A water trail is a designated route on a navigable waterway such as a lake, river, canal or bay, that is designed and managed to create a positive outdoor recreation experience for the user. Water trails feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.
State-designated water trails
Eight waterways totaling 550-plus miles that flow through more than a dozen counties have been selected as the first state-designated water trails in Michigan:
- Central River Raisin Water Trail, 11 miles in Monroe County.
- Chain of Lakes Water Trail, more than 100 miles in Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska and Grand Traverse counties.
- Huron River Water Trail, 104 miles in Livingston, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
- Island Loop Route, 10 miles in St. Clair County.
- Flint River Trail, 72 miles in Genesee and Lapeer counties.
- Middle Grand River Water Trail, 87 miles in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Ionia counties.
- Shiawassee River Trail, 88 miles in Genesee, Oakland, Saginaw and Shiawassee counties.
- Upper Grand River Water Trail, 91 miles in Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties.
Local water trail organizations with established water trail plans were invited to submit applications for designation. That outreach process was handled collaboratively with the Michigan State Parks Advisory Committee, the Michigan State Waterways Commission, the Michigan Trails Advisory Council and the Nonmotorized Advisory Workgroup.
All applications were scored based on criteria including whether a proposed trail:
- Provides a quality trail experience.
- Offers clear information for users.
- Enjoys broad community support.
- Has an appropriate water trail plan in place that addresses components like safety, stewardship, historic and cultural resources, education opportunities, funding, signage, management and development, local land and water use laws, and marketing and promotion.
Ribbon cuttings for the newly designated water trails will take place during the 2019 paddling season. More information will be provided early in 2019 on the application process for next year's designations.
Other Michigan water trails
In addition to the state-designated water trails above, there are many other water trails in Michigan that can be found on the Michigan Water Trails website. To be included on the Michigan Water Trails website, a water trail must:
- Be open to non-motorized watercraft;
- Include access sites that are open to the public;
- Have developed information and trail data that is publicly available and up to date (e.g., maps, guides, signage, and/or a website); and
- Be actively supported, managed and/or maintained by at least one organization or community that can serve as the source of the water trail information.
Michigan Water Trails Website »