Canoeing & Kayaking

Canoeing and Kayaking the Manistique River

Paddling the Manistique River is a nice way to spend your day at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. 

The Manistique River winds its way through the southeastern portion of the refuge. A good place to begin your trip is in the small town of Germfask, Michigan. Here you will find outfitters who rent boats and a road side park with access to the Manistique River for those who have their own. This beautiful 13 mile section of the refuge is open to canoeing and kayaking during daylight hours. 

Canoeing and kayaking, also known as paddling, offer visitors an alternate way to see the refuge. Common wildlife sightings on the river include turtles, muskrats, mink, bald eagles and other wildlife in a picturesque setting. Remember to bring a pair of binoculars so you can enjoy the variety of birds that perch in the trees on the river banks. Bring along your fishing pole and see if you can catch northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and brook or brown trout. Stop on a sandbar to look for tracks in the sand and mud. Have lunch on the beach. Or search for evidence of the refuge’s past.

As you float down the river watch the right bank for the three streams that enter the Manistique River – Gray’s Creek, Pine Creek and the Driggs River. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, before the refuge was established, several lumber companies were operating in the area. This time period is known by some as the Great Cutover. The Driggs and Manistique Rivers were used to drive logs. Log driving is a method used to transport logs by floating them downstream to a sawmill. During the height of the logging industry in the area, two dams were built on the Driggs River to hold water until the men were ready to float the logs. When the water was released from the dam it allowed the water to flow with enough force and depth to carry the logs to the Manistique River which was wider and deeper. To ensure the logs would not catch on obstacles and slow or stop the progression, the river was cleared of debris including large rocks and downed trees. On July 25th. 1929, the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune ran the story “The Last Great Log Drive” about the last large scale log drive conducted on the Driggs and Manistique Rivers where over 2,500,000 board feet of lumber was floated to Manistique.

Over 80 years later, if you know what to look for, you can still see evidence of the log drives that occurred on the Driggs River. As logs moved around the outer corners of the bends in the river they dislodged dirt and sediment eroding the river’s banks. Once started it is difficult to stop and so the erosion continues washing sand downstream into the Manistique River. On some of these eroding banks you may notice that several trees have been piled on the side. This is a restoration project. The trees were felled and placed there to help prevent erosion. Although paddling is allowed on the Driggs River we encourage paddlers to limit trips to short paddles upstream. Those considering navigating the entire length of the Driggs River through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge would not be able to complete the task in one day due to numerous snags, shallow water, and limited access by road. Camping is not permitted on the refuge.

The Driggs River enters the Manistique River near the southern end of the refuge. From here it is a short 15 minute paddle to the Mead Creek State Forest Campground. The campground has a parking lot, a boat ramp, camping, and primitive toilets. It is a good place to end your trip. There are few points beyond the Mead Creek Campground to exit the river.

Paddling Tips:

  • Always Wear your Life Jacket – You never know when you may hit a submerged rock or tree and end up capsizing your boat. 
  • Dress in Layers – During the warm summer months a swimsuit may be sufficient. However, weather can change rapidly and having extra layers can add a measure of comfort and safety. If you are paddling on cool spring or fall days you can quickly overheat if you are really bundled up or temperatures can fall leaving you chilled or cold. By dressing in layers you can add or remove items of clothes as you get warm or cool down.
  • Bring Extra Clothes and Blankets – If you are planning to paddle on cool or cold days remember to pack an extra set of clothes and a blanket in a water tight bag just in case you do fall in the water. That way if you do get wet you can change clothes and prevent hypothermia.
  • Watch for Rocks and Tree Limbs and Trunks – These obstacles may be above or below the water line and can quickly flip a canoe or kayak.  
  • Know Your Limits – If you are a novice, practice paddling on a warm summer day. Start out taking short trips. Paddling on a river is much different than paddling on a lake. You may not want your first experience to be on the Seney National Wildlife Refuge where there is a thirteen mile section of river with no easy exit.
  • No Fires – Fires are not allowed on the Seney National Wildlife Refuge .
  • Bring Food and Water – Trips through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge take between 4 and 5 hours. Remember to bring food and water to make your trip more pleasant. Please pack your trash out and help keep the refuge litter free.
  • Put Valuables in Waterproof Bags or Leave Them in Your Car – Many people lose or damage their car keys, cell phones, cameras and other personal items either because they capsize or water gets into the boat. If you bring these items, keep them in a watertight bag that is tied to the boat. That way if you capsize you will retain your items and keep them dry.