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.
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 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. For pictures of past years, check out our Flickr Page.
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.
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.
Rules are being updated to incorporate paddle boards….stay tuned!!
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!
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.
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 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.
Checkpoint 2: Richardi Park parking lot – you may need to park along streets – 8:30AM
Checkpoint 1: Central Lake Thurston Park Pavilion near playground – parking is along streets – 8:45 AM
Checkpoint 5 Elk Rapids Rotary Park – Park in parking lot by Swan Statue (not launch) – 6:30 AM
Checkpoints 3 & 4: Torch River Bridge DNR Parking lot – Recreation Passport required – 6:55 AM
Checkpoint 2: Alden Safe Harbor parking lot – Few spots, parking is along streets- 7:05 AM
Checkpoint 1: Dockside Restaurant – Park in spaces away from restaurant, along road near water 7:20
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 are offer great specials to paddlers during the event.
Check out our services section to find out where you can rent a boat locally or pick up any last minute paddling supplies.
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 Atrim caps available for $16. Pre-orders are available with registration and you will receive your bandana or hat at check-in.
Thanks to Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC), we will continue to offer a zero waste event.
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.
Thursday – Ellsworth River Park – 5:30-8:00 pm – Drop off your boat 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!
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.
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. There will be Short’s Brewing Company providing the finest beers/ciders 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 at 6:30pm.
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.
1:45 pm -4:45 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
Click on photo below to check out Paddle Antrim’s Flickr Account with pictures of past events!