New Boat Will Launch Kayaks Offshore at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks Kayaking will debut a new boat this summer with two kayak launches onboard—the first of its kind on the Great Lakes. The offshore launch means paddlers get to see more of the lakeshore, including attractions like Miners Castle and Chapel Rock.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking offers guided tours, transporting customers from the docks in Munising to the famous sandstone cliffs, which reach up to 600 feet above the water. Caves, arches and rock formations with colorful names like Grand Portal, Battleship Rocks, Painted Coves and Rainbow Cave attract visitors from across the world.

“Kayaking is a very active business in the U.P.,” says John Madigan, owner of Pictured Rocks Kayaking. That sentiment is echoed by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Superintendent David Horne, who told Marquette’s Mining Journal kayaking has exploded over the past few years.

Business has been so good that Madigan was receptive when Moran Iron Works came calling.

Tom and Marilyn Moran, owners of Moran Iron Works, went on a kayak excursion in the summer of 2017. Pictured Rocks Kayaking was using a modified vessel which had been retrofitted to carry and launch kayaks. This summer, a new boat built exclusively for that purpose by Moran Iron Works will join it. Madigan says the new vessel will more than double the company’s capacity. “It’s bigger, faster and has two launches,” he says.

Concept renderings of the new boat.

Moran Iron Works, located in Onaway, is known for its custom steel fabrication. The team’s work ranges from exhaust stacks to industrial ductwork to cofferdams built for the Soo Locks (used to dewater the locks and allow maintenance to be performed during the annual closure).

The company has also built numerous ships and vessels for the marine industry, including barges, ferry boats, research vessels for the government, and now a kayak launch/passenger vehicle. “This is the first of its kind on the Great Lakes,” says Cora McLennan, marketing and public relations coordinator for Moran Iron Works. “Each boat serves a different purpose. They’re all unique. Our tagline for this project is ‘Inspired by Michigan.’”

She says the process of building the boat has been fascinating. “It’s awesome to see the vision come to life. It’s starting to turn into a work of art.”

Creating the first-of-its-kind boat necessitated starting from scratch. When complete, the 64-foot-long vessel will have room for 72 passengers and 36 two-person kayaks. It’s built so that even when there’s a two- to three-foot chop, it will provide a smooth ride. “It will be easy to launch and easy to get back in,” says Mike Mroz, the sales and marketing manager at Moran Iron Works.  

Construction began in December, and though plans call for completion and delivery by late 2019, Mroz believes it will be ready for use this summer. “We want to launch this summer, hopefully right after Memorial Day,” he says.