After dropping my daughter and a friend off at a nearby music festival, I made my way to the Island Lake State Recreation Area. I consulted the guys at the Heavner Canoe & Kayak rental shack at Kent Lake Beach to ask about some details I couldn't find online or on maps.
I dropped my kayak at the base of the dam where the Huron River exits Kent Lake. It's a little walk and down some steps from the closest you can get with a car. I then drove to the Placeways take-out - the last place in the park you can get out of the river. Then I biked the 4.5 miles back to the Kent Lake Dam, most of it on a paved bike trail. The park also includes two mountain bike trails.
Given it was a beautiful Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, there were a lot of people getting in the river. I put in at about 2:30, later in the day than most, which helped avoid some traffic. What I didn't avoid but quickly passed through was the shooting range that is in the park. Then while hearing all the guns going off (first 20-30 minutes of trip), I came across a guy trying to shoot a catfish with a bow and arrow. Never seen that before while kayaking. Unique start to the trip.
I passed a few groups and then had a relatively quiet and beautiful trip down the river. In the areas where the Huron widens, it was pretty shallow. I never got out of the boat but did have to split the paddle and push myself through a few spots. A few felled trees were also challenging to get over. Any lower water levels and portaging would have been necessary.
Early in the trip there were many fish, both large and small. Later in the trip turtles began to emerge more frequently. The best was catching sight of two very large softshell turtles out to warm in the sun. I also saw a deer running through the woods.
In the future, I might like to kayak the next stretch, though I could see from going just beyond the Placeways take-out that more tree fall would require more frequent portaging. My other issue is there is not an easy way to bike from the next take-out in Huron Meadows Metro Park to Island Lake.
All in all, a nice stretch of river, especially for being right near major metro areas, that took me two hours, paddling most of the way. Could be a nice family trip, too, either all on the river or leaving some on the beach.
Pit toilets available at both ends of the trip (and what looked like a bath house at the beach, though I didn't check it out). Pump well at Placeways, too.
Must have state park sticker on license plate or pay state park fee.
Get off I-96 at Kensington Road (just east of US 23) and turn south. In a very short distance, turn left (east) into Island Lake State Recreation Area. After going through the ranger booth, continue straight to the Kent Lake Beach.