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.
We look forward to welcoming paddlers to the Chain of Lakes Water Trail for the 6th Paddle Antrim Festival on September 17-18, 2021. The Festival will look a little different this year and registration will be limited to 150 paddlers at this time. Your safety and the safety of our staff and volunteers is very important to us. Due to COVID-19, we will be complying with all CDC, State, and local guidelines (e.g. masks and social distancing). Details and updates will be provided via email to all participants.
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 route to grab food.
Friday Lunch – Wraps with a side will be available.
Saturday Breakfast – Burritos and coffee will be available.
Saturday Lunch – Wraps with trail mix and an apple will be available. Lunches will be provided at the beginning launch to eat along the route. Please bring a dry bag (or large ziplock) to keep your lunch dry.
For paddlers exiting Day 2 at Checkpoint #1, the Dockside Restaurant will open early so feel free to 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 – 8:30 am you may need to park along street
Checkpoint 1: Central Lake Thurston Park Pavilion near playground – 8:45 am – parking is along street
Checkpoint 5 Elk Rapids Rotary Park – 6:30 am – Park in parking lot by Swan Statue (not launch)
Checkpoints 3 & 4: Torch River Bridge DNR Parking lot – 6:55 am – Recreation Passport required
Checkpoint 2: Alden Safe Harbor parking lot – 7:05 am – Few spots, parking is along streets
Checkpoint 1: Dockside Restaurant – 7:20 am– Park in spaces away from restaurant and water, along roadway
We will provide refillable jugs of fresh local water at all the checkpoints along the route! Make sure to bring a water bottle!
Check out our lodging section for great places to stay. Many of these local businesses offer great specials to paddlers during the event.
Check out our outfitters section to find out where you can rent a boat locally or pick up any last minute paddling supplies. Paddles and Pedals in Bellaire is the only rental place locally we are aware of who has boats which meet our safety requirements to go past Checkpoint 1 on Day 2.
We will 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:
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 meets 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!
These paddling experiences are just to give you an idea of the possibilities this event can provide and we encourage paddlers to choose 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. Note: For many recreational paddle boarders, 7 miles will be a long distance.
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.
Community Parties – Due to COVID-19 guidelines/direction from CDC, State, and local health organizations, our community celebrations may not look like they have in the past but we look forward to gathering and celebrating with new and old friends.
Thursday – Ellsworth River Park – 5:30-8:00 pm – Drop off your boat, check-in and stay to enjoy a relaxing evening with fellow paddlers.
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 fun outdoor games and live music to celebrate a great first day on the water.
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 at Short’s Brewing Company’s Pull Barn. This great time is open to all paddlers, friends, and the local community. There will be the finest beers/ciders, great food and live music. We will also recognize our “Hall of Fame” paddlers who completed the entire route both days at 6:30pm.
Online shop coming soon….
Thank you to all of our amazing 2021 Wavemaker sponsors! Their sponsorship is key to being able to host such an amazing event and raise money to protect our waterways! Please take a moment to thank these great folks for making this all happen!