Sheltered lake in a wild setting not far from Traverse City—we give you Lake Dubonnet. Expanded as a wildlife flooding decades ago, Lake Dubonnet has hardly any houses and is loaded with fish—credit the good fishing to the stumps and underwater habitat from the flooding. But even if you don’t fish, Lake Dubonnet’s multitude of shoreline nooks and crannies makes for hours of exploration and dynamite wildlife watching. Launch at Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground, a few miles north of Interlochen.—Recommended by Lois Goldstein, Outings Coordinator, Traverse Area Paddle Club, traverseareapaddleclub.org.
Put in at Lower Herring Lake (about 5 miles south of Frankfort), and paddle across Lower Herring to where it opens out onto Lake Michigan. Head south on the big water and edge along the base of Arcadia Bluffs, the highest bluffs on Lake Michigan (check them out from on top at the lookout along M-22—fabulous). Paddle south 1.5 hours, then turn around and head back to your put-in. Afterward, drive to Elberta and grab a burger and a beer at Mayfair Restaurant.—Recommended by Michael Gray, Proprietor, Uncommon Adventures Guide Service, uncommonadv.com. 248-224-1044.
Put in at Zoll Street Park (aka “the dog beach”) in Harbor Springs. Paddle out past Harbor Point, and then head due south to Petoskey, specifically the breakwall. Turn around and head northeast to the Petoskey State Park. Beach your boat at the park, and stretch your legs. Paddle back to Zoll Street. If you time it right, you return heading into the sunset, sublime. Afterglow: The burger and beer special at The Pier in Harbor Springs.—Recommended by Wil Cwikiel, Middle School Principal, Harbor Springs.
Launch at Blacksmith Bayou, a National Forest Service campground, east of Manistee on the Manistee River. Float downstream through one of the northern lower’s most wild and beautiful stretches of river. Expect a calm, slow current that eases through vast wetlands and swamps. Keep binocs handy because the habitat supports a multitude of wildlife. Eagles and whitetail common, occasionally a bobcat or a bear. Bonus: excellent small-mouth bass fishing and salmon in late summer-early fall. Take out at Insta Launch Campground and Marina, on Manistee Lake. They will also ferry you upriver for a fee. 231-233-3265, Manisteepaddlesports.com.—Recommended by Tim Ervin, Wistful Angler.
Get started paddling, gain experience or just paddle with likeminded spirits. Join the Traverse Area Paddle Club. Many outings to choose from; only $15 a year! Check the calendar at traverseareapaddleclub.org.