It's hard to believe that the Platte River has not already been mentioned here because it is a popular stream for paddling. The lower stretch is quiet (4 mph current), but the upper stretch is much faster with fallen trees that serve as formidable obstructions when they are close together. On Sept. 12 I kayaked the upper stretch that begins where US 31 crosses the Platte River a few miles west of Honor. The Platte is seldom deeper than 3 feet and the shoreline is mostly natural with the few cottages along it not harming the pristine views. I came across blue herons, ducks, a deer drinking from the center of the river, and hundreds of mature Chinook and Coho salmon that were moving upstream to spawn. The 1 1/2 hour trip is seldom leisurely because the speed of the current requires vigilance. There were no portages.
Fallen trees that require quick turns are the biggest challenge when they are near one another and come from different sides of the river. Again, the current does not give much time to get turned and around the next tree after you pass the first. There are only two instances of this 1-2 punch, though. Bud's Canoe Trips in Honor can rent canoes and both SOT and Otter kayaks.
Two days later, I did the lower Platte, which is not at all challenging but very lovely. This stretch starts at the M-22 Bridge and ends where the Platte empties into Lake Michigan. I began the trip at 9:30 am and pretty much had the river to myself. The entire 1 1/2 hour trip moves through the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, and pristine is the word to describe both the stream and shoreline.
The Platte River moves through Loon Lake and continues northward. During this week, salmon were moving upstream and were being commercially harvested at a weir below Loon Lake. The first few thousand are allowed to go past the weir before it is closed every mid-September. Because the harvest was in progress, the weir was closed and a 7-yard portage was needed, but the getting out and back into the kayak is easy because the shoreline as these points have been modified to accommodate this. Several thousand mature salmon were massed just below the weir and it was fascinating to move through them and see them up close.
On downstream, they are less thick, but I still saw several dozen more--sometimes surprising them with my presence. No fishing is allowed below the weir during this period, so I saw no other people but did see herons and ducks as well as more deer drinking in the stream. The river's bottom is often sand.
The river's last quarter mile moves through beautiful sand dunes. It was a magnificent end to my trip. Riverside rents canoes and kayaks and is located right at the M-22 bridge. They have Otters, Twin Otters and Loon 100s as well as SOTs.
Plenty of motels and B&Bs are nearby. The least expensive is the Plaza Motel in Benzonia.
The upper Platte trip's kayak rental and transportation was $25 and the lower Platte trip's kayak rental and transportation was $20. There is no charge to use the river yourself, though.
These stretches of the Platte River are in Benzie County. The Riverside is located on M-22 halfway between Empire and Frankfort. The upper Platte trip starts east of Honor where US 31 crosses the Platte near the salmon hatchery.