Posted by: Kath Usitalo | July 14, 2010

On Other Waters Of The Great Lakes State

Head to one of Michigan's many canoe liveries and spend a few hours on a river

When you mention water and Michigan it’s usually the Great Lakes that come to mind. Afterall, Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior define most of the two peninsulas and make the state visible from outer space.

Paddle the AuSable

But Michigan also has 11,000 inland lakes and 36,500 miles of rivers and streams. Of its 120 major rivers, 16 are designated “Natural Rivers” to recognize the beauty and quality of special waterways.

One of those Natural Rivers is the AuSable, which has also been designated a Blue Ribbon trout stream. The week ahead is a busy one for the 129-mile river in the northeast Lower Peninsula—some call the area The Heart of Michigan.

A hand crafted canoe at the Roscommon River Festival

The Roscommon River Festival celebrates the town’s spot on the South Branch of the AuSable River Saturday and Sunday, July 17-18. Last year we admired handcrafted canoes too pretty to put in the water, took in river-related exhibits and enjoyed a visit to the AuSable River Center.

Just a bit further north in Grayling the AuSable River Festival kicks-off on Saturday, with events leading up to the 63rd Weyerhaeuser AuSable River International Canoe Marathon. It’s “America’s Richest Canoe Race” with more than $50,000 in prizes, and this year 95 teams will hit the water at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, paddle through the night, and end up in Oscoda sometime Sunday, July 25.

Kids decorated canoes at the Roscommon River Festival

It’s also called the “World’s Toughest Spectator Race,” as friends, families and fans follow the waterway on land to track the progress of the teams. A wild time on the river and its banks.

Another major event kicks off today, July 14, and runs through the 26th. The Grand River Expedition 2010 hopes to build awareness of and appreciation for Michigan’s longest river. Registration for multi-day paddlers is closed, but day-tripping canoeists and kayakers are welcome; the public can attend evening events in communities along the way, from Jackson to Lansing, Grand River and Grand Haven. Check the schedule for details.

Related to the Grand River, last August I learned about the legendary paddler Verlen Kruger, and mentioned a memorial statue in his honor; it has been installed at Thompson Park along the Grand River in Portland, Michigan.

Inspired to spend some time paddling? Check out the Pure Michigan opportunities at and the  Michigan Association of Paddlesport Providers.

Paddle on!

Visitor Info Click: Grayling



  1. Ahhhh…memories of that rainy canoe trip last year in Roscommon. Still fun! The “wine shop” had a beautiful handcrafted canoe (once again) that someone will receive IF they bought the winning raffle ticket.

    • That was so much fun. Maybe again next year?

  2. We just got back from our week at AuTrain Lake and the youngsters (17-24) took canoes and kayaks down the river. It was just too beautimous to drag myself off the beach – those that went became the “Zests” (for life) and those of us that stayed became the “Lumps!” I, for one, was perfectly content to be a Lump!

    AuTrain River is a beauty to canoe if anyone is ever in the area!

    • I’ve heard about the AuTrain River. Guess my To Do list just got longer.
      Though I wouldn’t want to throw things out of whack—the world needs Lumps like us to balance out the Zests.

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