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Betsie River in Michigan

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

A beautiful sunny 75 degree drew me up to the Betsie River, about a half hour south of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The Betsie begins just above Thompsonville at the Grass Lake State Forest and dumps into Lake Michigan at Frankfort.

I dropped in at Wallin Road, the first entry point south of the Grass Lake State Forest Campground. The launch was a little tricky. I might pick a different spot if I went again. Just down from where I launched was a much more ideal looking built launch with a sign that encouragd folks to text a picture of the water level to a number posted. Not sure how to get there by road, though.

On the water level, a local in the river told me it was much higher this year than last. And I still scraped bottom in many places, though never enough to make me get out of the boat.

Paddlers on the Betsie have little room for rest. The narrow river (many stretches 10-20 feet wide) twists and turns at a decent pace with few straightaways. Strainers and downed trees regularly reach into the river. Nothing was very tricky; one must simply always pay attention. Only once did I have to portage -- around a large tree that had recently fallen, an easy portage with a path worn through the grass by those before me.

The river rolls through tranquil land with shorter trees and relatively few signs of civilization. The only other boats I saw on my 4-hour, 12-mile journey were from a group that had been ahead of me pulling out at the Betsie River Canoes & Campground exit.

As always, it was a pleasant surprise to come around a bend to a deer bent over for a drink in the middle of the river. However, I was otherwise surprised by the lack of wildlife: only a few turtles, small fish, and one river otter. This may have had to do with the group in front of me that I saw pulling out.

I ended my journey at the Kurick Road Bridge. A trail on the upriver side climbs steeply up the bank. There were many better launches and exits along the way than the ones I used.

All in all, this was a nice journey, but not one that made me feel like I want to get back there soon.


None where I put in and took out.

Another launch is upriver a little at the Grass Lake State Forest Campground, that would have some amenities.




M-115 between Cadillac and Frankfort


"Paddling Michigan" book

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location