About the Chain of Lakes Water Trail

Paddle Antrim is a non-profit organization, founded in 2014, with a mission to protect water resources in Northern Michigan’s Chain of Lakes by using paddle sports to connect people to these waterways. Through stewardship, education, improved water trail access, and promotion of our waterways we will increase water resource protection and enhance the economic vitality of the region. We believe when people are engaged and active on the water, they will work to protect water quality from concerns such as erosion, sedimentation, and aquatic invasive species.

Paddle Antrim is proud to host the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. Planning for the trail began in 2014. Twenty access site owners, including units of government and non-profit organizations, have approved resolutions of support authorizing 84 access sites with over 100 miles of water trail to explore. As Paddle Antrim does not own any of the access sites, we depend on, and are grateful for, our partnerships with local government jurisdictions and non-profit organizations to provide the necessary access to this trail.

2019-2020 Water Trail Launch Major Donors

In 2020, Paddle Antrim officially launched the Chain of Lakes Water Trail with the installation of signs at each access site and development of a waterproof paddler’s guide. Paddle Antrim is grateful to the following major donors who helped make this project possible.

$25,000 or more
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Rosso Family Foundation
Rotary Charities of Traverse City
The Consumers Energy Foundation
The Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation

DTE Energy Foundation
Frey Foundation
Chris and Merrie Corbett

Charlevoix County Community Foundation
Community Foundation – Elk Rapids Community Endowment
Community Foundation – Land Use Conservation and Planning Endowment


On December 20, 2018 Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources named the Chain of Lakes as one of the first eight state designated water trails (State’s designation announcement).  We are honored to be recognized for our commitment in developing a premier water trail.


We are dedicated to developing water trail access sites that allow for universal access for all individuals. As part of the Water Trail Plan, we assessed five different access sites and proposed improvements to create universal access. In the Spring of 2017, the first universal access site was installed on the Chain of Lakes Water Trail at the Milton Township Waterfront Park in Kewadin. The Village of Bellaire has designed a universal access site for Richardi Park and is currently seeking funding for installation. Paddle Antrim is currently working with the Village of Elk Rapids on design of a universal kayak launch at Rotary Park. We were pleased to be working with the access site owners to improve access sites so more people can experience the water trail.


Paddle Antrim is committed to maintaining and improving the water trail to provide a quality experience on the water for all paddlers. We will continue to work with access site owners on prioritizing trail and access site improvements including barrier free access sites, improved restroom facilities and places to clean watercraft to discourage the spread of invasive species. 


Many significant shore lands have already been protected as parks and natural areas within the Chain of Lakes which are great assets for a water trail. In 2014, the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy developed an inventory of potential access points for the water trail, as well as information on potential paddling routes and points of interest. We appreciate being able to use this information as a foundation for the water trail plan. Our role leading the development of the water trail follows the model of many other organizations around the state and nation. We continue to work with a long list of public and private sector partners to develop the new water trail and we are grateful for their collaboration. Seventeen units of government and non-profit organizations have adopted resolutions or written letters authorizing inclusion of access sites to the water trail. There are also many other local businesses, organizations, and individuals who have also supported and contributed to the development of the plan.

The units of government and non-profit organizations who own/manage access sites that have been approved include:

  • Antrim County
  • Antrim County Road Commission
  • Bellaire, Village of
  • Central Lake Township
  • Central Lake, Village of
  • Clearwater Township
  • Ellsworth, Village of
  • Elk Rapids, Village of
  • Forest Home Township
  • Grand Traverse County Road Commission
  • Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
  • Grass River Natural Area, Inc.
  • Helena Township
  • Kalkaska County Road Commission
  • Kearney Township
  • Little Traverse Conservancy
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • Milton Township
  • Torch Lake Township
  • Whitewater Township


Paddle Antrim is deeply committed to the stewardship of the waterways. We are excited about the opportunity to integrate information about water quality protection and stewardship into the planning and marketing effort for the water trail. With the support of many partner organizations, we will prioritize information on invasive species and other concerns into our marketing materials. We hope to develop and install some modest signage at strategic access points along the route that provides information about ways that recreational users can support and sustain on-going efforts to preserve and manage lands and shorelines to maintain high water quality. This includes sharing information about the on-going efforts and leadership of local watershed groups, lake associations, and others and their important water quality monitoring and protection work.


A water trail is a designated route along a river, lake, canal or bay specifically designed for people using small, non-motorized boats like kayaks, canoes, single sailboats or rowboats. These trails are the aquatic equivalent to a hiking trail. Water trails typically feature well-developed access and launch points, are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest, and often include nearby amenities such as restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.


  • Encourage healthy lifestyles and active living by providing access to different paddling activities.
  • Foster a strong sense of community and place, providing an opportunity for social interaction and access to community amenities such as parks and downtown areas.
  • Encourage preservation and protection of local waterways.
  • Positively impact the local economy. Water trails can help attract and support tourism and new business opportunities.
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