The Big Sable River flows from Hamlin Lake to Lake Michigan in a 1-mile stretch of slowly moving water that is popular with paddlers and floaters visiting Ludington State Park. Most paddlers opt to put in just below the dam at the Hamlin Lake Boat Launch, paddle to the mouth of the river where it meets Lake Michigan, and return along the same route for a 2-mile out-and-back trip. It is also possible to set a shuttle, parking a second car near the entrance of Ludington State Park. Trails parallel the river on both sides, with several stairways and docks leading directly into the water. Despite the popularity of this scenic float, the river supports an abundance of wildlife ranging from great blue herons, beaver, mink, and coho salmon.
From the parking area, follow the paved path to a sandy beach just below the dam on Hamlin Lake. The first dam on Hamlin Lake was built in 1856 when lumber tycoon Charles Mears set his sites on the region for a new shingle mill. He redirected the river to its current course, straightening the channel to more easily accommodate shipping docks and log drives. Many of the moorings from the docks are still visible along the river.
A wooden walkway crosses the river about half a mile from the dam. Below here the river widens into a marshy area on the southeast side that is great for bird watching. At the mouth of the river, a sandy beach creates a small cove. This is a great spot to take a dip before starting the easy paddle back to the dam.