Planning a River Trip for Families

Are you planning a river trip for your family this summer? A Platte River trip in northern Michigan is perfect for families of all ages and sizes. Riverside Canoes offers a variety of river trips suitable for families, including tubing, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, rafting, and more. Whether you have a family of eight or are bringing young children, we are here to guide you to the right river trip for your family or group.

How to Choose the Right Equipment for Your Family

The first decision you make at Riverside Canoes is your equipment. If you are looking for river equipment for your family and your children are ages 10+, this section is for you. If you are traveling with younger children, skip ahead to the next section.


Riverside Canoes offers tubes with closed bottoms or open bottoms. All tubes have handles, which are great for tethering tubes together. This is a great option because large families often want to keep everyone together. Floating coolers are also available for rent to haul drinks and snacks.

Choose a tube if you want a relaxing float and are happy to get wet on your family river trip.


Kayaks offer easy paddling and are less likely to tip than canoes. They are simple enough for kids ten years and up to operate on their own. We offer both single and double kayaks at Riverside.

Choose a kayak for your family river trip if your kids are older and you want to be stable as you float down the river.


Canoes can be more tippy than kayaks and are more affected by wind. Because most of our canoes at Riverside allow for 2-3 people, canoes are ideal for large groups. Ask about our backrest seats for a more comfortable ride. Canoes are a perfect choice if you plan to bring your dog. However, please follow National Park rules as they apply to the beach access for pets.

Choose a canoe if you have a big family or if your big family includes a dog. 


The paddleboards at Riverside are fairly stable and great for beginners. There is no storage space on a paddleboard. So, we suggest you consider a dry pack for personal items like keys and wallet. There are small straps to attach it to the board. There is only one person per paddle board, therefore we do not recommend it for big family trips.

Choose a paddleboard if your children are 10+ and your family wants to master a new skill. 


We offer a limited supply of 4-, 6- and 8-person inflated whitewater rafts. A raft gives you plenty of room to bring coolers, picnic supplies and a comfy ride for kids. You can also pull a tube behind the raft. You’ll want four paddlers or more for a raft.

Choose a raft for your family river trip if you want the most stable float on the river, or want to fit the whole crew plus drinks and snacks on board!

To summarize, it’s important to first choose the right type of equipment for your family

Tips for Planning a River Trip with Young Children

If your family is traveling with little ones, you have come to the right place. We have great options for children of all ages. First, note all equipment rentals from Riverside require children eight years and under to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Next, let us help you choose the right river equipment for your family with children.


Riverside Canoes provides thin rope to connect multiple tubes. For instance you may want to tether a tube to a parent, a popular option for towing small children. We also offer a Babe-in-Arms option for children under three years to ride in a parent’s lap for free. Children four or five years may ride for half-charge, based on the parent’s comfort.

Choose a tube for your family trip if you are traveling with a child under five years and you want to float with them.


Small children can ride with one adult in a double kayak or get pulled in a tube behind any kayak. You will get a rope for towing from our friendly staff.

Choose a kayak for your family trip if you are traveling with a small child and prefer easy maneuverability down the Lower Platte River.


Some canoes can accommodate a family with two small children. Or we have smaller canoes for one adult with a small child. If your family of four would like more room, you can pull one tube. Ask our friendly staff about kid chairs and kiddy paddle rentals.

Choose a canoe for your family if you have two small children and want to fit the whole family on board.

To summarize, we have many equipment options for families with young children. Just ask our staff if you need help deciding.

Riverside family canoe

Which Platte River Trip is Best for Your Family

River Trips for Big Families

We recommend our Lower Platte River Trips for large families.

Lower Platte River Canoe Trip

Experience the tradition of traveling Michigan’s freshwater rivers by canoe. Canoers on the Lower Platte River can expect a gentle current and shallow warm water along a 2-hour trip. It is the perfect family outing inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Choose this river trip for families if you have a large family and want to spend the whole day on the river and along the Lake Michigan beach with our Unlimited Time option.

Lower Platte River Raft Trip

Our Platte River Rafting trips take at least 4 hours, traveling from Riverside Canoes along M22 through Loon Lake and ending at the beach along beautiful Lake Michigan. Do not take this trip in windy conditions, as it is the most difficult trip in the wind. If you hope to spend a lot of time on the river, we recommend you plan for the Unlimited Time option to allow time to stop, swim and relax all day.

Choose this river trip for families if you want to pack everyone on one boat for a leisurely paddle on the Lower Platte River.

Take Note: We have enough canoe & kayak equipment to accommodate groups as large as 300 people. Plan your group trip here

Riverside family canoe

River Trips for Experienced Paddlers

If you are a family of experienced paddlers and not afraid to get wet, we recommend our Upper Platte River Trips. And with an over 50% tip-over rate, you can plan on it. This stretch of river is clean, spring-fed and boasts a faster current with an average depth of 2–3 feet. Part of this trip features narrow, quick turns and overhanging branches, taking approximately 3-4 hours. All you have to do is pick your poison: kayak or canoe.

Upper Platte River Kayak Trips

Choose this river trip for families if you want easier maneuverability and a slightly smaller chance of tipping, as the Upper Platte River is much easier to navigate in a kayak than a canoe.

Upper Platte River Canoe Trip

Choose this river trip for families if you are all experienced boaters who want the closest thing to a whitewater river trip in this part of Michigan.

Note: We have an age restriction for the Upper Platte trip, and this trip runs on a schedule that varies seasonally, so please call us for more details.

River Trips for New Paddlers

Our Lower Platte River trips travel down a friendly river with a gentle current, ideal for the whole family! Enjoy shallow, crystal clear water that leads you through the beautiful sugar sand beaches and unbeatable scenery of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Lower Platte River Kayak Trip

Choose this river trip if you are after a two-hour family-friendly lazy river ride.

Lower Platte River Canoe Trip

Choose this river trip if you are a beginner looking for a slower river where you are less likely to tip.

Lower Platte River Paddleboard Trip

Choose this river trip if you are after a great experience as a first-time paddleboarder.

Lower Platte River Raft Trip

Choose this river trip if you are after a leisurely rafting experience. The Lower Platte River is wide enough to maneuver and has few obstacles to avoid, which makes it the perfect river for beginners.

Time-based River Tubing Trips

Whether you are looking for an all-day excursion or a quick one-hour river trip for families, Riverside Canoes has a ride for your clan. 

Loon & Walk Tube Trip

If you are looking for a quick river trip for your family to get wet and refreshed, our Loon and Walk one-hour trip is the perfect option for your family.

Weir to Lake Michigan Tube Trip

Do you have all day to be a beach bum? Our Weir to Lake Michigan trip is the river trip for your family. If you pick the Unlimited Option, you can lounge at the mouth of the Platte River and play in Lake Michigan. An Unlimited Time Option is available for all Lower Platte River trips.

Riverside Tip: Wear protective water shoes for all tube trips, which entail a walk through the woods or along the gravel path. Check out our blog for more tubing tips.

What to Know Before You Go on Your Family River Trip

Keeping your family together

Tubes are a great option to keep your whole family together. All tubes have handles, which are great for tethering tubes together or tethering children to parents. You can pull tubes behind a kayak or canoe, which is a great way to let children swim in the warm water of the Lower Platte.

Getting kids onboard

As you embark on your river adventure, our staff will assist you as needed. They will help you get on board, provide you with paddles, and send you off on your family’s river trip.

Check it out: Watch our What to Expect videos with B.O.B the bear to learn what to know before you go on your family river trip here

Returning to Riverside

What to expect at the end of your family river trip

Riverside Canoes equipment cannot go into Lake Michigan. All tubes, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and rafts must stop at Lake Township Park. If you choose a trip ending at Lake Michigan, one of our friendly staff members will be there to collect your equipment. Choosing the Unlimited Option allows you to splash around at the mouth of the Platte River to play in Lake Michigan. If you choose this option, we ask you to return your yellow contract to Riverside before we close so you can get your security deposit back.

Tips for making your family river trip run smoothly

  • Ask our friendly staff for trip recommendations. They are there to assist you with river trip options for families and help you choose the right one.
  • Purchase a parking pass (National Park or Lake Township) from Riverside before you start your river trip.
  • Bring the right gear, including a floating cooler, waterproof bag, sunscreen, bug spray, water bottle, carabiner clips or nylon strap to connect gear to your equipment. 
  • Shop for what you forgot in our store.

Enjoy all that Riverside has to offer

Your adventure doesn’t end at the river. After your family river trip, explore the Gift Shop and take home a souvenir. Satisfy your hunger at The Grill and Ice Cream Shop, or stop by the Grocery Store and join us for s’mores. Family fun in the summertime is days on the water and evenings by the campfire. Let us help you plan the perfect river trip for your family this summer.

Know before you go:
Find out the rules of the water, what to wear and what to bring here

Don’t forget to have fun!

Fun with your family is the most important part of the trip

We hope you’ll choose Riverside Canoes for your family trip on the Platte River.