Floating Platte River in Michigan
Imagine floating down a river, the sun warming your skin, and the gentle current carrying you along the lazy river.
That’s the Platte River in Northern Michigan for you—a place that captures the essence of a Pure Michigan summer. Here, tubing isn’t just an activity; it’s a tradition.
Give it a try yourself and you’ll see why many families put this Sleeping Bear Dunes vacation activity on repeat.
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Platte River Tubing – Float the Best Lazy River in Michigan!
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 – Platte Point Beach.
Platte River waters are clear and the river bottom is primarily sandy.
Plus, there’s no fee for floating the river, other than equipment rentals or parking passes.
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!
Platte River MI Location
The Platte River in Michigan is located in Benzie county and falls within the boundaries of the scenic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The drive from Traverse City to the Platte River takes about 45 minutes. From Grand Rapids, it’s a 2.5 hour trip.
Divided into the Upper Platte and Lower Platte, the river flows into Loon Lake and ends its journey at Platte Point Beach.
Kayaking the Platte During the Fall Salmon Run
When summer turns to fall, another kind of magic takes over the Platte River: the annual salmon run.
You don’t need a fishing rod in hand to enjoy the wow-factor of a throng of salmon swimming upstream. Hop in a kayak and paddle alongside them, their silver bodies flashing as they push their way upstream.
In September or early October, put your kayak in just below the fish weir (5870 Lake Michigan Rd, Honor, MI 49640) to see these big fish. The gate to the fishing wier road is open during salmon season, otherwise you’d have to walk about 1/3 of a mile over gravel to get there.
Paddle down the river, respectful of the people in the river fishing for the salmon, and keep your eyes peeled for the big fish that will likely be swimming beside you.
Platte River Tubing Launch Points
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.
Also, check water levels before you go. This affects the speed of the river and varies from year to year. All float trips end at Lake Michigan.
Vary your trip length by choosing from one of these Lower Platte River launch points:
LAUNCH AT THE FISHING WEIR
Float Time: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
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 must 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
Float Time: 1 Hour
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.
Platte River Tubing Float Trips End at Platte Point Beach
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.
Where to Stay for the Platte River
Platte River Campground
We’ve camped numerous times at the Platte River Campground, which is operated by the National Park Service.
5685 Lake Michigan Rd, Honor, MI 49640
It’s a lovely wooded campground. Sites are spaced far enough from each other to afford a good amount of privacy.
Walk-in sites are available… be aware that you are not allowed to roll any items into these sites. All coolers and equipment must be carried in and carried out.
Hotels, Resorts & Vacation Rentals – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park
Hotels and B&B’s are in limited supply within the National Park area, although there are a few to be had.
One of the most popular is the Homestead, just minutes away from Glen Arbor and right outside the park borders. The resort has a pool, restaurant, and provides kid’s activities in season.
When is the best time to do a Platte River tubing trip?
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.
Platte River tubing is popular with vacationers and locals alike. The river is busy whenever the weather is warm and the conditions are favorable, especially in July and August.
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the busiest times on the river.
Can you bring your own tubes to the Platte River?
Yes, you can DIY your own trip. A great launch for this is El Dorado Park.
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.
What kind of equipment is best for tubing Platte River?
- tubes with or without bottoms
- cooler tubes (pack your drinks and food and let it float along with you.)
Is the Platte River tubing good for kids or 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.
What food options are available for Platte River Michigan tubing?
There is a small grocery store in Glen Arbor, but there are no large stores or large restaurants in the area.
Pick up last minute essentials at the grocery store at Riverside Canoes, along with ice cream treats or a meal from their grill menu.
Many people prefer to pack picnics. Some use a floating cooler to bring a picnic down the river on their float trip.
Do I need a National Park Pass to kayak or go tubing?
Yes, you do need to have a National Park Pass to go tubing on the Platte River in Michigan. This is a per vehicle pass.
The NPS passes Sleeping Bear Dunes sells are weekly or yearly passes. They are $25 for a weekly pass or $45 for an annual pass.
Both Riverside Canoes and Honor Trading Post sell these passes, as does the park visitor center in Empire. The Platte River Campground sells passes, too. Finally, there is an automated payment kiosk at Platte Point.
What the Deal with Parking for Tubing or Kayaking?
Parking for your float trip can be tricky!
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.
If you park on the side of the road without a pass your vehicle will likely be ticketed.
U.S. Fee Areas require a National Park Service Pass
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.
Lake Township Park – Across the Street from the US Fee Area lot
You will need to pay for parking ($5) separately if you park in their lot.
There are modern restrooms, picnic tables, and a boat launch at this park.
What Should Go on a Float Trip Packing List?
Your packing list for a trip on the Platte River 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 (lanyard or string type to prevent loss)
- 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 & PFDs
Platte River Tubing Rental Locations
Equipment for floating the Platte River can be rented from two nearby outfitters. We’ve rented equipment from both locations for our tubing trips in the past, as well as done trips with our own equipment.
They are both good – it might just come down to availability. Pricing has been pretty comparable between the two over the years.
Honor Trading Post Tube and Kayak Rentals
8294 Deadstream Road, Honor, MI 49640
Honor Trading Post offers tube rentals, single and tandem kayak rentals, canoe rentals, stand up paddleboard rentals, tubes for purchase, shuttle service, and they are a NPS pass reseller. They also sell tubes that you can purchase for a float trip.
Tube and kayak 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.
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.
Riverside Canoe Trips
5042 N Scenic Highway, Honor MI 49640
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.
Renting from Riverside gives you access to river rafts, single and tandem kayak rentals, canoe rentals, and stand up paddleboards. They also offer tubes for purchase and are a NPS pass reseller.
If you’re renting from Riverside Canoes during the summer, you’ll want to make reservations or you may be disappointed.
If using Riverside Canoes, 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.)
Tubing in Michigan
Looking for other places to go kayaking or tubing 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!
Other Up North Adventures