Muskegon River, M-55 to Leota

by  Smkroos

A self-supported trip created by Smkroos

Trip Overview

Is it the “Mighty Muskegon” or the “Miserable Muskegon” River?

Our group consisted of my wife and I, who are athletic and in our forties, our seven year old daughter, and my In-laws, who are active and in their seventies. I would rate us as experienced paddlers of Michigan rivers in both the U.P. and lower peninsula; a majority of our trips are multi-night canoe camping escapes from civilization. I float a 17’ Mad River Canoe, the Explorer Kevlar model. My In-laws float a 15’ Wenonah, the Kevlar Bluegill model.

Quick review-

The Muskegon River above Leota is wild and beautiful, and it requires patience and experienced paddling ability to navigate the obstacles in the river. The flow is moderate. I recommend a chainsaw to clear your float path or expect to portage frequently, as this section is yet untamed. For an easier float, consider the section between the Town Line Creek and Leota Community Bridge.

Detailed review-

Day one- We started our trip at the M-55 access point as other reviews and a downstream livery said that the upstream section was congested and that our paddle time, from Reedsburg Dam, would be “a good eight hours” to the East Cadillac Road bridge. We enjoyed lunch, a needed respite, at the Two Track off of the S. Jeffs Rd. put-in. Before and until our camp spot just south of East Cadillac Road bridge, on state land, we cut limbs, ducked under trees, got out and slid the canoes over trees, and portaged around two impassable sections. We found no established camping spots along the river, so we made due on state land, on the east side of the river. This was quite the adventure. Thank the Lord for landmarks like the Two Track off S. Jeffs Rd., the Kelly Road-no bridge, and the East Cadillac Rd. bridge to validate progress and encourage us along the way.

Day two, our plan was to paddle to a spot on state land, about two miles north of Leota. The river wasn’t any kinder this day. The same obstacles impeded our progress, including cutting through many four and six inch limbs. We set up camp at a two track camp site on the west bank, upriver from Wolf Creek. We only made about twelve miles of progress today instead of about seventeen. We were grateful for an established site after a seven and a half hour (float time) day.

Day three, we were pulling the loaded canoes over trees just five minutes downstream from camp. Today, the novelty of tree obstacles had worn off; we persevered with grace in the midst of grumbling. Once Town Line Creek joined the Muskegon, the river cleared up all the way to Leota, only zigzagging was needed. After eight (float time) hours on the river, we were only at Leota Community Bridge park. This was twenty-three river miles from our staged vehicle. We chose to make dinner and hitch a ride to our vehicle. We were done for this trip.


This was a wild river, mostly untamed by man. This was the cleanest river we’ve floated- some long sections with no trash at all! We saw no one else on the river the entire trip- Hmmm. We left behind a slightly easier float for the brave and adventurous, on the beautiful... Mighty Muskegon River.

Safety Notes

Skill level: Experienced; water flow was moderate, but the obstacles, many both exposed and submerged, make this river dangerous.

Gear Notes

I recommend a chainsaw (14"+ bar) in an experienced hand.

Portage Notes

The portages were around impassable log jams on the river.

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 8/13/2021-8/15/2021
  • Sport/Activity: Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Number of Portages: 3

Trip Location