Water Trail Experiences

Paddle Antrim wants you to have the best paddling experience on the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. Below you will find information about potential experiences. These trail experiences can be used individually or combined to create the perfect paddle experience for you and your group. While experiences are given as if travelling downstream, paddlers can travel in either direction. Mileage is based on following close to shore, so can vary depending on path paddled. Times can vary significantly based on paddler ability, path taken, and conditions. Estimated times are based on the following speeds: Beginner segments=2.0 miles per hour (mph), Intermediate segments=2.5 mph, and Advanced segments=3.0 mph

PADDLING SKILL LEVELS

Routes are categorized by skill level.  This recommended skill level is based on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Water Trail Handbook (2018). 

Beginner – Routes with minimum hazards suitable for new paddlers with new to basic skills. These routes are in small inland lakes with little or no current,  no portages required, and normally limited waves. Access sites are typically every 3-4 miles. 

Intermediate – Routes suitable for paddlers with some boat control skills, self-recovery skills and stamina. Paddlers should have the expectation of moderate waves when windy. Portages may be required. Access sites are typically every 3-8 miles. 

Advanced – Routes suitable with paddlers whose skills include advance paddling, self-rescue, risk management, navigation, and stamina. Routes may include open water crossings and areas where landing is dangerous due to shoreline conditions. There is potential for high waves from wind and encountering motorized boat traffic. Portages may be required. Access sites may be up to twelve miles apart, with only emergency access sites and rest stops available within those twelve miles.

PADDLING THE UPPER CHAIN

20.6 MILES | 9 ¼ HOURS

ST. CLAIR LAKE / SIX-MILE LAKE NATURAL AREA

4.7 Miles | 2 Hours | Intermediate Level | SIX MILE LAKE DNR ACCESS TO RIVER PARK

Travel through the narrow waters of Six Mile Lake and St. Clair Lake, with over a mile of protected shoreline to the Village of Ellsworth. During high water, a portage is required at the culvert between St. Clair Lake and Ellsworth Lake.

ELLSWORTH AND WILSON LAKES

3.4 Miles | 1 3/4 Hours | Beginner Level | RIVER PARK TO WILSON DNR ACCESS

Begin in the Village of Ellsworth and travel through the small, narrow lakes of Ellsworth Lake and Wilson Lake.

BENWAY AND HANLEY LAKES

4.0 Miles | 2 Hours | Beginner Level | WILSON DNR ACCESS TO THURSTON PARK

Travel through the narrow lakes of Benway and Hanley Lakes, ending in the Village of Central Lake.

INTERMEDIATE LAKE

8.5 Miles | 3 1/2 HOURS (EASTERN SHORE) | 9 MILES | 3 3/4 HOURS (WESTERN SHORE) | Intermediate Level | THURSTON PARK TO RICHARDI PARK

Begin in the Village of Central Lake and travel through Intermediate Lake into Intermediate River, ending in the Village of Bellaire.

INTERMEDIATE RIVER

3.0 Miles | 1 1/2 Hours Round-Trip | Beginner Level | RICHARDI PARK OUT/BACK ALONG INTERMEDIATE RIVER

Travel upstream on Intermediate River 1.5 shallow miles to Intermediate Lake and return.  Minor current when heading upstream.

PADDLING THE LOWER CHAIN

30.6 MILES | 11 ¼ HOURS

LAKE BELLAIRE AND GRASS RIVER

7.4 Miles | 3 Hours | Intermediate Level | OHIO ST TO CLAM LAKE DNR ACCESS

Begin in the Village of Bellaire and travel through Intermediate River, Lake Bellaire, Grass River, and into Clam Lake, paddling through the protected shorelines of the Grass River Natural Area.

CLAM LAKE AND TORCH LAKE SANDBAR

10.6 Miles | 3 1/2 Hours | Advanced Level | CLAM LAKE DNR ACCESS TO TORCH RIVER BRIDGE DNR ACCESS

Travel through Clam Lake and along the southeast shore of Torch Lake, near the sandbar. Multiple access sites with amenities along the route. Consider using Cedar St or Birch St instead of Torch River Bridge DNR Access on peak weekends.

TORCH RIVER AND SKEGEMOG STUMPS

9.4 Miles | 3 3/4 Hours | Intermediate Level | TORCH RIVER BRIDGE DNR ACCESS TO ELK LAKE DNR ACCESS

Travel through Torch River, the stumps of Lake Skegemog and up the eastern shore of Elk Lake. Consider using Cedar St, Birch St or Torch River DNR Access instead of Torch River Bridge DNR Access on peak weekends.

ELK LAKE CROSSING

3.2 Miles | 1 Hour | Advanced Level | ELK LAKE DNR ACCESS TO ROTARY PARK

Cross Elk Lake, ending in Elk River in the Village of Elk Rapids.

PADDLING THE LAKE BELLAIRE LOOP

10.6 MILES | 4 ½ HOURS | CIRCUMNAVIGATE LAKE BELLAIRE

LAKE BELLAIRE NORTHERN SHORE

7.3 Miles | 3 Hours | Intermediate Level | FISHERMAN’S PARADISE DNR ACCESS AND COTTAGE DRIVE PARK

Travel along Lake Bellaire’s shore, including into the north arm, passing multiple protected sites. Consider using Notewares Landing instead of Fisherman’s Paradise DNR Access on peak weekends.

LAKE BELLAIRE SOUTHERN SHORE

3.3 Miles | 1 1/2 Hours | Intermediate Level | COTTAGE DRIVE PARK TO FISHERMAN’S PARADISE DNR ACCESS

Travel along Lake Bellaire’s southern shore, including portions of the Grass River Natural Area.  Consider using Notewares Landing instead of Fisherman’s Paradise DNR Access on peak days.

PADDLING THE GRASS RIVER NATURAL AREA

7 Miles | 3 Hours | Intermediate Level | COTTAGE DRIVE PARK TO CLAM LAKE DNR ACCESS

Travel through southern Lake Bellaire and Grass River, including miles of land protected by the Grass River Natural Area. Shuttle between launch/landing is less than two miles.

PADDLING THE TORCH LAKE EASTERN SHORE

21.8 Miles | 7 1/4 Hours | Advanced Level | EASTPORT DNR ACCESS TO TORCH RIVER BRIDGE DNR ACCESS

Paddle the eastern shore of Torch Lake, Michigan’s second largest inland lake. Access and amenities are very limited. From north to south, access is available at the following access sites, mileage provided: Forest Home Family Park (6.4), Pinnell Rd (11.7), Old Torch Lake Rd (13), Valleau Landing/Alden (17.9), Alden Ball Park (19.2), Birch St (20.2), and Cedar St (20.8).

PADDLING THE LAKE SKEGEMOG LOOP

9.7 Miles | 3 1/4 Hours | Advanced Level | CIRCUMNAVIGATE LAKE SKEGEMOG | LAKE SKEGEMOG DNR ACCESS

Paddle along the protected eastern shoreline of the Skegemog Lake Wildlife Area. Beware: the shore line is swampy making it not easily accessible and the route includes a .2-mile lake crossing. Alternate access is available at the Torch River DNR Access, which increases the route 1.5 miles in each direction.

PADDLING THE ELK LAKE LOOP

24.7 MILES | 8 ¼ HOURS | CIRCUMNAVIGATE ELK LAKE

ELK RAPIDS

5.3 Miles | 2 1/4 Hours | Intermediate Level | ROTARY PARK TO MILTON TWP WATERFRONT PARK

From the Village of Elk Rapids, travel south down Elk River and along the northern shore of Elk Lake.

KEWADIN

4 Miles | 1 3/4 Hours | Intermediate Level | MILTON TOWNSHIP WATERFRONT PARK TO ELK LAKE DNR ACCESS

Travel the northeastern shore of Elk Lake, past Kewadin Wetlands Natural Area.

BATTLE CREEK NATURAL AREA

9.1 Miles | 3 Hours | Advanced Level | ELK LAKE DNR ACCESS TO WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP PARK

Travel the eastern and southern shores of Elk Lake. Paddle past the protected shoreline of Battle Creek Natural Area at the southern end of Elk Lake. There is a .2 mile crossing at the Elk/Skegemog Narrows.

ELK LAKE WESTERN SHORE

6.3 Miles | 2 3/4 Hours | Intermediate Level | WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP PARK TO ROTARY PARK

Travel along the western shore of Elk Lake, into Elk River, ending in the Village of Elk Rapids.

ELK LAKE CROSSING

3.2 Miles | 1 Hour | Advanced Level | ELK LAKE DNR ACCESS TO ROTARY PARK

Optional lake crossing.