September 28, 2020

Paddle Antrim Invites Kayakers to Take Over the Chain of Lakes Water Trail Sept 15–16

By Kristi Kates | Sept. 9, 2017

Ain’t No Party Like a Paddler Party

Hikers in northern Michigan have an abundance of trails to choose from. But did you know that kayakers do too? If not, Paddle Antrim is looking to get you on its home-water trail, the Chain of Lakes, which routes paddlers along a variety of lakes and rivers from Ellsworth to Elk Rapids — with its upcoming 2017 Paddle Antrim Festival.

Deana Jerdee is the executive director of Paddle Antrim. The organization, based in Bellaire, has been around for nearly four years. She said the group founded the festival for two reasons: waterways awareness and pure enjoyment.

“It’s a celebration of our water resources, and how wonderful they are to watch and be part of, as well as of our organization’s stewardship of the waters,” Jerdee said. “Most of the participants in the festival, though — around 75 percent — are actually from outside of our region, so we’ve really been trying to increase local awareness of the water trail to encourage more people to make use of it. 

A water trail is essentially the aquatic equivalent to a hiking trail, with the routes passing through rivers, creeks, and lakes specifically meant for people using small non-motorized watercraft like kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. The Chain of Lakes trail boasts easy access to several launch and takeout points and often go through or near a variety of points of interest and amenities like campgrounds, hotels, and places to dine and shop.

Paddle Antrim’s specific water trail encompasses a long list of lakes and waterways through the chain of lakes, and doesn’t leave any out, from Ellsworth’s St. Clair Lake to points south. Included in the trail are the smaller lakes Six Mile, Ellsworth, Wilson, Benway, Hanley, Intermediate, Bellaire, Skegamog, as well as two larger favorites, Elk Lake and Torch Lake. Each offers its own sights and unique ecosystems. 

“There are different things to see on every portion of the water trail,” said Jerdee. “For instance, on Intermediate Lake, there’s a sandbar island where birds nest, and it’s neat because you can often easily see them. The Grass River Natural Area is another highlight, as is Torch Lake, with its striking crystal-clear blue waters. Each waterway has its own ‘personality,’ if you will. And you can even see wildlife like minks, herons, and swans.”

Paddle Antrim, the festival, is a two-day event during which you can choose to paddle one day or both. The route is structured, but you can participate in as much or little of it as you wish. The first day offers a 7-mile route, with the maximum kayak size at 10 feet (only kayaks will be participating in this particular festival). The second day offers a 27-mile route, maximum kayak size 12 feet. Or you can choose to paddle the water trail’s entire 42 miles. “You can do the whole thing, or you can choose ‘exits’ along the way,” Jerdee said. “It’s a non-competitive event, so people can go at their own pace. Last year we welcomed 165 paddlers, and 43 of them did the entire 42 miles.”

Whether you’ve paddled 1 mile or all 42 — or you prefer to gaze upon the lakes from land — everyone’s invited to celebrate the waterways themselves at the Paddle Antrim Festival’s after-bash on Saturday (tickets are $5; food and drinks purchased separately) at Short’s production facility in Elk Rapids. “It’s a great way to spend a September Saturday,” Jerdee said. “We welcome participants, families, friends, and the entire community for beverages by Short’s, Starcut Ciders, and Northwoods Soda, plus food and games.”

Live music by Distant Stars and The Sleeping Gypsies will help make a splash in downtown Elk Rapids, as the festival also will recognize the Hall of Fame paddlers who complete the entire route both days of the festival.

The Paddle Antrim Festival takes place Sept. 15-16. Sign up at if you plan to kayak, or just join the fun at Short’s Brewing Company, 211 Industrial Park in Elk Rapids from 3pm–9pm on Saturday, Sept. 16.
















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