Grass River Natural Area Route: Cottage Drive Park to Clam Lake DNR Access

Route overview:

  • Intermediate Level
  • 7 Miles
  • 3 Hours Estimated Time

By Deana Jerdee, Executive Director

To celebrate my birthday this year, my entire family, including my mom and my sister’s family, decided to enjoy an adventure on the Chain of Lakes. We loaded up our trailer full of nine boats and headed to Cottage Drive Park on Lake Bellaire on an early Saturday morning.  After unloading boats, my husband and brother-in-law dropped our trailer off at the take-out, where there is great trailer parking available.  While the paddle is about seven miles, the shuttle between the launches is only 2 miles, making it a super-quick shuttle.  

Lake Bellaire was calm and besides a couple fishermen in the distance, we had the lake to ourselves. As we entered Grass River, we enjoyed the (very slight) current helping us down the waterway.  We stopped in Cold Creek and the kids were fascinated at how significantly colder the water temperature was in the creek.  Along the way we caught glimpses of a cedar waxwing, red fox and other beautiful wildlife and beautiful scenery along the way. Most had not paddled Grass River before and now understood why it was one of my favorite places!

When we reached the Grass River Natural Area dock, we stopped for lunch. With the kayak ramp and racks, we were able to get all nine of us out of our boats to enjoy some great food and stretch our legs. 

While we only passed three boats while on Grass River, once we were on Clam Lake, it was later in the day and the motorized boat activity was increasing but still plenty of space for us to continue our relaxed paddle. We arrived at the Clam Lake DNR launch and used the grassy area to the east of the DNR launch to take out from. This grassy area is not actually part of the Clam Lake DNR Access but instead owned by Forest Home Township. Together with the DNR access site amenities, make a great spot for all boaters. By this time the DNR launch had a line of boats waiting to launch so we carried our kayaks up to the trailer, which kept our trailer out of the way for launching boats.  

It was a perfect birthday adventure that I was thankful I could share it with my family. We took about 3.5 hours, which is slightly longer than the time estimate given due to our lunch break and group. As a large group, especially with younger kids, we move a little slower. And while my youngest (8-year old), enjoyed being towed for a portion of the trip, my oldest (10-year old), was determined to do the entire distance (his longest route yet). As all parents out there know, there’s nothing better than seeing your kid’s confidence in skills grow and satisfaction when they achieve their goal!   

Look forward to seeing your pictures and hearing about your trips from the water trail! Feel free to send them to us at or tag us on Facebook or Instagram @PaddleAntrim.  

This blog post is the first of our Water Trail Tails series which we are bringing to you as way to experience the water trail virtually as well as encourage you to get out on the trail to explore new routes. We hope you enjoy! If you have water trail photos or experience you wish to share with us please email or tag @PaddleAntrim on Facebook or Instagram. We can’t wait to share more Water Trail Tails with you and hope you will share yours with us as well!