Frequently Asked Questions

The Paddle Antrim Festival celebrates the waterways and local communities that make the Chain of Lakes in Northern Michigan so great. The Festival includes community events each day and a non-competitive two-day paddling event spanning most of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail from Ellsworth to Elk Rapids through 12 different lakes.

The event is run by Paddle Antrim, a local 501(c)3 organization. Our mission is to protect our water resources by using paddle sports to connect people to our 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.

Money raised helps achieve our mission to protect the waterways including our Ripple Effect Mini-Grant Program, a competitive grant process which funds great local projects that align to our mission.

Definitely there will be food, drinks, and live music every day and the whole community is invited. Thursday’s Kick-off Party is at Ellsworth’s River Park from 5:30-7:30, Friday’s Block Party at Bellaire’s Richardi Park is from 2-5PM and the Final Bash in Elk Rapids is Saturday from 3-8. 

The Paddle Antrim Festival began in 2015. For five previous years (2009-2013), Short’s Brewing Company hosted a paddle from Bellaire to Elk Rapids known as the Short’s to Short’s Paddle. This ended with the creation of the Paddle Antrim Festival and with great support from Short’s Brewing Company.  We appreciate Short’s Brewing Company’s continued commitment to the waterway and as top sponsor of the Festival.

The Festival is held two weeks after Labor Day each year in Northern Michigan.  

Yes! Good options include: On Day 1 the launch (River Park in Ellsworth), Checkpoint 1 (Thurston Park in Central Lake), and the end at Richardi Park in Bellaire. On Day 2, Grass River Natural Area’s Dock, Checkpoint 1 (Dockside Restaurant), and the end at Rotary Park in Elk Rapids.

Paddle 1 or 2 days and choose your distance. Day 1’s full distance is 15 miles, with an exit at 7 miles (Central Lake). Day 2’s full distance is 27 miles. Exits are located at 9 miles (Dockside) 8 miles, 17 miles (Torch River), and 22 miles (Chippewa Trail Extension). For more details on the paddle, check out our post The Paddle Experience.

Expect the full route on Day 1 to take about 4-7 hours.  Expect the full route to take between 7-10 hours on Day 2. While we feel that this is reasonable for an able paddler, you must work to stay on track. If your goal is to relax and socialize, do not try to go the entire distance. Reminder: This is NOT a race. There are no prizes for finishing first.

Yes. On Day 1, you must be past Checkpoint 1 by 1:15 pm. On Day 2 at 3:30 pm, paddlers must exit the next checkpoint they come to.

No, all paddlers must listen to the safety brief each morning as it will go over route specific information for that day. Paddlers who are going past Checkpoint 1 on Day 2 will be allowed to launch first.

All registration is done online on the Paddle Antrim website and all registrations are final. 

Yes. Rates vary depending on whether you want to paddle 1 or 2 days and whether you are in a single or tandem boat. There is early registration available.

Yes, participants may paddle one or both days and choose an exit along the way to finish. 

Registration fees will be used to ensure a fun and safe event well as to further our mission.

Safety is our greatest priority. Past Checkpoint 1 on Day 2 the lakes are larger and the route is further off-shore. The requirements are so that a deep-water rescue can be performed if needed.

Check-in Thursday night from 5:30-7:30 pm at River Park in Ellsworth and you may leave your kayak. Friday morning, paddlers can check-in between 8:30-9:30 am.

SATURDAY ONLY PADDLERS: You are welcome to drop your boat at Ohio St. Launch in Bellaire anytime after 4PM on Friday. Saturday morning check-in will be from 6:45-7:45 am.

Paddle Antrim pays for security each night for boats left overnight at the launches. When security is present, you may leave your boat but no one will be allowed to pick up any boats or gear. Paddle Antrim is not responsible for damaged, lost, or stolen items.

There is a portage required from Richardi Park (Friday take-out) to the Ohio St Launch (Saturday launch). For paddlers doing both days, Paddles and Pedals will be at Richardi Park with their trailer to assist paddlers in portaging their boats to the Saturday launch location.

Shuttle service will be available for people only, no boats and must be added with registration. Make sure to drop your boat off prior to the shuttle.

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

DAY 2:
Checkpoint 4: Elk Rapids Rotary Park – Park in parking lot by Swan Statue (not at launch) – 6:30 AM
Checkpoints 2 & 3: Torch River Bridge DNR Parking lot – Recreation Passport required – 6:45 AM
Checkpoint 1: Dockside Restaurant – Park in spaces away from restaurant (on road near water) 7:00 AM

No problem. We have an emergency shuttle to get you back to your car.  You will need to leave your boat and come back for it right away. Our volunteers are not responsible for equipment left and not picked up immediately.

There is no camping along the route. We list local lodging options on our website and lodging specials available to paddlers during the Festival weekend.

Breakfast and lunch options are available but must be added with registration. Food will not be available for purchase the day of the event. You are welcome to bring your own of course.

Paddle Antrim is concerned about controlling the spread of aquatic invasive species and it is not just motorized boats that can transport these. All boats and equipment should follow the Clean, Drain, Dry method. For more information checkout this article/video from Nature Change. 

  1. Dress for the weather. We suggest moisture wicking layers underneath a synthetic fleece and/or waterproof shell. Fighting wet and cold is essential to really enjoy this adventure. Dress appropriately so you can be comfortable and have a good experience. Also, be sure to stow a complete set of back up clothing in a dry bag. Bring lots of clothing options because the weather in Northern Michigan often defies prediction.
  2. Wear sunscreen and a hat. Apply sunscreen throughout the day.
  3. Test your kayak beforehand. Make cockpit adjustments before launch day. Sit in your vessel and decide where the most comfortable position is going to be for your ride. Being comfortable will really improve your enjoyment! Also, if your kayak has bulkheads, make sure they are water-tight. Check every compartment cover to make sure that it is fastened.
  4. As with anytime you are on the water, wear a life jacket. It’s required! Our volunteers and the Antrim County Sheriff are there for your safety and to ensure your PFD is on correctly at all stages of the paddle.
  5. Keep electronics dry. While it is a good idea to bring a cell phone, be sure to pack it in a dry bag.
  6. Bring a water bottle and snacks. The days will be long and you’re going to be burning lots of calories and need to stay hydrated.
  7. Paddle with a partner. Either come with a buddy, or get to know someone on the water. It is not safe to paddle alone. As with every time you paddle, be sure to tell someone beforehand where you are going and what you are doing.

As much as we hate to think about it, bad weather could disrupt the paddle event. Event officials reserve the right to delay the start or modify the course to ensure the safety of participants.