The Ludington State Park Canoe Trail is a unique loop through the marshy coves and ponds along Hamlin Lake’s southwestern shore. Beginning at the boat launch near the Hamlin Lake Swimming area, the canoe trail travels out past the Old Group Campsite, which was built in the 1930s. It then passes Desperation Point. The point is named for the abruptly changing winds, which often oppose returning boaters. It’s also a popular spot for swimming and wading, and it has a shallow sandy bottom just below a sand dune. A few hundred yards beyond Desperation Point, the bottom of the lake transitions to mud. Several marshy areas with downed trees and tiny islands of vegetation provide great birding opportunities. Kingfishers, great blue herons, and bald eagles can all be seen in these areas.
Each bay is marked with a yellow canoe trail sign that corresponds to maps published and distributed by the state park. The second bay extends deep into the shoreline. A yellow canoe trail sign is partially obscured by the reeds, but it marks the small stream leading into a secondary pond. Lily pads grow in thick mats, but paddlers can find their way to a short dock and a very brief portage to John’s Pond.
Another very brief portage leads to welcome respite from thick aquatic vegetation on an unnamed pond. The clear water and secluded nature of the pond make it a highlight along the route.
Another even shorter portage at the south end of the unnamed pond leads to the Carp Ponds. The lily’s return here, and spring visitors may see swarms of breeding carp. The route returns to the main lake through these ponds and may require another very brief portage. The outlet of the Carp Ponds is located at about the halfway point of the canoe route. While some may choose to cut the trip short and turn north along Lake Hamlin, those wishing to continue will turn south and enter the next bay they find.
The canoe route continues through thick reeds, reaching a final portage. The trail weaves through a final bay with thick vegetation and passes a few private residences. Once out on the lake, paddlers will return north toward Desperation Point and the swimming area at Ludington State Park.