Kayaking Down Betsie River in Northern Michigan

It has been hot out. Almost too hot. I’ve found that the only way to avoid heat stroke is to either lock myself up in an AC-filled room or cool off in Northern Michigan’s many waterways of fun. The latter being the preferred choice, I just found a new spot to enjoy some refreshing outside fun in Northern Michigan–a kayak trip down Betsie River in Benzonia with Vacation Trailer Park.

A 45-minute drive from Traverse City, Vacation Trailer Park lies nestled in the shaded trees on the bank of Betsie River, just off of US-31 South. The staff is pleasant and quickly signed me up when I arrived so I could get my trip underway. I chose the 1-2 hour kayak trip, though 3-4 hour trips are also available, for both kayaks and canoes.

Vacation Trailer Park offers a spotting service, the most convenient option when taking a trip down river. I drive my 4Runner to the landing spot, hop in the van with Barbara, and head back to Vacation Trailer Park where I am outfitted with life vest, paddle and seat cushion. Before I know it I’m in my kayak and I’m off!
Protected by the DNR, Vacation Trailer Park’s section of Betsie River and its sides are lush and kept clean, turning my trip into a natural escape where I am one with the woods and water. After passing Vacation Trailer Park’s river-lined campsites, I don’t see another soul for the rest of my 5 mile paddle.

The current is calm, the river shaded and the water cool. I am led down the meandering Betsie at a tranquil pace, making my way around softly curving river bends, occasionally paddling harder to avoid out-sticking branches but predominately just letting the river move me along, a lazy paddle here or there to keep my kayak centered.
Along the way are small sand bars to beach my kayak, perfect for swimming breaks. The river is shallow enough that you could hop into the water at any point along the way, though this calls for a more graceful remounting of the kayak. Because of the shallow water, it is warm enough to swim despite the current, and kept cooled by the trees overhead.

About 45-minutes into my paddle, I cross under the first culver, marking the first half of the trip. Shortly ahead rests a picnic table on the shore. Looking at the space at the front of my kayak and the space behind, I think next time I’ll pack a picnic. Not having one, I paddle on.
I finish the trip in about 1.5 hours. I was a little nervous I’d miss the landing and end up lost, forever floating down Betsie, but lo and behold, the landing is easy to spot, just as Barbara said it would be. I beach my kayak, pull it up on the shore, take one last refreshing dip in the river, and head back to Vacation Trailer Park to return my paddle, life jacket and seat cushion. The kayak is left behind, to be taken up by Vacation Trailer Park.  

It was my first trip out to Betsie River, and it was truly remarkable. Next time I go, I will bring friends and give the canoe a try, but two things will not change–I will once again spend a beautiful, leisurely day in Northern Michigan on Betsie River, and I will once again visit Vacation Trailer Park to make it happen.

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