Floating down a river on a hot summer day is about as Pure Michigan as you can get.
Not all rivers were made for floating, though, and that’s one of the reasons Michiganders rank Platte River tubing as one of the most iconic tubing destinations in the state.
Give it a try yourself and you’ll see why many families put this Sleeping Bear Dunes vacation activity on repeat.
Platte River Tubing
The Platte River in Michigan is located within the scenic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on the northwestern side of the lower peninsula.
While the Upper Platte River is narrower, faster moving, and home to downed trees and other obstacles, the Lower Platte is gentle, wide, and meandering. It’s also usually shallow. Platte River waters are clear and the river bottom is primarily sandy.
Families have floated the Platte River for generations, and for good reason. It’s easy to maneuver a kayak, stand up paddleboard, canoe, raft, or tube down the river. And… it ends at a lovely Lake Michigan beach.
Plus, there’s no fee for floating the river, other than equipment rentals or parking passes (more on that later). Needless to say, this is a very popular summertime activity. If you time your visit well and bring the right supplies, you’re in for maximum enjoyment.
Read on to find my tips and tricks to make your Platte River Tubing adventure the best ever!
The Platte River is located within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Platte River Tubing Tips
Choose Your Trip Length
Your first order of business when tubing the Platte River is deciding how long you want to be floating. Float times listed at outfitters do not account for stops – and half of the fun of a float is stopping to swim and play along the way.
Check water levels before you go. They were up in 2020 (due to Lake Michigan water levels being up) but may be back down again in 2021. All float trips end at Lake Michigan. Vary your trip length by choosing from one of these launch points:
Launching your Platte River tubing trip from the fishing weir results in a 2.5 to 3.5-hour float trip. To access the boat launch, you have to carry your tubes, kayaks, etc down a gravel access road (shoes needed!) The walk to the weir takes 5-10 minutes.
The scenery you’ll see along this section is different than if you launch further downstream. The river is a little narrower here. This section of the Platte is a favorite for our family.
With that said, if you don’t paddle and it takes you three or more hours to make it to the end, that can feel like a really long time – especially if you have little kids along.
EL DORADO BOAT LAUNCH
Launching from this location is great if you want a taste of tubing and ample time to play at the beach at the end. Or, if you have little kids along, this might be the best pick for you. Plan on approximately one hour of float time from here. If it’s a windy day, it might take longer, as lake winds can push you back upstream as you come the end of your trip.
Timing Your Trip
The Platte River is popular with vacationers and locals alike. The river is busy whenever the weather is warm and the conditions are favorable.
Some float groups have more of a party atmosphere in the summertime – if you want the peaceful, serene experience, go earlier in the day and earlier in the week.
Choose Your Equipment
- tubes with or without bottoms
- cooler tubes (pack your drinks and food and let it float along with you.)
Children and Pets
People go down the Platte River with their children and dogs all of the time. Personal floatation devices are recommended for every living creature you bring along.
Very young children will likely prefer a closed-bottom tube. Older children like to swim along at times – bring a string to tie their tube to yours so it doesn’t float away.
If you’re bringing a dog along, consider a canoe (best pet option) or kayak (small pets only) for everyone’s comfort.
There’s a small grocery store in Glen Arbor, but there are no large stores or large restaurants in the area. Riverside Canoes and Honor Trading Post do have small menus and convenience store type food available, but many people prefer to picnic.
If you’d like, you can float your picnic down the river with you. Just pack a cooler and pop it into an extra tube or a canoe.
The Lower Platte River is inside of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You will need a parking pass to park at the beach or anywhere else inside the park. Please note that there is a township park, Lake Township Park, at the end of the float that doesn’t accept National Park Passes for parking. You will need to pay for parking separately if you park in their lot. There are modern restrooms in this park.
Your packing list will vary with how long of a trip you decide to do, if you’re bringing your own equipment, and whether or not you’re playing in Lake Michigan at the end, but here are some ideas for items to bring while tubing Platte River in Michigan.
- waterproof phone holder or dry bag
- water shoes or water sandals, especially if launching from the weir
- sunglasses or hat
- string to tie tubes together
- cooler with food & drinks
- squirt guns
- beach bag with towels to leave in car
- change of clothes
- personal tubing equipment with PDFs
Platte River Tubing Rentals
Equipment for floating the Platte River can be rented from nearby outfitters. We’ve rented equipment from both locations in the past, as well as done trips with our own equipment. Here’s how the options compare (they are both good – it might just come down to availability. Pricing has been pretty comprable between the two over the years.)
Honor Trading Post
8294 Deadstream Road, Honor Michigan 49640
» Tube rentals, single and tandem kayak rentals, canoe rentals, stand up paddleboard rentals, tubes for purchase, private one-way transportation, NPS pass reseller.
Honor Trading Post is a bit removed from the Platte River location-wise, but we’ve found it to be a little more laid back. Reservations are needed at the height of the summer. You can make those online.
You will need time to get waivers signed, payment processes, and vehicles transferred. They are great about getting you out on the water quickly.
Riverside Canoe Trips
5042 N Scenic Highway, Honor Michigan 49640
» Tube rentals, river rafts, single and tandem kayak rentals, canoe rentals, stand up paddleboard rentals, tubes for purchase, NPS pass reseller.
Located right where M-22 and the Platte River meet, Riverside Canoe Trips has a high-visibility location and does a huge volume of business in the summer.
If you’re renting from Riverside Canoe Trips during the summer, you’ll want to make reservations or you may be disappointed. Riverside has streamlined their process but you still need to plan time to sign waivers, make payment, and go through safety orientation (this happens in groups and can take a bit of time) before you will get on the water. You will also need to factor in shuttle time for your trip (your vehicle will be parked at the end of the trip – parking pass required.)
DIY Your Own Platte River Tubing Trip
Do You Own Your Own Tubes or Kayaks? Here’s How to DIY Your Trip
If you have your own equipment (Honor Trading Post sells tubes), have at least two adults in your party, and don’t mind a 0.75-mile walk, you can DIY your own Platte River tubing trip quite easily.
To make it happen:
- have your driver drop all passengers and equipment off at the El Dorado Boat Launch on Lake Michigan Road.
- The driver proceeds to Platte River Point (there are multiple parking lots – the township park requires a separate fee from the NPS, FYI.)
- Driver walks three-quarters of a mile back to the El Dorado Boat Launch
- Fun starts
- Your car – and beach supplies – will be waiting for you at the end so you can enjoy the Lake Michigan beach.
Platte River Tubing Payoff
An Epic Lake Michigan Beach is Your Tubing Trip Reward
If paddling through a National Lakeshore isn’t enough, you can swim at a beach with breathtaking vistas at the end of your float.
Platte River Point Beach is where the river empties into Lake Michigan and you get the best of both worlds. Kids love playing in the river current, and the river tends to be warmer than the big lake.
Crystal clear water, sand, and sun, along with sweeping views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes off in the distance, will make you come back again and again.
Tubing in Michigan
Looking for other places to go tubing or kayaking in Michigan?
There’s no shortage of rivers to float in lower Michigan!
Check out this list to find family-approved kayaking and river tubing trips near you!
More Michigan Adventures