your paddlesports destination

Orchard Lake (Orchard Lake Village, MI)

Trip Overview

Orchard Lake is a very popular destination for all kinds of small water transport. It's large enough to fit in a bigcrowd, it's located inside of the cluster of several most populated and busy (and wealthy, too) Detroit suburbs, and it has a large free public parking lot (R passport required). But, boy, can it be busy during the prime days of summer! The parking lot attendant told me they have 65+ spots for cars with trailers (you don't have to have a trailer to park there, but you do have to carry some piece of water transport; he said "This will do" when we showed him inflatable SUPs); however, on a nice weekend day, all the spots will be taken before the noon! And I can imagine how much noise and wave there is on the lake. After Labor Day the boating activity drops here - as perhaps everywhere, - and we were finally able to get to the lake and happily share it with several dozens of motor boats, pontoons, scooters, tube-riders, water-skiers, and, yes, a few SUP. NB! Wear you PFD! We've seen a sheriff ordering two paddle-boarders off the water for not wearing it. We don't know if he fined them or not, but he certainly ruined their day. Later we've seen him stopping a party boat and ordering all on-board to stand up and show their PFDs. Also, although this is rarely a problem with paddle-boarders, don't speed and don't make wake in no-wake zones :) We've seen sheriff sending packing a scooter rider who apparently had too much fun on the water. All-in-all, the sheriff is busy on this lake! Apple Island in the middle of Orchard Lake Apple Island is, perhaps, the first thing to catch your eye on the exit of the boat launch harbor. I'd say, don't rush to it right away: get to it from the opposite side of the lake where the path narrows down, the water shallows, and the motor boats activity reduces. It's a private property though, so don't wander inside. We started counter-clockwise, and, while the Google Maps clearly show a connection to Pine Lake, we did not find any sign of it. Close to the bank with no houses in sight, there was a sand bar with dozens of boaters enjoying family fun in the sun. If you elect to not stop at Apple Island then in 1 h. you'll enter the most beautiful, in my opinion, part of the lake: a bay hidden behind Cedar Island. This narrow island is located as if to protect the bay from the bigger part of the lake - which makes me think that the bay, earlier in the days, used to be a lake on its own, and then the passes were made around what now is Cedar Island. Look for two other tiny islands inside the bay! One is immediately on the right side, and the aerial map shows the only house on it - not seen from the bay - and the inner lake and an in-lake island on that island! (I can't believe that we missed it!). The 2nd island is deeper inside and is difficult to miss. You can go under the bridge that connects the island to the shore. It almost looks like they have a mini-golf course on this island. I'd say the most lovely and festive houses are there on the bay shore, including enormous mansion (still being under construction at the time of our trip) occupying the peninsula at the bay's other end. Following the shore you can enjoy the view of the elite Orchard Lake Country Club. They had some event on the day of our trip, and the beautiful life was in full view on the beach. We checked the membership fees for the club, and decided we cannot afford it :) And then nearing the end of our circumnavigation we've seen the houses - I should say palaces - you would not believe your eyes! Galleries, and stained glass, blooming gardens, all kinds and sizes of steps and terraces, statuary and trails... I tried to take pictures - the places looked completely unoccupied - but in my frenzy (and bright sun light) manage to capture only my own astonished face :) The trip was 5 miles long, which we leisurely covered in 3.5 enjoyable hours. It can be made longer if include a trip to/around Apple Island.
  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Stand Up Paddling
  • Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Number of Portages: 1

Locations on this Trip