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Hoosier Canoe & Kayak Club

Sleeping Bear Dunes Trip Report

  • October 06, 2022 9:59 AM
    Message # 12944719
    Linda Decker (Administrator)

    HCKC SK Sleeping Bear Dunes Kayak Trip, August 2022 Jim Heichelbech Trip Lead

    Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, located in Michigan’s lower peninsula, Comprises 71,199 acres of beautiful sand dunes and forest. This national treasure includes the islands of north and south Manitou, along with many miles of beaches, kayaking trails, bike trails and hiking trails. We base camped in the Platte river campground, with it’s spacious campsites and close proximity to the best the park has to offer.

    Our first day started at “The Cannery” parking lot near the Glen Haven Historic Village. With a short carry and safety meeting, 16 paddlers began their 10 mile paddle to the take out at Empire public beach.  We had near perfect conditions, with a mild breeze to cool an otherwise warm sunny day. Past the coast guard station, we rounded Sleeping Bear Dune itself, rising hundreds of feet into the air. About 7 miles west out into the lake we see the Lighthouse on South Manitou Island, and the spectacular dunes on it’s southwest side. Onward along the shore of the dunes, we enjoy a leisurely lunch on one of it’s many sandy beaches. We enjoyed a slight push to our stern, a gentle breeze speeding our relaxed pace. All too soon we arrive at Empire Beach take out and make our landing. There, we receive an email that warns that some in our group may have been exposed to covid. So we split up the group into separate shuttle cars, exposed separated from non-exposed. This was the only paddle the entire group made, with us breaking into smaller groups based on exposure.

    The next day, the more adventurous group paddled over to south Manitou light house, down to the shipwreck and back for a 19 mile day. Others launched from Platte river boat launch and beach, going up river to Loon lake and back. This river trip was repeated numerous days by different groups, some going a bit further up stream to riverside camp store for ice cream!

    Only 2 miles from the campground, Platte River Beach and boat ramp became one of our most frequently used starting points. Some paddled a 10 mile round trip in the Platte Bay up to Eshe Beach. On another day we paddled south to Betsy Beach Lighthouse and back for an 11 mile day. Some of this group shuttled to Betsy light house for a shorter trip. Some road bikes on the paved trails nearby.

    One windy day we donned our helmets and played in 2 to 3 foot waves in Platte Bay, surfing and occasionally going over, out of the boat. We had scouted the area the day before, so we knew the shallow sand bars would create usable waves and soft bottom with the forecasted wind. The orientation of the bay and the wind direction allowed us to move about the bay in order to choose the wave height of our liking.

    On this same day, others of the group Paddled beautiful Glen Lake. It’s Caribbean like waters offered a calm and beautiful 12 mile paddle. Heading west to the base of the sand dunes, then east to Old Settlers Park, then back to the DNR boat ramp near the narrows.

    Our last day we launched from Bohemian Road Beach into Good Harbor Bay. To our west we enjoyed Pyramid Point dune. The wind was from the south so we had near flat water until we rounded the point. There the cool wind and somewhat rougher water became our turn around point, taking a lunch in the lee of the massive dune.

    Our group returned home safely, refreshed by the fine weather, good company and enjoyable time together. The Platte River campground proved to be an excellent choice for our group. Most launches were s short drive away, sunset at the beach was a pleasant bike ride away, and a good camp store with groceries, ice cream and beer moments away.  Nearby river and lakes afforded paddling opportunities for nearly any weather condition. The locations mentioned in bold type can be found using google map.

    Cheers and to good times Ya’ll, Jim.

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