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Little Manistee River in Michigan

Trip Overview

Paddled two sections of the little Manistee - this section from Driftwood Valley to bear paw campground took about 3 1/2 hours, and was a very delightful float.

Bear paw campground down to the 9 mile Bridge; a little bit longer, and very enjoyable.

Do not kayak the section of the river between 9 mile Bridge and 6 mile Bridge!!!!! I saw several places where even a very good kayaker could experience a fatality - you need to take this seriously.

When I got back to the Baldwin office/national ranger station for the Manistee Forest I advised them of what I had experienced before pulling out to save my life, and they advised me that they tell everyone who asks, not to venture on that stretch of river - it is not maintained, and is quite frankly, very dangerous.

Some of the biggest fish I've ever seen in my life were in the little Manistee River - King salmon and steelhead.


Campgrounds with no running water and pit toilets.


Five dollar daily vehicle usage fee at all locations; the bear park campground currently requires $12/night for camping; same for Driftwood Valley only it is in the process of being converted back to a day use area only.


North from Baldwin: M-37 to 10 1/2 mile Road - turn left, and travel approximately 10 miles until reaching the town of Irons. Proceed approximately 4 to 5 miles further west on the same road until it dead ends at Bass Lake Road - turn left and go south for about a mile, and turn unto the river road. This will get you to Driftwood Valley campground for a starting point.

In order to reach the Bear Paw Campground, continue following the river road west until you reach tentative half-mile road again, then do a short jog onto the next section of river road, up for about another quarter-mile, instead of turning into the campground going straight until you reach the parking lot, where you can either park your vehicle for a take-out only put in.

In order to reach the 9 mile bridge, follow the river road for about 10 to 12 miles; at Campbell Road, turn right and go down the hill to the bridge over the river.

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip