1. Quiet World Sports LLC

Quiet World Sports in Michigan is available daily for rentals and for helping you plan your kayaking trips. They also have classes which help you to make your kayaking trips more fun. The professionals help you learn different stages of kayaking and allow you to enjoy the season. 

Camping sites in Michigan

Michigan is also known for its campgrounds and parks that allow you to have a direct connection with nature for some time. It is a great way to bond with your friends and family and have a relaxing time. The following are a few camping sites. 

  1. Tahquamenon Falls State Park

The Tahquamenon state park has the most wonderful sites of the Tahquamenon falls that are on the east of the Mississippi. There are up to 40 miles high with hiking trails and 13 different islands for campers to enjoy. The 20,000 acres of natural landscape allows you to enjoy the view of nature and find more than just the waterfall. 

  1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

This lakeshore has beaches as well as hiking trails on the sand dunes. You can enjoy an entirely different style of camping here and make it a once in a lifetime experience for you. There are several different activities to do here while you enjoy your stay in one of the most scenic places in Michigan. 

  1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The Sleeping Bear Dunes lakeshore is a park with very high natural sand dunes. You can take a guided tour around this place or simply wander around with this natural view. You will find this place to be very enjoyable for camping as you will always have something to do. You can take a swim or enjoy the maple syrup forests. There is also a maritime museum to learn about the history of the place.  


Michigan is a great place with plenty of parks and bodies of water that allow kayaking. It allows people to bond with their friends and families without distraction from technology. These bodies of water additionally, hold water sports competitions for the locals and tourists to enjoy. 

Kayaking gear is mostly available in places like these so that if you do not own any, you can still take advantage of the sport by renting.  However, make sure you are following all the safety requirements when kayaking so that your life is not at risk while you have fun. Make sure to take preventative measures for better safety.

Gear up and go kayaking!

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