11 Stunning Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Detroit
By Natalie Ringel
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Updated June 24, 2021
With more than 500 lakes within the Detroit area, it is no wonder that going canoeing and kayaking in Detroit is such a popular activity. With fresh air and sun on your face, getting out on the water is a wonderful way to explore Detroit’s waterways in an urban and natural setting.
From urban rivers to scenic streams and lakes, Detroit is so much more than an automobile city. Most of the places below are just outside city limits, so nighttime paddles will have a beautiful view of the Detroit skyline. Canoeing and kayaking offer a fun and easy way to explore the city and its’ natural beauty. Don’t know where to start? Below is our complete guide to the most stunning places to go canoeing and kayaking in and around Detroit.
Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Near Detroit
Only 45 minutes from downtown Detroit, the Argo Cascades at Argo Park is one of the most scenic places to explore Detroit’s natural beauty. Tree-lined riverbeds and a subtle current make canoeing, kayaking and tubing down the Argo Cascades a relaxing experience for all ability levels.
Most visitors enjoy the Argo Cascades to Gallup paddle route. Along this 3.7 mile route, paddlers will see a variety of birds and other wildlife in their natural habitats. Besides spotting ducks and swans, this route allows paddlers to explore Argo Park and Gallup Park, two beautiful outdoor recreational areas in Detroit. The current is slow and steady and the river curves through a lush forest before merging with the Huron River. If you are looking for a longer paddle, you can continue onto the Huron River.
While there are a few mini-rapids at the beginning of the Argo Cascades, the river is calm enough for novices to try kayaking in Detroit. After a relaxing paddle along the Cascades, visitors also love to go swimming or picnic at one of the small islands along the route. Best of all, after you end your paddle at Gallup Park, there are shuttles to take you back to Argo Park.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch your own boat right into the Argo Cascades. Or, you can rent kayaks at Argo Park. Argo Park is conveniently close to the city, but its secluded parks and woods makes you feel like you are miles away! If you are looking for an easy and relaxing paddle close to the city, Argo and Gallup Park are a great place to start.
How to Get There: The best way to get to the Argo Cascades is to drive. If you are driving, take I-96 W to M-14 W toward Ann Arbor. Continue on Longshore Dr. to the park.
Located in the heart of metro Detroit, Huroc Park is a wonderful spot for families, young paddlers and those who like to fish. Huroc Park’s streams are the perfect place to learn how to kayak, or if you are already a pro paddler, cruise along the city sights.
Canoeing and kayaking in Detroit’s Huroc Park offers a unique way to see the city. An urban park, Huroc Park is conveniently located for a quick paddle or a break from city life.
Huron Park’s waterways are relatively small and usually not crowded which makes it the ideal spot for novices to try kayaking in Detroit. Also, Huroc Park’s playground area and walking paths make it a great place for family trips.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch your own boat in Huroc Park (at Flat Rock boat launch). Or, you can rent a kayak from Motor City Canoe Rental. Besides kayak gear, they also offer awesome kayak tours of the Detroit area. No matter your ability level, kayaking in Huroc Park is a wonderful way to spend some time outdoors in the city.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Huroc Park is to drive. If you plan on driving, take I-75 S toward Toledo. Continue on W Huron River Dr. to the park.
Peche Island is an epic outdoor getaway with a rich history. Located in the Detroit River, Peche Island was originally Hiram Walker’s summer house complete with stables, a greenhouse, an icehouse and plenty of walking trails. Now owned by the city of Windsor, Peche Island remains one of the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking near Detroit.
From the shore of Windsor, Peche Island is about a 20 minute paddle. Visitors can explore the fresh water environment and spot tons of wildlife. An extensive network of channels will take you through the island’s marshes and woods, providing a full tour of this beautiful landmark. On the island, visitors can take tours of the historical buildings built by Walker in 1883, and enjoy other outdoor activities off the pristine shores.
If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak off the shores of Windsor and explore Peche Island’s marshes, channels and coastal areas. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book tours of Peche Island through Windsor-Essex Tourism. There is free parking at Sandpoint Beach near the launch site to Peche Island. From wooded areas to freshwater trails, Peche Island has all the elements for an unforgettable outdoor experience.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Peche Island is to drive. If you are driving, take the Detroit Windsor Tunnel to Riverside Dr. E to the island.
With almost 100 miles of scenic waterways to explore, the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail is one of the most impressive networks of waterways in the nation. Flowing through both urban centers and beautiful natural areas, there are endless possibilities on this trail for canoeing and kayaking in Detroit.
Most paddlers enjoy kayaking around historic Belle Island. This calm 7-mile loop is great for all ability levels and especially for paddlers interested in Detroit’s history. On the water, you can see the famous Detroit Yacht Club and get a sense of Detroit’s natural beauty while still in an urban setting. If you are interested in Detroit’s automotive history, paddling down Rogue River provides a unique look into the motor city.
The most popular portions of the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail is Huron River and the Lower Detroit River. These sections of the river are a bit further from the city, but offer breathtaking views of the outdoors. This meandering part of the river is ideal for all ability levels. Visitors can explore Wyandotte’s Bishop Park and the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge along the way. While Belle Island and Rogue River have a more urban feel, Huron River and the Lower Detroit River offer a scenic and more secluded tour of the Detroit area.
All segments of the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail are wonderful places to enjoy the outdoors. Ranging from views of historical landmarks to untouched nature, there is no shortage of places to go canoeing and kayaking in Detroit. If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat at many ramps along the waterway. Or, there are plenty of places to rent kayaks depending on where you want to paddle. If you are interested in Huron River, check out Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery.
How to Get There: The best way to reach the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail is to drive. If you are driving, take the Detroit Windsor Tunnel to Wyandotte St E. Then, take Highway 18 until you reach the water.
Delhi Metropark is a hidden gem for canoe and kayak lovers. Nestled in a bend of Huron River, Delhi Metropark is a quiet, serene place for all types of paddlers to enjoy.
With over 53 acres of oak forests, paddling along the shores of the park is a beautiful sight. You will also see turtles basking in the sun and deer roaming around the woods during your water adventure. Along with these stunning wooded areas, the park has picnic spots and play areas for children.
This private section of the Huron River is a true outdoor getaway. Bird watchers get ready- this is an excellent place to spot blue herons! Delhi Metropark is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts that want a quiet retreat away from the city.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat in the park. Or, you can rent a kayak from Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery. With acres of wooded areas to explore, on land or water, Delhi Metropark is a great place to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Delhi Metropark is to drive. If you plan on driving, take I-96 W to M-14 W toward Ann Arbor. Then, continue on E Delhi Rd. to the park.
Located on the east side of Belle Island, Blue Heron Lagoon is an easy way to explore the sometimes choppy waters of Belle Island and it’s an awesome refuge for wildlife. Sheltered from the wind, Blue Heron Lagoon is a perfect spot for beginners to explore historic Belle Island and Detroit’s natural beauty.
This side of Belle Island is also well-known for its beautiful hiking trails with views of the water. Whether you are hiking or paddling, Blue Heron Lagoon is a wonderful place to explore some of Detroit’s most famous landmarks while getting outside. If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat off of Belle Island. Or, you can rent a kayak from Riverside Kayaking.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Blue Heron Lagoon is to drive. If you are driving, take E Jefferson Ave. to The Strand and continue until you reach the water.
Flowing through 72 miles of Michigan’s beautiful woods and marshes, the Clinton River Water Trail is an excellent spot for beginners and advanced paddlers. With four accessible launch ramps in metro Detroit, accessing the water has never been easier.
The most important thing to note about the Clinton River Water Trail is that not all sections are for beginners! The stretch of water near Budd Park, Mt. Clemens, and Oakland County are the best places for beginners. If you are looking for a challenge, the heart of the Clinton River has fast-moving waters, rapids and even some obstacles to paddle around. That being said, beginners should stay either in the upper or lower sections of the river while advanced paddlers can kayak any section.
Most paddlers enjoy kayaking around the heavily-forested lower part of the river. There are tons of parks and picnic spots to pull over and enjoy the beautiful views. Glacial lakes and quiet wetlands make up the scenery of the upper part of the Clinton River, which is also a wonderful place for a relaxing paddle.
Clinton River Canoe & Kayak offers tours for all ability levels. They can help you navigate the white-water rapids of the central Clinton River, or guide you on a gentle paddle around the wetlands and marshes. No matter which part of the river you explore, this waterway provides you with your much needed space and time in the outdoors. If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat at any of the launch ramps around metro Detroit.
How to Get There: The best way to get to the Clinton River Water Trail is to drive. If you plan on driving, take I-75 N to 16 Mile Rd. Continue onto Clinton River Rd. to the park.
One of the most popular spots to go canoeing and kayaking in Detroit, Lake St. Clair is a prime spot for paddling on both open waters and small quiet tributaries. Lake St. Clair has 4 different areas for paddlers to explore, each with their own unique relationship with nature.
Many paddlers come to Lake St. Clair to explore “The Flats”, the largest freshwater delta in the world. Through marshes and cattails, novice paddlers can enjoy these shallow waters and spot blue herons take flight.
The north and south sides of Lake St. Clair offer easy paddling along sandy banks. These sandy shorelines are perfect for a beach day of swimming, sunning and paddling. On the south side of the lake, paddlers can catch a glimpse of the 96-acre Point Rosa Marsh, an environmental phenomenon.
Besides beautiful natural landscapes like marshes and wetlands, the south shore of Lake St. Clair also boasts some of the most exquisite architecture in Detroit. As you paddle further from the shore, kayakers can paddle along impressive houses, shops and marina in the prestigious Point Community.
No matter which direction you choose to paddle, there is a ton to see at Lake St. Clair. Kayaking on the lake itself and its tributaries are accessible for all ability levels. Since Lake St. Clair is such a popular spot for outdoor recreational activity, we recommend launching your boat from Walter and Mary Burke Park which is less crowded during the day than other nearby parks. If you need to rent a kayak, you can do so through Simple Adventures.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Lake St. Clair is to take public transportation. The Line 563 Bus has multiple pick up locations and will take you within walking distance of the park.
Spanning over 4,500 acres, Stony Creek Metropark gives an “up north” vacation feel without leaving the Detroit area. With hiking, biking, golf and paddling, this park has all the elements for an amazing outdoor adventure.
Stony Creek Lake, which is an astonishing 500 acres, is a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Detroit. Despite its large size, Stony Creek Lake is very shallow which makes it an ideal place for novice paddlers to go kayaking in Detroit. The lake’s tree-lined shores create a beautiful backdrop for paddling, swimming and fishing.
After paddling around this stunning lake, many visitors (especially kids) enjoy the park’s massive Trippo Water Slide. With tons of amenities, there is no doubt that Stony Creek Metropark is designed for a day of family fun. From paddling through scenic wetlands to playing a round of golf, this park is a haven for outdoor activity.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat inside the park. Or, you can rent a kayak from Stony Creek Metropark.
How to Get There: The best way to get to Stony Creek Metropark is to drive. If you are driving, take I-75 N to 26 Mile Rd. Continue on Park Rd. to the park.
The Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail is an excellent spot for beginners and families to go canoeing and kayaking in Detroit. With meandering twists and turns along the river trail, all ability levels will love exploring Shiawassee’s natural beauty.
From wooded forests to grassy plains, the scenery of the Shiawassee River changes throughout the paddle. Most visitors enjoy doing the 7-mile trip down the river, which ends at Strom Park. The most common put-in is near Holly Millpond in the village of Holly.
Paddlers love kayaking down the Shiawassee because there is the opportunity to paddle through lakes, streams and even over beaver dams. With little development along the trail, you will be able to appreciate the Shiawassee’s beauty and spot tons of wildlife with no interruptions. While the 7-mile route is the most popular, there is also an option to kayak 16 miles with 2 portages.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat near Holly Millpond. Or, you can rent a kayak from Cheff’s Canoe Rentals. Surrounded by nature, kayaking Detroit’s Shiawassee River is a wonderful way to get outside.
How to Get There: The easiest way to reach the Shiawassee River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-75 N to M-57 toward Montrose. Continue on Corunna Rd. to the water.
River Raisin is a scenic place for novice paddlers and families to enjoy canoeing, floating and kayaking near Detroit. The narrow, calm river has a gentle current to help keep your paddle trip flowing smoothly without any rush.
Only an hour from metro Detroit, Upper and Central River Raisin offers a nice getaway for avid paddlers. Stately maple trees line the riverbed providing some nice shade for mid-day paddles. Many paddlers recommend visiting River Raisin during Autumn, as the color changing leaves offer a breathtaking backdrop during a relaxing paddle downstream.
There are not any places to stop on land along the river, but the water trail is short enough to complete in an afternoon. Surrounded by pure nature, kayaking Detroit’s River Raisin is a complete immersion in the outdoors. The river is maintained by a local group, so be sure to leave no trace (or LNT) during your trip.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch your own boat off the ramp into River Raisin. Or, you can rent a kayak and book tours of River Raisin through River Raisin Canoe Livery.
How to Get There: The best way to reach River Raisin is to drive. If you are driving, take I-94 W to US-23 S toward Petersburg. Continue on Summerfield Rd. to the water.
What to Pack for Kayaking in Detroit
Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair ofsunglassesand croakies to keep them from falling off.
Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip withthese cool water bottles.
Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringingsunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.
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