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The Best Places To Kayak In Michigan

Michigan is known as one of the best places in the entire world for kayaking due to the great lakes and rivers that it has.  The state of Michigan is home to more than 3,200 miles of beautiful shoreline and serves as somewhat of a paradise to any kayakers who decide visit.  All of this is why we’ve come up with the best places to kayak in Michigan.

In addition to the large bodies of water that are perfect for kayaking, these Michigan rivers offer additional benefits as well. Many of the best places to kayak in Michigan are also surrounded by camp grounds, ATV trails, paths for hiking and more. That way, kayakers have fun throughout the day, even after taking a break from the water.

Considering the fact that Michigan has many rough winters, late spring, summer and fall are the suggested seasons for kayaking.

The Best Places To Kayak In Michigan

The Muskegon River

Located in the Western hemisphere of Michigan’s lower peninsula, the Muskegon River is a dream come true for kayaker’s. In addition to it’s beautiful clear waters, the Muskegon River is an ideal spot for camping, overnight trips, vacations and hiking. While certain spots of the Muskegon River call for experienced kayaker’s due to the above average maneuvering that is needed, many spots cater to beginners as well.

After a long day in the water, kayaker’s are able to cap off their day by enjoying the lovely wildlife and beautiful outdoors surrounding the Muskegon River. The number of salmon and trout has also risen over recent years throughout the Muskegon River, which has helped to attract more boaters, fishers and campers.

According to the Muskegon River Fishing website, the Muskegon’s headwaters in Houghton Lake flow into Missaukee County, and then from there, it flows all the way into southwest Michigan. The lake of Muskegon connects to lake Michigan and includes the Hersey River, Cedar Creek and the Little Muskegon River as well.

Many canoe trips are also offered by the Muskegon and usually strategically places near the beautiful wildlife downstream towards Leota. According to the Muskegon River’s Fishing website, many bikers, trail-riders and campers can often be found here. These locations often overlook the river, giving campers a gorgeous outdoorsy view.

The only downside to the Muskegon are it’s nature based accidents. Though this river is sought out by many, there tends to be an above average amount of tree falls. However, this issue is often easily avoidable, and calm lazy trails away from the trees are available for those looking to relax.

The Sturgeon River

Best Places To Kayak In Michigan

Sturgeon River – Canyon Falls & Gorge

With more than 40 miles of flowing water, the Sturgeon River is without a doubt one of the best places to kayak in Michigan. The Sturgeon is also Michigan’s fastest flowing river in Michigan’s lower peninsula, averaging a descent of more than 10 feet per mile. While the river definitely caters more towards veteran kayaker’s, many novices go here too.

Many locals enjoy Sturgeon River Paddlesports, a headquarters designed for kayakers, bicyclists, tubers, paddle boarders and more. The company aims to help kayaker’s of all levels and make sure that they have a great time while they are at the Sturgeon River.

The Manistee River

Famous for it’s multi-day camping trips, beautiful nature and calm clear water, the Manistee River caters to kayaker’s of all ages and includes a rather scenic river system. The forestland which surrounds the Manistee River’s clear water also gives kayaker’s a beautiful view each and every time they are there.

Multiple campgrounds and access sites are located near the river, enabling kayaker’s to float for hours to days at a time. Much of the river has been under extensive recreation and offers wonderful canoeing, fishing, paddle boarding and boating opportunities as well. The river an incredibly calm soothing water flow throughout the day, allowing for some of the most relaxing water-based trips available today.

Thanks to the river’s large sized body, stable flows and easy paddling is allowed. While many other rivers call for intense paddling while kayaking, the waters of the Manistee enable everyone to have a great worry-free time. The Manistee’s large open body has also allowed for the passthrough of logs, which otherwise would have become jammed in the river.

White pine logs (up to six feet in diameter) often pass through the Manistee River without difficulty and without disrupting the kayaker’s. Though some of the logs have gotten trapped over the years, they usually just sink to the bottom of the river.

The river is also said to have some of the finest fish in the entire country. Consisting of trout and salmon, many kayakers make sure to bring fishing rods as well.

The Jordan River

The Jordan River is more than 24 miles long and is located in the northwestern section of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Serving as Lake Charlevoix’s largest tributary to date, the Jordan River’s waters rise from springs in the upper northeast valley of Mancelona, located in the county of Antrim.

While many enjoy the Jordan River for it’s excellent brook and trout filled fishing spots, beautiful camping sites and intense ATV trails, it is even more of a dream come true for kayaker’s. Since the Jordan River (in it’s entirety) is nearly 25 miles long, it allows for very long trips down the water, and serves as one of the best places to kayak in Michigan.

The Lansing River

The Lansing River is one of the most popular and highly sought out River’s in all of Michigan due to it’s amazing trails, calm waters and the number of special events it plays hosts to.

In addition to being one of the best places to kayak in Michigan, the Lansing River is home to the Common Ground Music Festival, the Annual Mayor’s Walk, the Michigan Run, the Capital City River Run, the Delhi Township and much more. Fortunately, since there is so much to at the Lansing River, kayaker’s are never bored, even when needing a break from the water.

Isle Royale National Park

Another spot worth mentioning is the Isle Royale National Park. Home to many kayakers and campers, the park allows for multi-day camping trips around the entire island. Though some experience is required, kayaker’s are able to make this five hour trip from Lake Superior all the way to Isle Royale.

Any beginners, vacationers or campers without kayaking gear can also rent kayaks form the MTU’s Outdoor Adventure located in Houghton, or from the Keweenaw Adventure Company headquarters that are located in Copper Harbor.

Wrap Up

These Michigan based rivers are as beautiful as they are enjoyable, and are a must for all kayakers. The rivers cater to kayaker’s of all experience levels and are often sought out by veterans looking for a challenge. However, there are also many lazy, more calming trails for anyone looking to relax.

Additionally, a plethora of services are located throughout the state of Michigan in order to help novice kayakers with their skills prior to entering the water.

In addition to the miles and miles of clear water, the rivers also offer other options for any kayaker’s beginning to tire, earning them the right to be called the best places to kayak in Michigan.


Muskegon River Fishing:



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