Paddle Antrim Festival

Join us in 2021 for another great year!
September 16-18, 2021



For the last five years we have welcomed paddlers to northern Michigan to experience our pristine waterways during the Paddle Antrim Festival. It is with great sadness that we announce the difficult decision to cancel the beloved festival for 2020. Click here to read the note from our Executive Director with more details on the cancellation. We look forward to seeing you at the next Paddle Antrim Festival, September 16-18, 2021.

The Paddle Antrim Festival celebrates the amazing waterways and communities of Northern Michigan. The Festival, always the second weekend after Labor Day, includes a two-day paddle event through the Chain of Lakes Water Trail in Antrim County. This choose your own adventure paddle provides the opportunity for you to paddle one or both days and decide how far to travel. There are exits strategically placed along the route so you may go anywhere from 7 miles to all 42 miles.

Local events begin Thursday evening with food, music, and great times and continue through Saturday when we end with a bang at the Final Bash hosted by our top sponsor, Short’s Brewing Company. We welcome friends, family, and the entire community to join us for the local events.

 Paddling Route

Click to enlarge

Friday:  Begin in Ellsworth and travel 7 miles through four small lakes to the first checkpoint in Central Lake, a great spot to get out and stretch. For those who continue, it’s another 8 miles through Intermediate Lake to Bellaire.  Time to complete the entire route averages 4-7 hours.

Saturday: Begin in Bellaire  and travel 9 miles to the first checkpoint, Dockside Restaurant’s Beach. For those whose boat meet the additional criteria, you can continue and travel up to 27 miles to Elk Rapids.  There are 3 additional checkpoints along the way (#2 Alden at 14 miles, #3 Torch River Bridge at 17 miles & #4 Chippewa Trail at 21 miles) where paddlers can end their day to make it a perfect adventure for them.  To complete the entire route, paddlers must stay focused and paddling averages 8-10 hours to complete the entire route, depending on ability and conditions.  The first 9 miles are calmer waters but after the first checkpoint the route includes larger lakes and a lake crossing which requires a higher skill level.  Choose the best adventure for you and your ability and feel free to end your paddle at any checkpoint, this is not a race!

Check out the map page for more details, including specific driving directions to each checkpoint. Read the two blog posts by our Executive Director when she paddled the route for the first time and describes what she encountered.  For pictures of past years, check out our Flickr Page.

Possible Paddling Experiences 

These paddling experiences are just to give you an idea of the possibilities this event can provide and we encourage paddlers to chose the experience that is right for them. Paddlers should always paddle with someone and can always exit at any checkpoint along the route.  Whichever day or route is chosen, paddlers can participate in the local events all weekend long.

Beginner: For new paddlers or those looking for a shorter relaxed route, consider registering for Friday and exiting the first checkpoint in Central Lake for a total of 7 miles. Note: For many recreational paddle boarders, 7 miles will be a long distance.  

Intermediate: Both days offer great intermediate routes. On Friday, the entire 15 mile route is considered an intermediate level paddle. On Saturday, paddling to the first checkpoint (9 miles) is a great intermediate route. After the first checkpoint, your boat must meet the additional criteria and you should consider the day’s conditions as waves are common once going past the first checkpoint and entering Torch Lake.

Advanced: The entire 42 miles over the two days is no small feat and the names of all those who complete the entire route are recognized on the “Hall of Fame”. On Day 2, after mile 9, paddlers can expect waves and wind for the remaining paddle, which includes a lake crossing for the final six miles. All paddlers should have self-rescue skills and proper safety equipment including but not limited to: flotation/airtight bulkheads, bilge pump, paddle float, spray skirt with wet exit experience, and a signaling device.

What’s included in registration you ask?? All of the local events are included regardless of which day you paddle.
  • Kickoff Party Thursday night in Ellsworth with live music and a food truck available for dinner or a great snack.
  • Block Party Friday afternoon in Bellaire with music, yard games, and snacks and complimentary Short’s pour.  
  • Free entry to the Final Bash Celebration in Elk Rapids Saturday night, with great food, live music and drinks.  
  • A refreshing beverage (beer/cider/lemonade) from Short’s Brewing Company at the Final Bash.
  • Delicious dinner provided by Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen at the Final Bash.
  • Participant number
  • Custom event t-shirt
  • Event Sticker – great for your boat (or wherever else!)
  • Overnight Security Thursday & Friday Nights- Drop your kayak off during check-in and our hired security will watch all night so in the morning you can come ready to paddle.
  • Portage to Day 2’s Launch (Ohio St Launch) – There is a portage around the dam between Day 1 and Day 2. For paddlers doing both days, Paddles and Pedals will portage boats from Richardi Park (the last checkpoint on Day 1) to Ohio St Launch in preparation for Day 2.
  • Bathroom facilities and water bottle fill up stations at each checkpoint
  • Motorized safety boats throughout the entire route to provide assistance as needed
  • Shuttle Service – Have your car waiting for you at the takeout. Additional fee required, must be added with registration.
  • Breakfast – Additional fee required, must be added with registration.
  • Lunch – Friday lunch will be at Central Lake (checkpoint 1) and Saturday lunch will be a bagged lunch provided at the launch to eat along the route (bring drybag to carry it with you). Additional fee required, must be added with registration.


  1. HAVE FUN!
  2. All participants must be 18 years or older and in proper physical condition to participate.
  3. All types of people-powered kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and surfskis will be allowed for Day 1 and also Day 2 up to Checkpoint 1. All crafts must exit at Checkpoint 1 on Day 2 if additional criteria are not met.
  4. To continue past Checkpoint 1 on Day 2 the boat must be one of the following. Each craft will be inspected for compliance, please feel free to contact us if you have questions on your specific boat.
    A. A kayak with water-tight bulkheads in the bow and the stern and a minimum length of 12 feet. Positive secured flotation is allowed in lieu of bulkheads  but may be subject to demonstrating ability to displace enough water to complete a deep-water re-entry. (For flotation bag examples, click here)
    B. A sit on top kayak with a minimum length of 12 feet.
    C. A surfski with a minimum length of 12 feet. A boat leash is required.
    D. A paddle board with a minimum length of 12 feet. A leash is required.
  5. A US Coast Guard approved inherently buoyant vest-style personal flotation device (PFD, i.e. life jacket) must be properly worn at all times. No inflatable or belt style life jackets are allowed.
  6. PADDLER SAFETY IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US! A whistle, flares, or other signaling device is required. We recommended paddlers have the ability to do some form of kayak remount or self-rescue. Spray skirts are recommended but only if you are skilled in doing a wet exit while wearing one. Paddlers should never paddle alone, especially in large or rough bodies of waters.
  7. All paddlers must attend the safety briefing prior to the paddle and follow the designated course.
  8. No alcohol will be allowed on the water.  Paddlers who consume alcohol before or during, including at checkpoints, will not be allowed to continue.  There will be great festivities to celebrate at once you are off the water!
  9. No pets are allowed.
  10. Paddle Antrim reserves the right to change the route or remove any paddler from the event due to any safety concerns.  
  11. All registrations are final and no refunds will be given.  

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions

Click to download/print waiver


Registration is now Closed. Please consider joining us in September 2020.

2019 Paddle Antrim Festival Rates Before July 1st July 1st  – Sept. 8th  
Single paddler 1-day $55 $60  
Single paddler 2-days $90 $100  
Tandem boat 1-day $100 $110  
Tandem boat 2-days $160 $170  
Breakfast (per day) $5 $5  
Lunch (per day) $7 $7  
Shuttle (per day) $10 $10  


A huge thank you to all of our sponsors and volunteers who make this happen.  We wouldn’t be able to put on such an amazing event and raise money to protect our waterways without these folks!   Please take a moment to thank these great folks for making this all happen!


Meal Options

Don’t want to worry about meals? No problem! Breakfast and lunches can be provided but must be added during registration. If you don’t register for meals, make sure to bring enough food to replace all those calories you burn while paddling, there aren’t places along the way the route to grab food.  

Friday Breakfast – Burritos and coffee will be provided by the Ellsworth Lioness Club.  Both meat and vegetarian options are available.

Friday Lunch – Wraps with a side will be provided by Touch of Class. Options include a Turkey Delight with turkey, lettuce, tomato, onion, sprouts, avocado, and garlic mayo or a Zap Ziki with lettuce, tomato, onion, feta, beets, cucumbers and tzatziki sauce.

Saturday Breakfast – Burritos and coffee will be provided by Toonies Fish and Steakhouse.  Both meat and vegetarian options are available.

Saturday Lunch – Wraps with trail mix and an apple will be provided by Short’s Brewing Company.  Vegetarian option is tomato, mozzarella, spring greens, pesto, balsamic reduction in a tomato basil tortilla.  The second option is turkey, provolone, tomato, spinach, roasted red pepper in a tomato basil tortilla, served with a side of mayo. Lunches will be provided at the launch to eat along the route. Please bring a dry bag (or large ziplock) to keep your lunch dry.

For paddlers exiting Day 2 at Checkpoint #1, the Dockside Restaurant will open early so feel free stop in once you are off the water!

Shuttle Service

Shuttle service will be available for people, no boats. When you register, identify where you are going to end your paddle. That is the location you will drop off your vehicle the morning you paddle (times/locations below). Shuttle buses will pick up passengers and drive you to the launch.  This way your vehicle is waiting for you when you get off the water.  You must drop off your boat/equipment at the launch prior to taking the shuttle.  All shuttle passengers must pre-register for shuttle service with registration to ensure enough seating.  

DAY 1:
Checkpoint 2: Richardi Park parking lot – 8:30 am you may need to park along street
Checkpoint 1: Central Lake Thurston Park Pavilion near playground – 8:45 am – parking is along street

DAY 2:
Checkpoint 5 Elk Rapids Rotary Park – 6:30 am – Park in parking lot by Swan Statue (not launch)
Checkpoints 3 & 4: Torch River Bridge DNR Parking lot  – 6:55 am – Recreation Passport required
Checkpoint 2: Alden Safe Harbor parking lot – 7:05 am – Few spots, parking is along streets
Checkpoint 1: Dockside Restaurant – 7:20 am– Park in spaces away from restaurant, along road near water

WaterLiberty bottles

We will provide refillable jugs of fresh local water at all the checkpoints along the route! Make sure to bring a water bottle or you can pre-purchase one of ours!


Check out our lodging section for great places to stay.  Many of these local businesses offer great specials to paddlers during the event.  

Equipment Rental or Accessories

Chain of Lakes Hoorag Bandana

Check out our services section to find out where you can rent a boat locally or pick up any last minute paddling supplies. Paddles and Pedals in Bellaire is the only rental place locally we are aware of who has boats which meet our safety requirements to go past Checkpoint 1 on Day 2.  


We have custom water bottles from Liberty  Bottleworks.  These bottles are made from recycled aluminum right here in the USA.  32 oz bottles are available for $25.  Pre-orders are available with registration and you will receive your bottle at check-in.  

We have custom Chain of Lakes Hoo-rag Bandanas & Paddle Antrim caps available for $16. Pre-orders are available with registration and you will receive your bandana or hat at check-in.

Zero Waste Event

Thanks to Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC), we will continue to offer a zero waste event.

Boat Wash Station

We plan to have a mobile boat washing station at check-in and exit on Day 1. In an effort to safeguard against invasive species, Paddle Antrim is requiring that either:
A) Participants have their paddle crafts and equipment washed and inspected at the check-in by boat was staff and mobile boat washing unit.  or
B) assure with officials at registration that their watercraft and equipment have not been in another body of water for 10 or more days or
C) their watercraft and equipment have been power washed with hot water.

Click here to learn how to make your own personal decontamination kit.

Get Involved

Don’t want to paddle but still want to be part of this fun event?  Sign up to volunteer and help make this fun event a success or check out the other paddling events this season.


Like us on Facebook and join our email list to stay up to date on the event and other great things we are doing.

Paddle Antrim Festival Community Events

Kick Off Party

Thursday – Ellsworth River Park – 5:30-8:00 pm – Drop off your boat, check-in and stay to enjoy a relaxing evening with fellow paddlers.  There will be a food truck to pick up dinner or a snack as well as great live music to enjoy!

Block Party

Friday – Bellaire Richardi Park – 2:00-5:00 pm – After paddling, paddlers can stay and join us for some fun in Richardi Park.  The Bellaire Chamber of Commerce will host a great block party with complimentary food, drinks, and live music to celebrate a great first day on the water.  There will be community booths and fun outdoor games to enjoy.  

Final Bash

Saturday – Elk Rapids – 3:00 – 9:00 pm – Whether you paddled hard, helped someone else paddle, or if you just enjoy a good time, join us for the Final Bash on Saturday in Elk Rapids.  This great time is open to all paddlers, friends, and the local community.  There will be Short’s Brewing Company providing the finest beers/ciders, great food by Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen and live music. We will also recognize our “Hall of Fame” paddlers who completed the entire route both days at 6:30pm.  

Paddle Antrim Festival Schedule

Note: specific locations/directions of the launches and checkpoints can be found on our maps page.


5:30 pm-7:30 pm – Ellsworth River Park – Kick Off Party, Paddler Check-in & boat drop off.


8:30 am-9:30 am – Ellsworth River Park – Paddler Check-in.  Breakfast for those who purchased during registration.

9:30 am – Ellsworth River Park – Safety brief.  All paddlers must be in attendance.

9:45 am – Launch!

Central Lake’s Thurston Park – Lunch for paddlers who purchased during registration.

1:15 – All paddlers who intend to paddle to Bellaire must be past the Central Lake Checkpoint.

2:00 pm -5:00 pm – Bellaire Richardi Park – Block Party


6:45 am -7:45 am – Ohio Street Launch – Paddler Check-in.  Breakfast for those who purchased with registration.

7:45 am – Ohio Street Launch – Safety brief.  All paddlers must attend, even those who paddled Friday.

8:00 am – Launch!  We will launch paddlers who are going past checkpoint 1 first. A bagged lunch will be provided for paddlers who purchased during registration (have drybag to store until you are ready to eat).

4:00 pm – After 4PM paddlers must exit at the next checkpoint they come to.

3:00-9:00 – Final Bash Celebration

Photo Gallery

You can find the great photos from past events on our Flickr account online. You can find the great photos of the 2019 Festival from Fairytale Photos Photography on her Facebook Page.

Check out this photo link to great pics of past Paddle Antrim Festivals

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