your paddlesports destination

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan

Trip Overview

My wife and I arrived in Munising, MI the second week in June for a four-night kayak and camping trip through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Our outfitter was Northern Waters. They made us take a lesson before we set out. That was fine; we needed the practice. I think Northern Waters is the only game in town for kayak outfitting, but we were happy with their gear and they were helpful, with lots of suggestions for what to see and do on our trip. Organization, however, is not their forte, so try not to be on a strict timeline when dealing with them.

Northern Waters drove us to Miners Beach where we headed east into the park. I won't spend much time describing the colors on the rocks because it's been done thoroughly in lots of other places. I'll just say that they easily lived up to their reputation. There are lots of other geological oddities to marvel at besides the streaks of color: we paddled into several cathedral-esque caves, under rock arches, and zig-zagged through the debris left by the seemingly endless rockslides along the coast.

The rockslides create an effect that took me by surprise. They leave piles of submerged rocks that extend erratically out into the lake. The individual rocks are enormous, magnified even more so by the remarkably clear water. I found myself paddling over some of these piles, mesmerized by the shapes and their size. Then abruptly the rocks would disappear and I would be staring into the dark green depths of the lake. Sitting in a kayak in a lake isn't where I would expect to be hit with vertigo, but there it was. Creepy.

Our first two nights were at the Chapel campsite, which is behind Chapel Beach, next to Chapel Rock, and downstream from Chapel Lake on Chapel Creek. All of the above attractions in the park's Chapel district were lovely. Probably the most interesting thing we did there was hike up the creek to Chapel Lake. The lake has no real trail access to it, so we had the whole place to ourselves. We had carried our fishing poles along and caught a couple of rock bass.

Before we headed for our next two nights at Mosquito we took a detour to paddle to Spray Falls. It's a big waterfall pouring directly into Lake Superior. It's pretty cool to look at, but there's not much to do besides find out how close you can get before you chicken out.

Mosquito beach and campsite are accurately named. The bugs we encountered there were worse than any place I have ever been; enough so that we welcomed the afternoon rain showers and spent as much time on the water as possible to escape them.

We had very easy paddling weather for our first four days. But the lake decided to make us earn it for our paddle west to the pickup at Miner's Beach. There were three or four foot swells and a solid breeze out of the north that was trying incessantly to convince me to paddle out into the lake towards Canada.

The shoreline was almost all cliff for the paddle back. This meant that even half-a-mile off shore those three foot swells coming out of the north were bouncing off the cliffs and coming back at us as two-and-a-half foot swells out of the south. It made for some turbulent water.

The weather conditions were then compounded by the unfortunate decision we made the night before we hit the water. We watched "A Perfect Storm" in the hotel room, so we had watery graves already on the mind. Every time I saw an approaching swell half-an-inch larger than the last, I could hear Mark Wahlberg yelling, "Rogue Wave!". However, we made it back without incident, and now, when I look at a picture I took of the lake that morning, I wondered how I managed to click the shutter at the one instant when the waves didn't have fangs.

I read a message board thread on this site about the courtesy of the tour boats, or lack thereof. They came by a couple times each day but were not terribly close to the shore where we were exploring; they were not really an issue. (Yesterday I went paddling on the Chicago River. I had to laugh when comparing the boat traffic in the Loop to two tour boats per day on Lake Superior). I had much closer calls with several territorial gulls who strafed me and made it clear they did not want visitors. The mergansers and loons were more easy-going.


Northern Waters


$5 per person per night.


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, between the communities of Munising (west) and Grand Marais (east).

  • Duration: Extended Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip