your paddlesports destination

Basset Island, Grand Traverse Bay in Michigan

Trip Overview

Basset Island is located about a mile offshore from the Old Mission Peninsula in the western arm of Grand Traverse Bay. The island is managed by the Grand Traverse Parks and Rec dept (231)-922-4818 and costs $25/night for non-residents.

Paddling to the island is a 3-mile paddle, a mile of which is protected by the harbor, and 2 miles of which is open. The bay is large, and bordered by Lake Michigan at the north, so North or Northwesterly winds can kick up some nice swells. Most of the time however, winds will be from the west and paddling to the island should be relatively easy.

Basset Island is the small island to the north of Power Island. When I was there this summer (2001), the water levels were low enough that the islands were connected by about 25 feet of rocky land that you could walk over. Power Island offers trails for hiking and "modern" picnic facilities. Basset Island has 5 small, secluded campsites. The parks department advertises this as "wilderness camping" but in my experience the term "rustic" is most applicable. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring (rocks), raccoon-pole for hanging food (although we saw no raccoons our entire trip).

There were other kayakers camping on the island when we went, and leaving boats down on the shore, away from the sites seemed to be the norm. There is no commercial access to the island, so campers seem to be limited to those with boats. Power Island, to the south is a boat parking lot during the summer with 50+ boats anchoring for swimming and socializing on the beach. The islands are surrounded by shallow waters, less than 10 feet deep several hundred yards off shore, however, the middle of the bay is 300'+. The water to the south of Power Island is VERY shallow with large rocks. I do not recommend paddling here if wind or waves have kicked up as I nearly ran around on some boulders over a hundred yards off shore. The waters north of the island however, are crystal clear to over 20' (estimated) when the water is calm, and make for great sights.

The bay itself is one of the most photographed locations in Michigan and because of its size didn't seem to be overcrowded with boats (despite the teeming masses of power boats, we never once had that sinking feeling that you're not seen).

Also in the area, are many wineries, so stopping in on the drive up for a bottle or three, paddling to your campsite, and enjoying a glass of wine is a recommended activity :-)


Find your way to Traverse City and take M-37 north, up the Old Mission Peninsula. Turn left on Peninsula Drive as soon as you see it, and follow that to Bowers Harbor. When you reach Bowers Harbor, you'll see signs for the Michigan DNR Boat Launch. When water levels are low like they have been the last few years, you can launch from the "beach" next to the concrete boat ramps. When levels are high, there are no beaches, but the water is shallow enough to do a wet launch.


Contact Grand Traverse Parks and Rec. for more information. (231)922-4818.

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip