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West Michigan Offers Many Great Lakes & Rivers for Canoeing or Kayaking

The West Michigan area is a popular location for paddle sports. With so many small lakes and rivers, there are numerous exciting places to explore on the water. Experience breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, views of dunes, wetlands, blue skies, and many forms of wildlife. What better way to spend your day than floating down the river or exploring the edges of the lake? You’ll see all kinds of critters, including many species of birds, fish, turtles, deer, and so much more. Here are some great places to start exploring:

River Run Canoe Livery
Pere Marquette Expeditions

Ludington State Park on Hamlin Lake

The Ludington State Park is a favorite park of the area, thanks to the abundance of natural resources. Over 5,000 acres of land including wooded area, marshland, rivers, shoreline, and dunes make up the Ludington State Park. Explore Hamlin Lake and the surrounding waterways, starting from the State Park canoe and kayak trails.

Pere Marquette River

The Pere Marquette River near Scottville is a favorite fishing, canoeing, and kayaking destination for locals and visitors alike. The moderately fast current, clear water, and low degree of stream bank development have all helped to make this river a mecca for those who canoe or kayak. 64 miles of river twist and turn all the way from Lake County south of Baldwin to Pere Marquette Lake and into Lake Michigan.

The Lakes and Rivers of Pentwater

The quaint harbor town of Pentwater has a variety of waterways to explore. Paddle the forks, estuary, and the head of Pentwater Lake on a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board. Didn’t bring a vessel? No problem. Pentwater area businesses offer kayak, canoe, or SUP rentals! 

Hamlin Lake Area

A favorite vacation spot for locals and visitors, Hamlin Lake is a wonderful destination for boating, fishing, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. Since the lake is much smaller than Lake Michigan, Hamlin Lake typically has much warmer water temperatures. Hamlin Lake offers so many neat areas to explore on a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board, including upper Hamlin Lake and three different bayous. Grab your vessel and start exploring! If you don’t own a canoe or kayak, there are businesses on the lake that rent them.

The Boardman River in Traverse City

Located in Kalkaska and Grand Traverse Counties, the Boardman River has 160 miles of river and tributaries. The river is 287 square feet in total and makes up a third of the water of Grand Traverse Bay. The river is very popular for recreation, especially fishing, since it is considered to be in the top ten trout streams in Michigan.

The Manistee River

The Manistee River runs about 190 miles through northwest Michigan with many smaller sections of river that branch off the Manistee River and Manistee Lake. A section of the Manistee River between the Tippy Dam near Wellston and the Village of Mesick offers 30 miles of wildlife and excellent canoeing conditions. It’s a good section of river to explore if you have 2-3 days to commit to a canoeing and camping trip. If you are only looking for a day trip, try the stretch between the Tippy Dam and stop at the Red Bridge River Access, it’s about 5 miles long and could be completed in 2-3 hours.

Discover more around West Michigan!

The Pentwater River

The Pentwater River provides opportunities to experience a paddle sport for the first time or take on a challenge for those more experienced.

Beaches & Parks

Before you make a splash in Lake Michigan, check out the water temperatures for beaches from Manistee, Ludington, Pentwater, and Silver Lake.

What's happening now in West Michigan?

Scroll below for more articles about Activities & Attractions in the West Michigan area.

West Michigan Activities & Attractions

Manistee Fall Color Tour

Beautiful color emerges come Fall. Take it all in with an afternoon drive, or stroll, through the many forests of West Michigan.

Manistee National Forest

Manistee National Forest together with the Huron National Forest occupies almost a million acres of land in Michigan’s lower peninsula.

M-22 Scenic Drive

Take one of the most scenic drives in the nation as you travel across M-22 in West Michigan. A long winding road of adventure awaits!