6 Unique Michigan Kayaking Experiences to Have This Summer

Off the grid and far from typical, our state offers many trip-worthy paddling destinations
Photograph courtesy of Uncommon Adventures

Gliding along the river, I tried to ignore my bickering parents in the tandem kayak behind mine. My dad was “paddling wrong,” according to my mom, which caused the two of them to collide into the otherwise beautiful foliage on the water’s edge (even though the river was generously wide). Suddenly, my mom screeched as a submerged boulder caught the wrong side of their kayak. They flipped into the water, sending several Ziploc bags full of snacks and my mom’s cell phone, into the river. The current swept the bags past my kayak, so I dove in and swam after them.

Because we’re less than six miles from a body of water at all times, most Michiganians have an interesting kayaking story. Whether they’re funny or frustrating, floating amongst the beauty of our lakes and rivers is always worth having sore arms the next day. Here are six kayaking trips, for beginners and experts alike, that are sure to be as unique as the memories you make along the way.

Dorcas Pendell Shipwreck Paddle

Habor Beach Kayak Shipwreck photograph courtesy of Justin Schnettler

Paddle over the remains of the Dorcas Pendell, a schooner that was driven ashore on Nov. 8, 1913, by the “Big Storm.” On July 6, 1914, the ship was burned in the exact place it had been laid up. Parts of the Dorcas Pendell now lie just beneath the surface of Lake Huron near the shore of Harbor Beach and is easily viewable from a kayak, even if the water is a bit rough. Harbor Beach Kayak offers kayak rentals to explore the protected waters. Kayakers can enjoy the shipwreck along with amazing views of the historical Harbor Beach Lighthouse. Harbor Beach Kayak, 1 Trescott St., Harbor Beach; 989- 551-1314; portaustinkayak.com

Porter’s Island Sunset Paddle

Sunset Paddle photograph courtesy of Keweenaw Adventure Company

Wind down and slip away with a beautiful Michigan sunset on Lake Superior. Keweenaw Adventure Company offers Sunset Paddles on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Tours begin with basic instruction before kayakers can ship off to explore the ancient rock shoreline, a deserted island, and learn some Keweenaw history from a guide. The views of the Copper Lighthouse against the pink hues of the evening sky are absolutely breathtaking. Keweenaw Adventure Co., 155 Gratiot St., Copper Harbor; 906-289-4303; keweenawadventure.com 

Detroit Historical Canal Kayak Tour

Detroit Historical Canal Tour photograph courtesy of Tiffany VanDeHey

On the far east side of Detroit lies Klenk Island, a neighborhood known for its many Venetian-styled canals and riverfront houses. Riverside Kayak Connection takes paddlers on a two-and-a-half-hour tour through this “Little Venice” of Detroit. The trip begins at the Grayhaven Mooring Facility and twists along the city’s eastside. It features the Fisher Mansion, stories about prohibition and The Purple Gang, Detroit’s notorious mob of bootleggers and hijackers, and beautiful views of downtown. Riverside Kayak Connection, 4016 Biddle Ave., Wyandotte; 734-285-2925; riversidekayak.com

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale photograph courtesy of National Park Service

Ideal for the experienced kayaker, Isle Royale National Park is a remote island located between Ontario and the tip of the Upper Peninsula. It is only accessible by ferry, seaplane, or boat. Due to the marine environment, recreational kayaks are not permissible. Instead, paddlers should expect to rent or use sea kayaks, which are fit for rough open water and wind. Those daring enough to brave the freshwater sea will enjoy Isle Royale’s many lakes, bays, and islands. Isle Royale National Park, 800 East Lakeshore Dr., Houghton; 906-482-0984; nps.gov

Porcupine Mountains

Porcupine Mountains photograph courtesy of Michigan DNR

The Porcupine Mountains, also known as the “Porkies,” are a group of small mountains in the Upper Peninsula. They were named this by the Ojibwa people because their shapes look similar to a huddling porcupine. Though the rivers on the mountains are too shallow for paddling, the Ontonagon River and the clear waters of Lake Superior snake between the mountains. Kayakers can enjoy amazing views of the old-growth forests and spectacular vistas. Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Ontonagon; 906-884-2047; porcupineup.com

Wine, Dine, and Kayak

Photograph courtesy of Uncommon Adventures

Enjoy the finer things in life on this Wine Tasting Kayak Tour on Grand Traverse Bay. The day begins with a paddle out to Marion/Power Island where kayakers can hike and indulge in a wine-focused lunch. The menu features fruit and cheese plates, followed by a decadent main course, like pan-seared whitefish filet, which is prepared on the beach. From there, kayakers will paddle back to the mainland and tour some of Traverse City’s best wineries and cellars. Uncommon Adventures, 6721 Grace Rd., Benzonia; 231- 882-5525; mi-paddleadventure.com

From The Archive: Paddle-to-Table with Detroit River Sports