Paddle Antrim Festival


September 13-15, 2018




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 of 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 up to 27 miles to Elk Rapids.  There are 4 checkpoints along the way (#1 Dockside Beach at 9 miles, #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 or 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.  

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 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. 

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, 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, spray skirt with wet exit experience, and a signaling device.

What’s included in registration you ask??  Beyond an amazing time on the water, we will make this the ultimate paddle experience for you. All of the local events are included regardless of which day you paddle.
  • Kickoff Party Thursday night in Ellsworth with music and a food truck available for dinner or a great snack.  
  • Block Party Friday afternoon in Bellaire with music, yard games, and snacks.  
  • Free entry to the Final Bash Celebration in Elk Rapids Saturday night, with great food, live music and drinks.  
  • A refreshing beer 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 required 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 – Make this paddle even easier by having your car waiting for you at the takeout and take you to the launch in style. Additional fee required, must be added with registration.
  • Breakfast – We can have a hot breakfast waiting for you at the launch. Additional fee required, must be added with registration.
  • Lunch – We can have a lunch ready for you. 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. 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. Kayaks and surf-ski kayaks only. On Friday, kayaks must be at least 10 feet in length.  On Saturday, kayaks must be at least 12 feet in length. For this event, no other types of paddle crafts will be allowed including but not limited to: kayaks with sails, canoes, rowboats, and paddle boards.  Updated rule to be announced shortly.
  4. A US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD, i.e. life jacket) must be properly worn at all times. No belt style life jackets allowed.
  5. PADDLER SAFETY IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US! A paddle float, whistle, flares, or other signaling devices are recommended as well as 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.
  6. All paddlers must attend the safety briefing prior to the paddle and follow the designated course.
  7. 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!
  8. Paddle Antrim reserves the right to change the route or remove any paddler from the event due to any safety concerns.  
  9. All registrations are final and no refunds will be given.  


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 meal planning for the event? No problem! Paddlers have the opportunity to add meals to their registrations.  This year both breakfast and lunches will be optional add-ons to the event. All meals must be added during registration. If you don’t add on meals, please 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.  


Shuttle Service

Shuttle service will be available for people, no boats.  Shuttle buses will pick up passengers at their intended take-out location in the morning and drive all passengers 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.  

Custom Water BottleLiberty bottles

Thanks to our friends at Liberty  Bottleworks, we are excited to offer custom Paddle Antrim water bottles.  These bottles are made from recycled aluminum right here in the USA.  Bottles are available in 24 oz (for $23) or 32 oz (for $25).  Pre-orders are available with registration and you will receive your bottle at check-in.  While you may bring a water bottle from home, these bottles are amazing! They also have the benefit of being easy to spot when dropped in while paddling!

We are excited to have Bellaire Water Company provide water at all of the checkpoints in refillable jugs along the route!



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

Equipment Rental or Accessories

Check out our services section to find out where you can rent a boat locally or pick up any last minute paddling supplies.

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 Community Park – 5:30-8:00 pm – Drop off your boat and join us for 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 – 1:30-4:30 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 live music along with Short’s Brewing Company providing the finest beers as well as great food by Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen.  We will also recognize our “Hall of Fame” paddlers who completed the entire route both days.  

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 – Paddler Check-in & boat drop off.

5:30 pm-8:00 pm – Ellsworth Community Park – Kick Off Party.


8:00 am-9:15 am – Ellsworth River Park – Paddler Check-in.  Breakfast for those who purchased during registration.

9:15 am – Ellsworth River Park – Safety brief.  All paddlers must be in attendance.

9:30 am – Launch!

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

1:00 – All paddlers who intend to paddle to Bellaire must be past the Central Lake Checkpoint.

1:30 pm -4:30 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!  A bagged lunch will be provided for paddlers who purchased during registration.

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

3:00-9:00 – Final Bash Celebration