Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Sea Kayaking Overview

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Lake Superior at Sandy Point in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Lake Superior at Sandy Point in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Willard Clay)

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

  • The "pictured rocks" from which the park takes its name are actually vibrant mineral deposits in the sandstone cliffs that are visible from the water beginning at Sand Point and extending northeast for some 15 miles.
  • Paddle just north of the mouth of the Mosquito River to find a set of gaping crevasses, which are imaginatively named Caves of the Bloody Chiefs, so called for the iron-red stains surrounding each fissure.
  • Spray Creek plummets 70 feet over a sandstone ledge at Spray Falls, where kayakers can shower after an afternoon's grueling paddle and then look down to see the preserved remains of a shipwreck.
  • Put in at Grand Marais and paddle five miles west to watch (and listen to) the constant shifting of the Grand Sable Dunes.
  • To identify hard-to-find backcountry campsites along the shore, keep your eye out for three wooden posts planted side-by-side on the beach. Fee and permit required.

Miles of colorful sandstone cliffs rising 50-200 feet high from Lake Superior's rugged shoreline and long stretches of white sand beach are two of the reasons why sea kayaking is growing in popularity at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. From a kayak, you can slip up beside the towering cliffs, explore caves, pull underwater seeps, and explore the multicolored details of the shoreline bedrock.

Kayakers often begin their trips in the Munising area, which provides quicker access to cliff sections of the shoreline. Popular kayak put-in points include Sand Point, Miners Beach, the Munising Municipal Boat Ramp, and Grand Island Landing. Access points at the east end of the park include Twelvemile Beach Campground, Hurricane River Campground, and the Grand Marais Marina.

Many kayak models have sufficient room to stow lightweight camping gear. Like overnight hikers, sea kayakers are required to obtain a permit to camp in the backcountry at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Permits are available at the Pictured Rocks/Hiawatha National Forest Visitor Center in Munising or Grand Sable Visitor Center in Grand Marais. Permits may be obtained in person only within 24 hours of your trip. Up to six people and two tents are allowed at individual campsites. Groups of 7-20 must stay at designated group sites, which may be reserved. Camping on the beach and beach fires are not permitted; camp only in designated campgrounds.

Grand Island National Recreation Area also possesses many unique features and provides a variety of recreation opportunities, including sea kayaking. Administered as a national recreation area by the U.S. Forest Service, Grand Island in Munising Bay is home to black bears, peregrine falcons, white-tailed deer, and loons. The northern end of the island features dramatic sandstone cliffs while the southern end offers sand beaches and protected bays.

Because Lake Superior weather is unpredictable, sea kayakers are advised to stay well informed about current conditions. Responsible kayakers are prepared for cold temperatures, high winds, fog, and rough seas.

The National Park Service recommends that kayakers use wet or dry suits due to Lake Superior's cold water. U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFD) are required for each person. That may occur at any time of the year.

Most summer storm systems come from the northwest—fully exposing watercraft to Superior's winds. Boaters should consult the current marine forecast before starting any trip (NOAA 906-475-5212 or Marine Band Radio Channel 16).


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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