Tips for Canoeing and Kayaking on the Lower Platte River

If you have a bucket list, floating down the Platte River in northern Michigan should be on it. If you don’t have one, it’s worth making one just to add it! Make the most out of a trip canoeing and kayaking on the Lower Platte River with these helpful tips.

Whether you plan to canoe, kayak, tube or use a stand-up paddleboard, floating the Lower Platte River is a fun, family-friendly activity that you’ll want to do over and over again. While you are welcome to arrive at Riverside Canoe Trips and just wing it, a little preparation and knowledge ahead of time can make your trip even better. Read our tips for canoeing and kayaking on the Lower Platte River so you can relax and enjoy the adventure. 

canoe equipment

What’s the best time to take a canoe or kayak trip?

Canoeing the Platte River is always different depending on the time of day and the weather. The busiest time of day is between 11 and 3. For a less hectic experience try to get here early (doors open at 8 am) or book for later in the day when the heat has gone down and the river is quieter, usually after 4pm.

Riverside Canoes watershoes

What to wear on a canoe or kayak trip

It’s important to dress appropriately to be comfortable on your canoe or kayak trip. Here are a few items we’d suggest. Bathing suits and light layers designed for blocking the sun are great. Water shoes are recommended as protection against sharp shells and rocky shores, especially if you’re planning on tubing. Don’t forget to wear sunblock and remember to pack extra for the journey. Keep your valuables in a water-tight container – cell phones and key fobs tend to sink rather than swim! Although you’ll want to capture this trip in photos, shooting while paddling can get tricky. There’s room for bags with towels and extra supplies on a canoe or kayak, but remember you’re still on the water, and they may get damp as well.

Here’s a tip: The Riverside gift shop is well equipped with all the supplies you may not have handy. Pickup a waterproof container for your phone, watershoes and anything else you need, just before you go. We have all the essentials and more.

Riverside Canoes cooler raft

Make sure to pack food and drinks for your trip on the Lower Platte River

Once you are on the river there are no stops for food and drink. So bring a cooler and plan ahead. You can purchase snacks, beer, soda pop, and more right here at the Riverside grocery and take them on the river. Just remember – no glass on the river! 

Here’s a tip: Bring a floating cooler. We have inflatables available for purchase, and special tubes for your cooler which are available to rent, giving you plenty of space for all your favorite food and drinks.

Riveride Canoes El Dorado

Are there bathrooms located along the Lower Platte River?

We have bathrooms available inside the store, as well as downstairs behind the building, which are accessible from the outside. There are several restroom locations along the Lower Platte River. You’ll find them at Kittendorf landing just before Loon Lake, at the weir, at El Dorado, and at Lake Michigan beach.

Riverside Canoes kayak options

Which is better: a canoe or kayak?

When you arrive at Riverside Canoe Trips, you’ll need to select your mode of transportation. We offer great options for whatever type of floating you are in the mood for. Those with small children can choose to have them in the canoe, a two-person kayak or a tube. Life jackets are available for all ages and must be worn at all times by those eight and under. Canoes are a standard favorite and offer more room, but are also easier to tip. Sit-in kayaks are very stable in the water, and the sit-on kayaks are a fun option as well. If your ideal trip down a river involves floating on air, you can rent tubes. The 2021 season brings a few changes to our traditional tubing options based on the speed of the river. The Lower Platte River is high this summer but running quite slow. The pace is very relaxed, so be ready to take in all the details as you float the Lower Platte River.

Here’s a tip: Average tubing trip times have doubled, so select the option based on the amount of time you want to spend on the river. Ask our staff about the El Dorado to Lake Michigan route if you want to a shorter float that still ends up at Lake Michigan beach.

National Park pay station

Where is the parking for a Lower Platte River trip?

Once you’ve selected a canoe, kayak or tube, you’ll get a series of instructions and then one person from your party will move your vehicle to the end of the river. As our shuttle driver likes to say, just “drive down the road until you see the lake.” Two parking options are available. The Lake Township day lot is available to those that arrive early. It carries a fee of $5. Make sure you have exact change, as there is a drop tube when no one is there to collect. If that lot is full you’ll need the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Pass to park in either of the NPS lots. If you don’t already have the pass, you can purchase it at the kiosk in the parking area. This pass is required to park in the National Park. It also allows you to access other areas of the park, such as the Dune Climb and Scenic Drive. Once you’ve parked you’ll be able to catch a ride on our shuttle bus which comes every 20 minutes to take you back to Riverside Canoe Trips to begin your adventure. 

Here’s a tip: We offer the option to purchase your National Parks Pass at the Riverside store as well so you can take care of all of your needs with one stop shopping!

blue heron on the Platte River

What kind of wildlife and plants will I see on the river?

The Lower Platte River is a nature lovers’ dream, with something new to see around each bend. Here are a few things to keep your eyes open for:

  • Birds – You’ll hear and see many winged creatures on the river, the shore, and in the air. Look for red-winged blackbirds, blue heron, mama ducks and their train of babies, cormorants and the protected Piping Plover.
  • Amphibians/reptiles – Painted turtles sun along logs, listen for bull frogs, and keep an eye out for the occasional harmless water snakes.
  • Fish – From tiny minnows of perch and bluegill to the glistening salmon, the Platte River is full of fish. The best time to spot them is in the fall when they spawn upstream.
  • Mammals – Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, beaver, and deer all make their home near the Lower Platte River.
  • Bugs – A special part of each journey is sharing it with the dragonflies. They love to land on your kayaks and paddles. A little bug spray will help keep the mosquitos away.

Here’s a tip: Going around a bend in the river quietly is the best way to spy a wildlife treasure. If you look high and low throughout your journey you’ll surely spot some of these creatures at home.

Mouth of the Platte River

What is there to do at the end of the Lower Platte River?

As you near the end of the Lower Platte River, you’ll see the pull-out spot for all Riverside Canoe rentals on the right. Exit the river and work on getting your land legs back again. But don’t let your fun end there. Grab a few snacks from your cooler, apply sunscreen and get ready for more fun. The Platte River feeds into Lake Michigan at what’s known as the mouth. You can float along the warmer river water, swim or wade across to get to the big lake. The cooler waters of Lake Michigan await with a sandbar for swimmers and a soft sand beach as far as the eye can see. Enjoy your time in the waves, but make sure to head back to Riverside Canoe when you are done. 

Here’s a tip: On most days the river water is warmer than the lake, it’s fun to go back and forth between them or find the exact spot the water temperatures mix. If you’d like to spend a part of your day just playing at the beach, be sure to purchase the unlimited time option when you book your trip. 

Riverside Canoes BOB

Why come back to Riverside Canoes?

Your journey concludes with one more visit to Riverside Canoe Trips so we can process your final paperwork, turn in paddles or equipment for a return of your deposit. This is a great time to visit the giftshop for souvenirs and take advantage of the great selection of merchandise you didn’t want to carry along on the river. If you’re hungry then hit our grill. Tucked away on the corner of our deck the Riverside grill offers just what you need after a day on the water. Burgers and fries, quick snacks, and a great selection of ice cream really hit the spot after working up an appetite paddling.

We hope your day with Riverside Canoe Trips is memorable and fun. Our customers often start planning their next trip before they even hit the end of the river. Try an earlier or later time of day, select a new type of way to get down the river, or come out in different weather for a new experience. 

Here’s one more tip: Don’t forget to get your picture taken with BOB, our Bear on the Bridge. And share it with us by tagging Riverside Canoes on Facebook or Instagram.