Michigan State is known for its beautiful natural landscape and healthy, active way of life. Kayaking in Ann Arbor is a perfect example of just how serene and relaxing the paddling scene here can be. Ann Arbor is part of a group of towns that create a network of culture, activities and adventures to be had in this area.

The Huron River connects Ann Arbor with neighboring Ypsilanti and Dexter, giving kayakers plenty to see along the river, and many options for stops along the way. The Huron River was named the 18th National Water Trail, which is a U.S. National Park Service initiative to create a network of accessible waterways across the nation—think hiking trails, except on rivers, lakes, canals and coastline. The Huron River meanders 104 miles from Springfield Township to Lake Erie.

Calm lake at sunrise
Paddle out from Gallup Park on the Huron River. | Photo: Barbara Eckstein

Where to kayak in Ann Arbor

The landscape around Ann Arbor, MI is bursting with rich greens and blues, and a feeling of wide and free spaces. The Huron Mountains to the north are low-lying, and are responsible for most of the state’s elevation. As you kayak through Ann Arbor on the Huron River, expect to see the wide but powerful river wind through forests and towns filled with character, under bridges and past local landmarks.

With four national forests, Michigan boasts some of the most extensive woodland in the United States. While Michigan’s forests have been heavily logged in the past, regrowth is happening and there are still plenty of old-growth hardwood forests. Keep your eye out for an array of beautiful foliage (especially in the early fall) from maple, walnut, sycamore, dogwood, oak, birch, aspen and hickory trees, among many more.

While you’re kayaking in the Ann Arbor area, have a look for some of Michigan’s bountiful wildlife. Moose, deer, bear, ducks, quail and beavers are among the many species that call this state home. Not to worry though—if you’ve heard tales of the infamous wolverine and are worried about encountering one in the Michigan wilderness, the namesake animal of the Wolverine State hasn’t been found there since the 1860s!

If you’re an angler, consider taking your fishing gear out kayaking with you in Ann Arbor. The Huron River is a well-known source for smallmouth bass, pike, muskie and steelhead, as well as some more obscure species.

Shultz Outfitters

    • Guided half-day fishing trip: $325

Huron River

The Huron River is one of Michigan’s gems and provides paddlers a perfect stretch of river for a relaxing paddle on a spring or summer day. There are three main kayak rental services in the Ann Arbor area—all three have single and double kayaks.

Argo Canoe & Kayak and Gallup Canoe and Kayak are sister companies. Their trips from the Argo location end at Gallup Park, while the trips that leave from Gallup Park include a shuttle service upriver and end at the rental location.

From the Argo location, take a kayak from the launch down to Gallup Park for a 1.5-hour trip. While you can start off on the easygoing but exciting Argo Cascades, there is a bypass route if you choose to skip the rougher water. From the Gallup location, you’ll take a shuttle upriver to Barton Park and paddle back down to Gallup Park for a 2.5-hour trip. If it’s flatwater you’re looking for, jump in a kayak from either the Argo or Gallup locations and take a lap around the calm Argo and Gallup Ponds.

If you venture farther northwest, you’ll find the other kayak rental company in the Ann Arbor area: Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery. Don’t let the name fool you though; Skip’s rents kayaks as well. They run two kayaking trips on the Huron River. Both trips are family-friendly and vary from 1.5 to 3.5 hours. Huron to Delhi Metropark is 3.5 hours, and the shorter run begins at Dexter-Huron and also finishes up at Delhi Metropark.

Argo Canoe & Kayak Rental

    • Argo to Gallup Park: $21 for a single kayak, $27 for a double kayak (includes shuttle)
    • Argo Pond: $15 per two hours for a single kayak, $20 per two hours for a double kayak

Gallup Canoe & Kayak Rental

    • Barton to Gallup Park: $26 for a single kayak, $32 for a double kayak (includes shuttle)
    • Gallup Pond: $15 per two hours for a single kayak, $20 per two hours for a double kayak

Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery

    • Huron to Delhi Metropark: $35 for a single kayak, $43 for a double kayak
    • Dexter-Huron to Delhi Metropark: $22 for a single kayak, $27 for a double kayak

Ypsilanti

While you’re kayaking in the Ann Arbor area on the Hudson River, consider heading to nearby Ford Lake or Belleville Lake for a serene paddle on a small, calm body of water while you’re surrounded by the meditative Michigan landscape. Skip’s will be your best bet to rent for the day to head out on your own adventure.

West of Chelsea, MI is Waterloo State Recreation Area. Kayak Mill Lake, Cavanaugh Lake, Sugarloaf Lake, Crooked Lake, among others to explore.

Northwest of Ann Arbor, in Hudson Mills, you’ll find Pinckney Recreation Area—check out North Lake, Halfmoon Lake or Portage Lake.


 

What to wear

Ann Arbor is located in a relatively humid area being so close to the Great Lakes and the Huron River. When kayaking season in Ann Arbor opens for the year in late April, temperatures will normally be between 37 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, and 59 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Summer temperatures are hot and humid, with an average of 84 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

When you’re planning what to wear on your trip kayaking in Ann Arbor, think breathable gym clothes. Layers are a great idea for the mornings and evenings on the water if you’re visiting in the shoulder seasons. In the summer, keep in mind that the sun gets extra hot on the water. While you won’t want long sleeves for warmth in the summer, you might want to consider UV-protective clothing, especially for little ones. Always wear closed-toed shoes, made of neoprene or hydrophobic material if you have them—if not, runners will do fine as long as you’re okay with them getting wet.


 

When to go

Paddling season in the Ann Arbor area can vary year to year based on the current season’s conditions; however, most tour companies will open late-April or early-May and wrap up their season in late-October.

Paddling season in Michigan is fairly long, so plan your trip for your favorite time of year, and enjoy the beautiful Hudson River in Ann Arbor!

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