Photo Gallery: Platte River Kayak Trip at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Michigan’s most popular destinations, with its breathtaking views and endless outdoor recreation opportunities. In addition to its miles of pristine shoreline on Lake Michigan, this national park is also home to many rivers, lakes, and streams. The Platte River is one of Sleeping Bear’s most popular spots for tubing and kayaking due to its warm, clear water, wildlife viewing opportunities, and beautiful scenery. We recently took a lower Platte River kayak trip with some friends, and will be sharing some photos from our trip as well as a guide for those looking to make a similar excursion.
Our starting point for this journey was the Picnic Area at Lake Michigan Rd. and M-22. There is a large parking lot, picnic tables, bathrooms, and a kayak/canoe launch here, all located across the river from Riverside Canoe Trips (the largest canoe/kayak/tube renter in the area). Many, many visitors use this launch point so arriving early in the day is the best bet for avoiding crowds. From here it is a two to three hour trip to Lake Michigan (depending on how much and how fast you paddle) on a river that is fairly shallow and has a slower current moving you along.
After an hour or less, the river empties into Loon Lake. There are some shallow, sandy spots near here that are great stopping points for swimming or recharging with food and drinks. To continue on the journey, stay near the shoreline on the right and paddle through the lake. This stretch requires the most effort of the whole trip, and it is important to note that the lake is quite deep in spots so use care with children and have life jackets on or nearby. After crossing Loon Lake the lower Platte River picks back up, and the shoreline is filled with trees, wildflowers, and plentiful wildlife.
The fish weir is the next obstacle on this trip. This is a prime location to see the fall salmon run and is also where the DNR conducts egg take operations. If the gate is up here it is an easy but narrow trip through, if the gate is down it is a short and easy portage around. Keep an eye out for congestion here as this is a popular tubing launch point as well.
Another congested point on the river is the El Dorado Launch, the last public entry point to the river before it reaches Lake Michigan. On our trip there were so many tubes here that it required quite a bit of effort to maneuver around them and continue our trip. From here it is less than an hour to the beach and the end of the trip.
One of our favorite parts of this trip whether in tube or kayak is the last few bends in the river before it reaches Lake Michigan. The dunes begin to come into view, the river widens but remains shallow and sandy. You can choose to either take out near the picnic area’s restrooms building or continue on to the open lake for more paddling. If you choose the latter, be mindful that paddling on Lake Michigan is different and can be more challenging depending on weather conditions. The beach here at the mouth of the Platte is spacious and offers amazing views, which makes it a very popular spot in summer months.
This was a great trip for our group of five, and those who had not experienced Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore before were blown away by its natural beauty. We did learn that this trip might be best experienced during the week, as the amount of tubes on the river on the Saturday we visited made it difficult to navigate at times. Total trip time with a couple stops for food was between 3-4 hours.