Power Island, also known as Marion or Ford Island, is a 200-acre island that is maintained as a park by Grand Traverse County. The island has a dock, swimming beach, hiking trails through a maple/beech forest, and a small islet on the northeast tip that has five campsites. Sheltered deep in the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay, this route provides a great day trip or overnight trip for beginner paddlers.
Trip Highlights: Sand beaches and maple beech forests on a wild 200 acre island.
Beginner: Easy 5-mile round-trip.
Day trip or overnight trip.
NOAA chart 14913; USGS: Grand Traverse County at 1:100,000.
This is a very well-sheltered area except with northerly winds. If you plan to camp on the island overnight, you may want to reserve a campsite by calling the Grand Traverse Parks and Recreation Department (616) 922-4818. Camping fees are $15/night per campsite.
To get to the launch site, head north on Highway 37 about 5 miles out from the base of the peninsula. Follow the signs to Bowers Harbor, turning left on Seven Hills Road, then left again onto Peninsula Drive. The boat ramp is just off Peninsula Drive on Neah-ta-wanta Road.
Power Island & Bassett Island History
The island was privately owned in the 1800s and was named Marion Island in 1881, when the island was given to the owner's daughter, Marion. Many still call it Marion Island. On the northeast tip of the island is a small islet, Bassett Island, which is connected to Power Island at low water levels. In 1906 there was a 50-x-100-foot dance hall on Bassett Island, which was called the "haunted island" or the "island of the dead" because local lore told a story of a Native American woman who was decapitated for "misbehaving." From 1917 to 1944 Henry Ford owned the island, and many called it Ford Island. The most recent owner's last name was Power, and at his request he had the island's name changed to Power Island after his death in memory of the donation of the island to Grand Traverse County.
start: You begin your trip at the public boat ramp (N 44° 53.72' W 085° 31.47'). Adequate parking and a porta-john toilet are available at the site. From the boat ramp head southwest to Power Island.
mile 1.0: After about 1.0 mile you exit the shelter of Bowers Harbor and head into the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay. If you follow the north shore of the harbor rather than heading straight to the island, watch out for the shallow sand- and boulder bar that extends out from Tucker Point.
mile 2.5: Crossing to the west side of Power Island, you come to a dock and sand beach (N 44° 51.92' W 085° 34.27') that is very popular with other boaters for day use. After exploring the island, you can retrace your path or camp overnight on Bassett Island.
Sidetrip: Near the Power Island dock, you will find hiking trails that allow access to much of the 200-acre island. North of the beach and dock is Bassett Island, the small islet connected to Power Island by a sandbar, when lake levels are low. Bassett Island has five campsites that can be reserved in advance or used on a first come, first serve basis. There is a full time ranger on the island in summer, and in fall or spring you can leave payment in the pay boxes at the registration board. Campsites are equipped with "raccoon poles" to keep your victuals out of the hands of masked raiders. We'd thought this was a bit of a joke, but judging from the hundreds of muddy foot prints on our kayaks, an army of raccoons had visited our camp in the night.
The Boathouse (616-223-4030) is located at the Bowers Harbor marina. For fine dining the Bowers Harbor Inn (616-223-4222), just south of the harbor on Peninsula Drive, is a good choice. It's a bit formal and expensive for some paddlers; the adjacent Bowery Bar and Grill is more reasonably priced and has a less-formal dining atmosphere. On M-37 just past the Seven Hills Road turnoff is Mollys (616-223-7200), a bar and restaurant with reasonably priced, informal dining.
Lodging & Camping:
The Traverse City area is a very popular tourist destination so there are many options for camping and lodging. For information call the Traverse City Visitors and Convention Bureau at (612) 947-1120.