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Pinckney State Recreation Area in Michigan

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Note: All the lakes allow motor boats, and these boats travel through the connecting channels. Off season, weekday, and earlier morning paddling is your best bet for avoiding motor boat congestion. You can easily take the whole day or a better part of the day paddling from lake to lake, and there are several places you can stop along the shores to stretch, snack, and take a bathroom break. Its also a good idea to bring a map of the lakes or a GPS to help you navigate the lakes.

We launched our kayaks at Halfmoon Lake because of the larger area to put in compared to Bruin Lake, and better parking. (Regardless of which direction you want to go, I suggest that you skirt the shoreline because of the heavy use of Halfmoon Lake by motor boats.) We paddled up the east shoreline headed toward the inlet to Hiland Lake. It's fairly shallow along this stretch. You can find the inlet at the northeast corner of the lake. There were quite a few Swan around this area - very pretty.

This channel runs for about a half mile - past the Pinckney Yurt, under a trail bridge, and under Glenn Brook Rd. This channel is my favorite of all the channels between the 7 lakes. Its fairly quiet and lots of wildlife. There are quite a few bass and blugill that run through this channel also, especially from the inlet mouth to just past the Pinckney Yurt. (My kayaking partner stopped to fish while I continued on to Hiland Lake.) With exception to the area just outside the channel (very pretty area), Hiland Lake is lined with homes in many places and there are several motor boats to try to avoid.

Coming back through the channel into Halfmoon Lake (leaving my kayaking buddy in the channel to fish), I skirted the north end of the lake moving west along the shoreline. As you paddle through this western leg of Halfmoon Lake, you can go south into Blind Lake, or continue west and enter the channel towards Watson, Bruin, Patterson, and Woodburn Lakes.

Blind Lake is a No Wake lake for motor boats, so this is a nice small lake to paddle in. There are homes that line about one-third of the shoreline. The Blind Lake rustic campsite is located at the south end of the lake. (This is hike-in or bike-in camping only.) The campsite is a great place to get out and stretch your legs, and use the pit toilet if needed.

After coming out of the Blind Lake channel back into Halfmoon Lake, I paddled west from Halfmoon Lake into the channel towards Watson Lake. I paddled under a trail bridge and through a short channel that opens up into Watson Lake. There are no houses along the shore in the southern half of the lake. This is a nice area to stop and fish, and watch wildlife.

Continuing west from Watson Lake, I paddled through another short channel into Bruin Lake. This lake has houses lining part of the shoreline, with the Bruin Modern Campground on the northwestern part of the lake. Bruin Lake Campground is another lake that has a public access boat launch.

I then paddled north through Watson Lake. I entered the channel which is lined with homes on the west side. This took me into Patterson Lake. This lake is also lined with homes, and can be quite busy with motor boats during the summer months.

I continued along the western shoreline and entered the channel into Woodburn Lake. This lake is much less populated with homes. The northern part of the lake is a nice area to view wildlife and fish. There is a small marina on the south shoreline that offers boat service, slip rental, and fuel (just follow the signs). There is a concrete boat ramp to the left as you paddle into the marina. I stopped there to refuel myself. It has a small selection of candy, chips, and drinks. After eating a Snickers bar and drinking bottled water, I decided it was time to head back to Halfmoon Lake.

About half way back to Halfmoon Lake, I met up with my kayaking partner who finally ran out off bait (she does catch and release fishing only), who was looking for me. We decided it was time to head back to the boat launch. We were out for about 4 hours, and I paddled just over 9 miles. We easily took out at the Halfmoon boat launch, even with a couple of motor boats either launching or getting ready take out.

Paddling the chain of 7 lakes is a great way to spend your day, even with all the boat traffic!


Several Pinckney Recreation Area camping sites for overnite.

Public access boat ramps at Halfmoon Lake and Bruin Lake for easy launching of canoe or kayak.


Michigan DNR sticker (daily or annual) for boat ramp and parking access.


To Halfmoon Lake - Take Hankard Rd. north off of North Territorial Rd. (You can access North Territorial Rd.from US HWY 23). Follow DNR signs.

To Bruin Lake - US HWY 23, west onto North Territorial, north onto Hadley Rd., east onto Kaiser Rd., follow DNR signs.


DNR website for maps and descriptions of area (great research tool!)

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location