Kayaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore With Uncle Ducky Outdoors
On our most recent trip to the always stunning Upper Peninsula, we were finally able to cross one activity off of our Michigan bucket list: kayaking the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Uncle Ducky Outdoors in Munising offers an array of options for guided kayak trips along the lakeshore, and we opted to try out the “Taste of the Rocks” tour – a guided three-hour trip north from Miner’s Beach on Lake Superior and back.
Guided “Taste of the Rocks” trips depart at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. with a brief overview meeting taking place at the shop (1331 W. Munising Ave./M-28) before everyone heads east to Miners Beach in their own vehicles. Dry bags, life jackets, paddles and spray skirts are handed out, then the guides go over basic kayak techniques and safety information. After splitting into smaller groups (10-16 people per guide), tandem kayaks are loaded up and tested before they are pushed into Lake Superior for this amazing adventure. We had some basic kayaking experience before this trip, but all skill levels are welcome and we didn’t see anyone struggling to maintain control of their vessel.
A trip north takes kayakers past Miners Beach and in view of a small waterfall below the Potato Patch area of the North Country Trail. Guides help enhance the trip by sharing historical and geological facts about the area. As the trip continues, the cliffs get taller and the colors get more vibrant – heights range from 50 to 200 feet and mineral seepage creates red, orange, green, blue, black and white colors in the rock. Iron, copper, manganese and lime are the minerals that cause those colors to appear.
While we had previously experienced much of Pictured Rocks from day hiking, the Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise and the Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours, getting up close to these stunning cliffs via kayak was an even better way to enjoy our trip. We paddled within feet of colored cliffs, passed a pair of peregrine falcons resting on a branch, entered a small sea cave and rode out some waves when the Pictured Rocks tour boats passed. The time went by too fast, and at the end of the day our only regret was that we hadn’t selected one of the longer trip options.
Uncle Ducky runs a smooth operation, and our guide, John, was fantastic. He was engaging and friendly while also being funny and knowledgable about the area. He made sure everyone in our group not only stayed safe for the duration of the trip but had as much fun as possible and got the best pictures possible as well. Tandem kayaks actually seemed to work the best for this excursion, as it allowed parents and children to share kayaks or in our case to have me up front taking pictures while Allison sat in back and steered/did most of the paddling. Other options the company offers include the “Afternoon Delight” 2.5 hour trip, “Paddler’s Choice” 6 hour trip, “Sunset Paddle” and an 8 hour “Paddle and Hike” experience that involves kayaking to Chapel Beach then hiking a few miles to the parking area for a shuttle trip back to the Miners Beach parking area. Find out more at http://www.paddlingmichigan.com/plan-a-trip/sea-kayaking/. Weather conditions can affect the quality and duration of each paddling trip, but backup plans are in place and safety always remains a top priority.
National news exposure including a visit from Ginger Zee of Good Morning America has made this an even more popular destination than in previous years. If you’re looking to book a trip before the season ends, be sure to do it quickly before they fill up. A recent round of controversy on Facebook has involved complaints from visitors about how much of the parking area at Miners Beach is taken up by the kayaking operation and how much of the beach frontage is taken up by the kayaks when launching, so changes could be coming in future years. The trip finishes up where it started, at Miners Beach – so if you’re looking to see a few more things in the area check out Miners Castle and Miners Falls, which can be reached off the same road that you drove in on to get to the beach.
Stay tuned tomorrow for our Photo Gallery Friday which feature many more pictures from this trip, and feel free to check out some of our other Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and surrounding area articles: