Paddle Antrim is pleased to announce that signs have been installed along the Chain of Lakes Water Trail, Northern Michigan’s only state designated water trail. From small lakes to big lakes, and meandering rivers, this trail provides a paddling experience for all skill levels. Whether kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or fishing, there are opportunities for all to enjoy along this 99-mile-long trail.

“While the lakes have always existed, the water trail provides the information people need to make decisions on where to paddle,” said Deana Jerdee, Executive Director of Paddle Antrim.  “We have worked with our partners to identify 84 access sites and consolidate the information so people know where they can launch, what amenities are available, what distances they will travel and more to help create a quality paddling experience.”

The Chain of Lakes Water Trail offers paddlers access to quaint communities along the trail including Ellsworth, Central Lake, Bellaire, and Elk Rapids. These towns all have access points that allow paddlers to easily walk into town to enjoy the plentiful amenities including restaurants, retail stores, outfitters, art galleries and more. “Over the last few years we have seen a steady incline in our paddle sport rentals,” said Patrick Boyd, owner of Paddles and Pedals, located in downtown Bellaire.  “Word about the water trail is getting out and with the current pandemic more people are craving access to nature. We love seeing paddlers out on the water enjoying the beauty of the area.”

Paddle Antrim has been working on the Chain of Lakes Water Trail since 2015. The trail depends on access sites identified and approved by 19 governmental and nonprofit entities.  Signs have been placed near the water’s edge at each access site so paddlers can identify where to exit from the water. Additional information on stewardship, safety, paddling experiences, and more can be found on kiosks at main and secondary access sites. “The emphasis on stewardship included in the water trail signs is essential to educate new and experienced paddlers about ways to protect our waterways,” said Christine Crissman, Executive Director of The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. “The appreciation paddlers have for clean, healthy water distinctively motivates them to prevent concerns such as shoreline erosion and spreading aquatic invasive species.”

In addition to the signs being installed, Paddle Antrim has launched a new website with all the Chain of Lakes Water Trail information that paddlers need in order to plan a safe and fun trip. The non-profit is in the final stages of developing a waterproof Paddler’s Guide which will be available for purchase on their website. These tools are meant to help paddlers plan ahead to ensure a fun and safe experience and remind them of safety measures and stewardship.

Paddle Antrim raised $275,000 for the launch of the water trail, which includes the installation of these signs. The non-profit is grateful to Consumers Energy Foundation, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Rosso Family Foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, The Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation and many other donors, partners, and supporters who helped make this project a success.

For more information on the water trail, visit