The first day begins on the sandy beaches at the Village of Ellsworth’s beautiful Ellsworth River Park. In the first couple hours, paddlers cut through the calm waters of four small lakes before passing under the bridge into Intermediate Lake in the Village of Central Lake. Thurston Park is a perfect spot to pull out and stretch with park amenities and restaurants and shops a quick walk up. The paddle continues through the long, yet narrow, Intermediate Lake before passing under the picturesque pedestrian bridge as you enter Richardi Park in the Village of Bellaire. The closeness of the shores throughout the paddle create a wonderful opportunity to really see the landscape and wildlife as you pass by. In September, the trees are changing and the views are breathtaking. Because this paddle is slightly shorter, 16 miles, and offers smaller lakes, it is also a great experience for paddlers looking for a calmer waters.
The second day begins at the Ohio Street boat launch in Bellaire on the Intermediate River before entering Lake Bellaire. Paddlers continue through the scenic and incredibly important Grass River Natural Area and Clam Lake before coming to the first checkpoint (9 miles) at the entrance to Torch Lake. The crystal blue waters of Michigan’s second largest inland lake are amazing and paddlers may choose to stop halfway through in Alden at the second checkpoint (13 miles) where there are restaurants and supplies. The final four miles of Torch Lake brings paddlers to the third checkpoint (17 miles) at the beginning of the Torch River. Torch River flows into Lake Skegemog where paddlers enjoy the northern portion of the lake. Paddlers will pass their fourth checkpoint (21 miles) before the final stretch through Elk Lake, ending at the Elk Rapids Chamber of Commerce kayak boat launch (26 miles). This paddle is more technical and offers the open waters of the larger lakes, and yet is just as amazing as the upper portion of the Chain of Lakes.