West Michigan has Lake Fun for Every Adventure
Wondering where to kayak or find a boat launch around Grand Rapids? Paddling or floating down a river is the perfect way to spend a summer day in West Michigan with your family, so we’ve put together a list of popular places for water sports.
**Please, always wear a life jacket when enjoying water sports. Whether adult or child!**
If you are new to these water activities, here’s a rundown of what’s available in our area:
- Tubing – Float on an inner tube down a meandering river. It’s popular to float coolers down the river, too. Often, groups will rope tubes together. Choose a river that is shallow and sandy for this type of activity.
- Kayaking – A sport growing in popularity, kayaks are found at most rental outlets and are easier to navigate than an canoe. Choose a double kayak if you’re taking a young child along.
- Canoeing – This iconic water paddling activity is alive and well in Michigan.
- Rafting – A few locales offer raft trips, where one or more people can paddle a raft down a river.
- Stand Up Paddle Boards – SUPs are also growing in popularity in the region. Find them for rent near lakes.
No matter what option you choose, be sure to follow local boating regulations and take appropriate safety measures, like wearing your life jacket.
Boat Launches, Rentals and Popular Boating Spots
Choose a portion of river (or lake) to suit your family’s paddling needs. It’s a good idea for beginners and families to choose an easy river, so that’s what we’re posting here.
Need to know where you can launch your boat? Check out this neat resource with a map of where you can load your boat or kayak into a river or lake. It has some of our favorite hidden gems listed (like the Bass River Recreation Area) so it’s well researched!
MILLENNIUM PARK | Grand Rapids
If you’re looking for a lake experience, consider Millennium Park. This 1500 acre park has a boathouse, allowing visitors to paddle the main lakes in the park. The DeVos Family Boathouse offers kayaks, paddle boats, canoes, stand up paddle boards and row boats for rent.
ROGUE RIVER | Rockford
Head to Rockford for an easy, short trip on the Upper Rogue… it’s not too long and a very mellow river. The Lower Rogue is not kid friendly or for those new to kayaking. BONUS: You can get ice cream by the Rockford Dam where you end your trip. Rogue River Rentals has kayaks. AAA Canoe Rentals has kayaks, tubes and canoes.
GRAND RIVER | Grand Haven
Lakeshore Kayak Rental offers kayaks, canoes & stand up paddle boards. They are located in Spring Lake on the Grand River. Multiple family-friendly trips are available…plan on spotting wildlife while you paddle!
WHITE RIVER | Montague
Happy Mohawk is a great place for beginners. Their rafts are large and won’t tip over – perfect for families! Also available: tubes, kayaks, and canoes.
MUSKEGON RIVER | Newaygo
If you’re looking for a river with opportunities to get out and splash, head to Newaygo and float the Muskegon River. Many of our readers grew up making trips down this river while renting from Wisner Rents Canoes. (They also rent kayaks, tubes and rafts.)
MACATAWA RIVER | Holland
For a more educational trip, check out the Naturalist-led Kayak Trips at the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland. These fun, family-friendly kayak paddle trips include wildlife discovery and more. Registration is required.
FLAT RIVER | Belding
Double R Ranch is fun and you can ride horses there, too. Canoeing, kayaking and tubing trips are available.
FLAT RIVER | Lowell
River fun in Lowell happens on the Flat River. It is very calm and not very deep… perfect for family outings! The boat launch is near the library. Families will find canoe and kayak rentals available at the Main Street Inn.
THORNAPPLE RIVER | Hastings
Another place catering to families is U rent Em Canoe in Hastings, on the Thornapple River. They are located in downtown Hastings and provide canoe, kayak and tube rentals.
THORNAPPLE RIVER | Middleville
You can also go tubing, canoeing, rafting, or kayaking at Indian Valley Campground and Canoe – you don’t have to be staying at the campground.They also rent paddle boats.
Tubing, Kayaking, and Canoeing Options for Families Beyond Grand Rapids
HAMLIN LAKE | Ludington State Park
Ludington State Park is well known for its unique marked canoe pathway. Launch your boat at the Hamlin Lake Beach and meander along the shore of Hamlin Lake. Canoes are available to rent from the Hamlin Lake Concession Stand, where you can also rent paddleboats, rowboats, and kayaks.
PLATTE RIVER | Honor
If you want an amazing kayaking trip, consider the Platte River. It is a drive (2.5 hours), but it has a little bit of everything. You float down the river to a small lake, then hop back in the river only to end at a gorgeous Lake Michigan beach! Plus, it’s shallow and very family-friendly. Get your canoe, kayak, raft or tube rental at Riverside Canoe Trips.
CRYSTAL RIVER | Glen Arbor
This destination is also a long drive, but the Crystal River is beautiful. Crystal River Outfitters has kayaks and canoes, as well as stand up paddleboards for rent.
Try Your Hand at Stand Up Paddle Boarding Around Grand Rapids
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is a trend that’s taking over West Michigan! I’ve spotted people paddle boarding all over the Grand Rapids area and I’m eager to try it for myself.
There are plenty of places around Grand Rapids where you can rent SUP equipment. Inland lakes are a safe bet for trying SUP because they tend to be a little more still. Reed’s Lake is a popular spot (you can event try SUP yoga!) as is Millennium Park (you can rent equipment right there at the DeVos boathouse).
While it might seem like Lake Michigan is a natural spot to SUP, the big waves in the lake make it tough to master (and easier to tip).
Tell us Where you Paddle!
Do you have a spot great for families that we didn’t list? Please leave a comment below… we’d love to find out about more places for family floating adventures!