Kayaking in Michigan

Michigan offers one of the best kayaking locations, from rivers to lakes to seas, and can be combined with fishing, hiking, and camping for a wonderful outdoor adventure.

Kayaking is one of the most popular water sports in the world and can be enjoyed by any age group, as a beginner or an expert. Michigan offers one of the best kayaking locations, from rivers to lakes to seas, and can be combined with fishing, hiking, and camping for a wonderful outdoor adventure. Discover Michigan kayaking and all it has to offer down below.

Why Kayak in Michigan?

Michigan State in the USA is bordered by four great lakes; Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. It has more than 11,000 inland lakes, 300 rivers, and 3000 miles of freshwater coastline. It should come as no surprise that it offers a range of opportunities to go kayaking as one is never more than 6 miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from a great lake.

Thus, recreational, sport, and sea kayaking are all possible in Michigan, with spectacular scenery all around. In addition, numerous outfitters are present for gear and kayak rentals, making kayaking a relatively inexpensive and enjoyable activity.

Best Places to Kayak in Michigan

We will mention down below some of the finest rivers and inland lakes to go kayaking, as well as scenic spots along the great lakes in Michigan that are bound to impress anyone.


Au Sable River

Au Sable River Kayaking

The Au Sable River is one of the finest places to go kayaking. It flows for over 100 miles from Grayling till it empties into Lake Huron at the Au Sable community. It offers beautiful scenery and a range of wildlife for viewing. It has numerous campgrounds and outfitters in Grayling and Oscoda that provide canoes and kayaks for rent.

The river is mostly calm, making it a top spot for novice kayakers, and remember to try your hand at trout fishing during your kayak ride.

Grand River

Grand River Kayaking

The Grand River runs for around 260 miles before flowing into Lake Michigan, making it the longest river in the state. It offers a wide variety of scenery, from captivating nature and wildlife to beautiful buildings and old bridges when it passes through towns. However, it is not recommended to kayak through the section running through Grand Rapid as it can be full of dangers, with no scenery to boot.

Two Hearted River

Two Hearted River Kayaking

The Two Hearted River -made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams short stories- is an excellent place for beginner paddlers, as well as people interested in salmon, trout, and steelhead fishing. It courses for more than 20 miles before emptying into Lake Superior and provides exquisite wildlife and sandy beaches for viewing along the way.

Lake Superior

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Kayaking

This is one of the most popular kayaking sites in Michigan. It allows a fantastic kayaking trip passing up close to multi-colored stone cliffs, sea caves, wildlife, and remarkable rock formations. You can also pass under sparkling waterfalls and some historic shipwrecks, making for an unforgettable adventure. It’s a more challenging paddle than others, so it’s perfect for more experienced kayakers.

Grand Island National Recreation Area

Grand Island National Recreation Area Kayaking

For a less crowded place than Pictured Rocks, Grand Island National Recreation Area is the perfect spot to go kayaking. It’s located in Lake Superior, about 0.5 miles from the mainland of Munising, and offers interesting scenery and history, with various camping grounds, hiking, and biking trails.

Lake Huron

Turnip Rock

Turnip Rock Kayaking

Turnip Rock is a one-of-a-kind rock composition located in Lake Huron. It gets its name because it looks like a turnip sitting in the water. Its shore is considered a private land, so you can’t explore it on land, but just its sight from the water is sufficient. Experienced kayakers would especially enjoy it as it requires some effort to reach it, but it’s definitely worth it in the end. It’s a seven-mile paddle, and a hundred yards further lie the wondrous Sea Caves of Pointe Aux Barques.

Rockport State Recreation Area/Besser Natural Area

For a safer and more comfortable Lake Huron experience, the Rockport State Recreation Area is the place to be. It’s located in a limestone quarry and is surrounded by wild, sandy beaches ready for exploration.

Other Noteworthy Sites

Keweenaw Peninsula

Keweenaw Peninsula Kayak

The Keweenaw Waterway is filled with amazing sights as lighthouses, cliffs, mining ruins, waterfalls, wildlife, and more. It’s calmer and more accessible than Lake Superior’s choppy waters, making it an excellent kayak for new learners.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Kayaking

This refuge has a river winding through it, and a kayak ride on that river allows you to view a range of wildlife, such as turtles, beavers, wolves, and so much more.

Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Kayak

If you are looking for a more luxurious kayaking trip, Crystal Lake is the place to go as it contains multiple resorts and recreational areas. You'll be able to enjoy a relaxing time on its beaches next to the crystal clear waters.

Detroit Canals

Detroit Canals Kayaking

A man-made canal system, the Detroit Canals -also known as Detroit’s “Little Venice”- are an incredible sight. While kayaking through the extensive canal network, you’ll see many landmarks while passing through the city’s neighborhoods, including the Charles T. Fisher Mansion.

Things to Remember While Kayaking

  1. Put on a bright-colored and reflective life jacket and clothing to ensure your safety and visibility.
  2. Wear waterproof clothes and durable shoes for a more comfortable and dry trip.
  3. Check the weather forecast before your trip.
  4. Tell someone on land where you’re headed and when you should return, in case anything goes wrong during your trip.
  5. Paddle with a more experienced person, especially if you are still a beginner.
  6. Take a guided tour, as a guide will allow you to experience your surroundings to the fullest and teach you the proper techniques and equipment needed for your kayaking trip.

In Conclusion

Michigan is an optimal place to go kayaking, with its numerous lakes and rivers. You'll see extraordinary sights from breathtaking wilderness to city skylines, making for unforgettable memories.