Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Paddling the Platte

Tuesday June 10, 2014
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Empire, Michigan



If there is a river nearby, then we must kayak on it.



Our campground is named for the Platte River.  When I first heard the Platte River was here, I was surprised since the only Platte I’d ever heard of was the famous one that was part of the Westward Ho movement of Manifest Destiny but it was in Nebraska.

We had checked it out a couple of days ago and determined that we could put in at the campground picnic area and paddle down to its mouth where it empties into Lake Michigan.

Today is our last day here so it’s now or never.

We drive my bicycle down to the parking spaces at the mouth and lock it up.  Since I’m the one who needs the exercise, I will be the one who bikes the 2.1 miles up hill to get the car and return while David waits with the kayaks and gear.



The put in has a really cool ramp for getting your boats down to the river.  Only problem is that the two rails are designed for canoes and kayaks are more narrow so I, in particular, had a hard time keeping mine on track.  But it was a neat idea.  If they’d made the rails more narrow I think both types of boats would have been able to use them more easily.






The water is clear and the river is shallow. 


We don’t see many fish but there are a few and they are too fast for pictures.



We try several little off shoots but none of them goes anywhere or they are blocked by too much debris to get around.



This is our wildlife sighting for the day.
I’ve enlarged this picture so you can see the decorations on his legs.
Nature is such an artist.





No worries about falling out of your kayak in this river.

We’d been told that the river slows down here in its last section from the more rapid pace further up stream.  But it is going at a good enough clip here that this is really more of a float than a paddle. 

This would be a great first paddle for those who fear falling out.  You just stand up and step back into your boat.




The river goes through Loon Lake. 

The lake is fairly large so we don’t check out the whole thing. Unfortunately there are no loons on it today in the areas we do see.  Fortunately there is a canoe which comes down the river into the lake just after we do and they know where the outlet is.  Otherwise we might have paddled around the entire shoreline.  Not that that would have been a bad thing.   It was a really lovely deep lake in contrast to the shallow river.





With this help finding the outlet, we are again on our way.






We’re pleasantly floating along when we come to a group of buildings and a big metal thing that looks like a gate. 


It’s got a sign that says Fish Weir.   Not being a fisherman I have no idea what a Fish Weir is but I do notice that there is a portage sign which obviously means there are times when this gate is closed.




While preparing this post, I learn that this fish weir is part of the Platte River state fish hatchery.  It was established in 1928 and is now the state’s main salmon hatchery which raises Coho and Chinook salmon.  The best time to see the returning salmon is mid September to late October.  This “lower weir” is the harvesting facility.  There is an upper weir which is the egg take station.  I’m not sure I like the sound of any of this being the purist that I am about leaving nature alone to live its life in its natural course but I suppose I’d better investigate further before I offer an opinion.

We paddle right through the gate.





If this is the slow moving section of the river, I wonder what speed the upper river is.  We are drifting along at 3 mph.  No need for paddling, just go along for the ride.





This is an interesting little River Side Park about half way between the picnic area and the take out.  Its name is El Dorado.  Doesn’t that seem strange in upper Michigan?  I wonder how it got that name? 

It’s a very popular place for folks to put in and tube down as these two girls in front of us are doing.  Over the week-end when we came to check out the put ins, the parks and the river itself, we found it nearly full of people in tubes of all sorts and in kayaks and canoes.  It seemed almost like an amusement ride.  If it is like that this early in the season on week-ends, I can’t imagine it in July and August.   That’s why we chose to come on a week-day.

We have had others on the river with us and I really cannot understand why they are so loud and noisy as they come down.  We try to hang back if we can given the current and let them pass us by so that their voices begin to dim and we can have the quiet of the river back.





The grasses make an almost furry green reflection in the water.


I can tell we are reaching the take out point when I begin to see the sand dunes of the lake on my left.





It’s been a lovely day being carried down the river by the clear shallow water.  Any day on the water is a great day.

Now for the 2.1 mile uphill bike ride to the car.  It is nice to be able to provide your own shuttle.  Paddling back up this little river would have probably been possible but not easy as it moves somewhat insistently toward the Great Lake. 



We have had just a fantastic time here at Sleeping Bear Dunes including the discovery of the two great cherry pie places.  Which one will be the winner in the pie eating contest?  Check tomorrow to find out.  We’ll be leaving for the UP but we’ll reveal the winner.


  1. That rack is a great idea even if it could use some refinement. Kayaks can get heavy in a big hurry!

  2. That IS a neat idea for the kayaks....I guess it is too long at the Silver River put-in for that :-). What a nice time you had there. Enjoy the UP....and the "yoopers"!

  3. Can't wait to see who wins the pie tasting! We've been eating a lot of cherry items here in Door County too!

  4. I wouldn't do very good at a pie eating contest. I'm not into desserts much, but a BLT contest would be another story. ;)

  5. Lovely float...my kind of paddling!!

  6. Have you ever capsized your kayak?

  7. I've never seen that type of ramp before and it's a wonderful idea.

    I hadn't thought of the Platte River since I lived in Bellevue, Nebraska. I remembered it being muddy, but maybe it was just my memory.

  8. I enjoyed our paddle down the Platte River today. I felt like I was along!

  9. Finally catching up on your whereabouts and adventures. Didn't know the Platte River was in Michigan either. Looks like a decent paddle and for sure a lovely way to spend the day. I never thought of using one of our bikes for a shuttle--great idea!

    I have to go back and find out who won the cherry pie contests. I seem to recall no one could compete with David's.

    Anxious to see where you go in the UP as I lived in the Copper Country for several years.

  10. What a cool idea to have canoe racks to push along your kayak to the river. I knew what the fish weir was, from our days at the fish hatchery. You won't want to know what the egg take is like :-(

  11. Loved the paddle, Sherry. Funny, we learn a lot "preparing for our blogs", I think. I know that I sometimes research things because I want to document them that I might let slide if I weren't writing. One more good reason for blogging. Keeps us honest!

  12. Looks like a very relaxing paddle -- and the water is so clear! Eric and I also hang back when there are noisy people around, whether it's on a river or on a trail. We like our nature experiences to be peaceful so that we can hear the birds, the wind in the trees, the sound of the water….

  13. What a great kayak trip:) It's always nice to have nature help with the paddling:) Enjoy the UP. We are headed through there late July.

  14. Paddling the Platte! great title! love what you said .. Nature is such an artist… right on. amazing! I've been watching butterfly videos with Charlie … we like National Geographic videos ~ giraffes and pandas… just amazing … look at the stripes on a zebra or tiger or the mane on a lion and so forth … whiskers on sea lions.. ha

    Gorgeous river and paddle … TWO great pie places? ohhhhhh the suspense!

  15. you guys really did have a great day. . .and I understand exactly what you are saying about folks being so loud. . .sometimes, I just want to shush them. . .goodness!

    I know you will love the UP, and I will see what all we missed out on. . .Michigan is definitely on our "must return to" list. . .

  16. What a lovely leisurely paddle day. That reminded me of our own paddling at Black River State park, just go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
    About the fish weir, we have seen similar hatchery in AK and setting aside the unnatural way, Id say it was amazing sight seeing thousands of salmon trying to go upstream.

  17. Now that would be my kind of paddle for the first time :)

  18. I like the idea of a gentle float downstream, but maybe not the uphill bike ride. Yet nice to provide your own shuttle system. Only been to the UP once and loved it so looking forward to seeing more through your eyes.

  19. Sounds you had a great day. Water is very clean and pleasant and it is good for a ride!

  20. What a beautiful place to kayak. You guys have done an amazing job finding the special things to do while there. I've always dreamed of returning to that area for the Cherry Festival in Traverse City!

  21. Nice paddle...looks like it was a beautiful day for it. Glad you chose a weekday-crazy tubers! Water, water everywhere ... I'm a fan!

  22. Even with the quicker current and the few noisy floaters, it felt like a peaceful, lovely paddle. That boat track is so smart - and certainly simple enough for more launches to have them! I'm going to guess Cherry Republic for the best pie for no particular reason :-).

  23. That looks like my kinda paddling. LOL! But i am not sure I would be brave enough to go through the gate, especially after seeing how some of the serene rivers of Oregon end up...in a plunge! Love that boat rack! Wonder why more places don't do something similar...


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