You’ve paddled the Huron River and are looking for more adventures. Here’s a round up of some stellar paddling opportunities in southeast Michigan, compiled by our friends at Michigan Water Trails. We’ve provided direct links where available, but you can head to their site for more details on the water trails listed below and more from across the state, including events and news. Scroll to the bottom for an opportunity learning to protect the waterways you love from invasive species from the Michigan Paddle Stewards Program.

Michigan Paddle Stewards on the Upper Grand River Water Trail
Michigan Paddle Stewards on the Upper Grand River Water Trail in Jackson. Credit: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant

1. Blueways of St. Clair

Visit and enjoy the land and water trails along the St. Clair River corridor from Anchor Bay to the northern border of St. Clair County along Lake Huron. The Blueways of St. Clair is a collection of 17 water trails with over 50 public access sites. The Island Loop Route is the first National Water Trail in Michigan and is also a state designated water trail.

2. Clinton River Water Trail

The Clinton River Water Trail ranges from steep gradients to slow-moving waters and provides over 72 miles of paddling enjoyment. The trail meanders through urban areas, marshland, woodlands and parks, and offers a variety of experiences for beginners and experienced paddlers.

3. Detroit Heritage River Water Trail

The Detroit Heritage River Water Trail is one of Michigan’s most dynamic and diverse water trails, traveling past the urban areas of downtown Detroit and the serene areas of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The water trail is organized into four distinct paddling segments: Belle Isle/Detroit, the Rouge River, the Huron River, and the Lower Detroit River.

4. Huron River Water Trail

The Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the river’s natural environment, its history, and the communities it touches. There are a variety of paddling experiences for everyone, from rapids at Delhi Metropark and Dexter’s Mill Creek Park, to the excitement of the Argo Cascades in Ann Arbor, to placid flat water at Proud, Kent, Ford, and Belleville lakes, as well as Lake Erie. The Huron River Water Trail is both a National Water Trail and a state designated water trail.

5. Lake St. Clair Coastal Trail

With over 430 square miles of fresh water and 160 miles of coastline to explore, paddlers are sure to enjoy the unique history of the Lake St. Clair region. The paddling guidebook features 16 coastal maps covering 55 miles from the 6,500-acre St. Clair Flats wildlife area to where the lake enters the Detroit River.

6. Monroe County Water Trail

Paddling routes of the water trails in Monroe County include the Lower Huron River at Pointe Mouillee State Recreation Area; the upper, middle, and lower Raisin River; and the Lake Erie coastline from Brest Bay at the mouth of the Raisin to North Maumee Bay near Toledo.

7. Rouge River Water Trail

The Rouge River Water Trail is a 27-mile trail from Canton to the Detroit River. The forested upstream stretches wind their way through Wayne County parks, with only certain sections open due to logjams. Hard-working teams of volunteers have opened routes in the City of Wayne and in Dearborn. The lower industrial stretch has no logjams and offers fantastic views of the Ford Rouge plant and associated industry.

8. Shiawassee River Water Trail

The Shiawassee River offers a diverse range of paddling experiences for canoeists and kayakers of all abilities. It is considered a warm-water river ecosystem, with fairly slow-moving current, very suitable for families in a canoe or groups of novice kayak paddlers. It is both a National Water Trail and a state designated water trail.

More Paddling Resources:

American Canoe Association (safety and skills building)

Active Facebook Groups for paddlers in Michigan (private groups that welcome paddlers), look these up on Facebook and request to join:

  • Paddling Michigan Lakes and Rivers
  • Kayaking Fun in Southeast Michigan
  • Michigan Kayaking/Canoeing; Kayaking Community (Michigan)

Quiet Adventure Symposium (annually in early March)

Southeast Michigan Canoe and Kayak Day (paddling events and activities hosted by the Friends of the Rouge, Friends of the Detroit River, Clinton River Watershed Council and HRWC, annually on June 26)

Southeast Michigan Trail Explorer (virtual 360-degree tours of 50 land and water trails)

Michigan Paddle Stewards:

While you are out on the trails this summer, join Michigan Sea Grant in protecting the waters you love from invasive species! The Michigan Paddle Stewards Program is an online course that consists of five units. It includes an overview of Michigan’s Watch List species; the Michigan Clean Boats, Clean Waters program; proper cleaning methods for your watercraft; how to report an invasive species sighting using the MISIN app; and additional resources for preventing the spread of invasive species. The course is self-paced and takes approximately 3 hours total to complete. It is FREE to enroll and must be completed by Dec 31, 2022.

This blog post was originally published in the Huron River Report, Summer 2022.