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Water trails

group kayaking on river

Water trails

A water trail is a designated route on a navigable waterway such as a lake, river, canal or bay, that is designed and managed to create a positive outdoor recreation experience for the user. Water trails feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.

map of water trails

State-designated water trails

Nine waterways totaling 630 miles that flow through more than a dozen counties have been selected as state-designated water trails in Michigan:

Designation process

Local water trail organizations with established water trail plans were invited to submit applications for designation. Application scores are based on criteria including whether a proposed trail:

  • Provides a quality trail experience.
  • Offers clear information for users.
  • Enjoys broad community support.
  • Has an appropriate water trail plan in place that addresses components like safety, stewardship, historic and cultural resources, education opportunities, funding, signage, management and development, local land and water use laws, and marketing and promotion.

Other Michigan water trails

In addition to the state-designated water trails above, there are many other water trails in Michigan that can be found on To be included, a water trail must:

  • Be open to nonmotorized watercraft;
  • Include access sites that are open to the public;
  • Have developed information and trail data that is publicly available and up to date (e.g., maps, guides, signage, and/or a website); and
  • Be actively supported, managed and/or maintained by at least one organization or community that can serve as the source of the water trail information.

Michigan Water Trails website »