Kayaking, Canoeing & River Tubing in Michigan: 17 Unbeatable Places to Paddle on the West Side

kayaking canoeing michigan

Kayaking, Canoeing & River Tubing Destinations – West MI

Wondering where to go kayaking, canoeing, river tubing, or find a boat launch around Grand Rapids, Michigan? 

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. Whether it’s your first time out or you’re ready for river rapids, this list will help you find the perfect water trail for you.

Please, always wear a life jacket when enjoying water sports. Whether adult or child.

Here’s a rundown of the water float options available in West Michigan:

River Tubing – Float on an inner tube down a meandering river. It’s popular to float coolers down the river while tubing, 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 and control than an canoe. Choose a double kayak if you’re taking a young child along. You can get sit-on-top kayaks or sit-inside kayaks. The later usually make for a dryer trip – that is – unless you tip over.

Canoeing – Canoeing is an iconic water paddling activity and is alive and well in Michigan. If you’re a beginner to canoeing be sure to choose a river or body of water suited to that level. Rivers get challenging when the water moves more quickly (often the case in springtime) or there are obstacles, tight turns, or rapids.

Rafting – A few locales offer river rafting trips where one or more people can paddle a raft down a river.

Stand Up Paddle Boards – Also known as SUPs, Stand Up Paddle Boards are also growing in popularity in the region. Find them for rent near lakes in West Michigan and 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 have less wave action. 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).

Canoe, Kayak & SUP Rentals – GR Area 

Finding an outfitter to rent canoes or kayaks from is the first step to having a great day on the water.

Many rental places will accommodate walk-ins, but during the busy season, you’ll want to make a reservation for your equipment.

Expect to arrive early at your outfitter for safety lessons and to sign waivers.

U Rent Em Canoe in Hastings – Thornapple River 
805 W. Apple St. Hastings, Michigan 49058
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. No credit cards.

  • canoeing
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  • river tubing

Wisner Rents Canoes – Muskegon River
25 West Water St, Newaygo, Michigan 49337
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.)

  • canoeing
  • kayaking
  • river tubing
  • river rafts

Double R Ranch – Flat River
4424 Whites Bridge Rd, Belding, Michigan 48809
Double R Ranch is fun and you can ride horses and golf there, too. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing trips are available. Non-Guests Are Charged a Daily Fee For All Persons using Double R Ranch landing.

  • canoeing
  • tubing
  • river tubing

Millennium Park
1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534
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 paddleboards, and rowboats for rent.

Indian Valley Campground and Canoe – Thornapple River
8200 108th SE, Middleville MI 49333
You can go river tubing, canoeing, rafting, or kayaking at Indian Valley Campground and Canoe – you don’t have to be camping at the campground. They also rent paddle boats.

Rogue River Rentals on the Rogue River
31 Courtland Street, Rockford, Michigan 49341
Paddling trips here range from 2 to 4 hours of kayaking. They also offer Kids Kayak Camp in the summer. They also offer transportation for your kayaking trip if you own your own equipment.

AAA Canoe Rentals – Rogue River
525 Northland Dr NE, Rockford, Michigan 49341
They offer canoe, kayak and tube float trips on the scenic Rogue River.

Lakeshore Kayak Rental 
15348 Cleveland St, Spring Lake, Michigan 49456
They offer kayaks, canoes & stand up paddleboards. They are located in Spring Lake on the Grand River. Multiple family-friendly trips are available…plan on spotting wildlife while you paddle!

Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery – White River
401 E. Fruitvale Road, Montague, MI 49437
Near Silver Lake Sand Dunes. This is a great place for beginners. Their rafts are large and won’t tip over – perfect for families! Also available: tubes, kayaks, and canoes.

Camp Stony haven
8079 W Stony Lake Rd, New Era, MI 49446
Just an hour drive from Grand Rapids, this is a lovely spot to go river tubing with your family, especially if you have young kids because it’s not a very long trip and it’s pretty shallow. Kayaks, canoes, river tubes and rowboats available for rent at the campground.

Up North Kayak, Canoe & Tubing Rentals

Crystal River Outfitters
6249 W River Rd, Glen Arbor, Michigan 49636
This destination may be a long drive, but the Crystal River is beautiful. Crystal River Outfitters has kayaks and canoes, as well as stand up paddleboards for rent.

Riverside Canoe Trips – Platte River
5042 N Scenic Hwy, Honor, MI 49640
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.

Honor Trading Post – Platte River
8294 Deadstream Road, Honor, MI 49640
The Platte River in the Sleeping Bear Dunes was made for family river tubing and kayaking. It has a little bit of everything. The slow, meandering Lower Platte River ends at a gorgeous Lake Michigan beach! Plus, it’s shallow and very family-friendly. Canoes, kayaks, and tubes available for rent. Tight turns and faster, the Upper Platte is for experienced paddlers.

Dune Grass Concessions – Ludington State Park
8800 M-116, Ludington, MI 49431
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. The Hamlin Lake Beach Concession is located at the east end of the park, near the Hamlin Lake boat launch.

Pere Marquette Expeditions 
1649 South Pere Marquette Highway, Ludington, Michigan 49431
Kayaking, Canoeing, and Stand Up Paddleboarding on the Pere Marquette River in Ludington, Michigan. They also are a source for disc golf discs, food, and fishing needs.

The River Outfitters
1910 South Airport Road, Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Boardman Lake and Boardman River paddling experiences are on their menu, in addition to bike & brew trips and a bike, hike, and kayak package in Leelanau County. SUPS available.

Wilderness Canoe Trips – Big Manistee River
6052 Riverview Rd, Mesick, Michigan 49668
This is a bigger river but it doesn’t have rapids and there are sandy areas to stop and swim at along the way. It’s a beautiful stretch of wilderness. River tubing is a favorite here. Canoes, kayaks, and rafts also available.

Find Places to go Canoeing Near Me  

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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!


Grand Rapids kayak

12 thoughts on “Kayaking, Canoeing & River Tubing in Michigan: 17 Unbeatable Places to Paddle on the West Side”

  1. I have always wanted to try tubing with my family but I worried about the safety of my young kids in the water. Thank you so much for your tips and advice on all of these fun water activities. It’s good to know about all of the places you can go to do these recreational sports. We don’t live too far from White River so it would be convenient to go tubing there.

  2. I would love to try Kayaking but would feel more comfortable if I had some basic lessons. Is there any where that offers instructions/lessons on maneuvering & safety?

  3. My family and I went tubing on Stony Creek today. I’m hesitant to list it here cause I’m afraid posting here might make it a much more popular spot. Its only a one hour drive from Grand Rapids. Nice beach but hardly anyone there. I’m not a big fan of tubing. But this is only a 1 hour float, not too long, not too short. My kids are ages 2 and 4. I had life jackets on them. I sat in a little 2-man blow-up boat/raft with them with my paddle and we had a great time. My husband rented a tube at a place right now door to the Stony Creek Lake (where B-15 and Scenic Dr meet). The current is very slow. No rapids. For the most part the creek is quite sandy and not very rocky (though I’d still suggest wearing shoes). I don’t think the creek is any deeper than 3 feet high. We put the tubes in at the nice beach on Stony Lake and floated on Stony Creek right into Lake Michigan then stayed and played there for a while at Benona Township Park. https://www.google.com/maps/@43.5601359,-86.4977079,16z (I searched for the name of the tube rental and couldn’t find it. Sorry its not more specific.)

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