Days
<1
Motors Allowed?
No
Difficulty
Easy / Class A
Distance
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Summer

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Great views. Bird watching. Easy float.

Cons

Can be crowded.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)

44.032747, -86.493308

Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

44.032747, -86.493308

Water Temperature

72.00 °F (22.22 °C)

Features

Family friendly
Vault toilet
Rental facilities
Historically significant
Wildlife
Waterfalls
Fishing
Picnic tables
Potable water
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Trail type

There-and-back

Access

Hike-in

Typically multi-day

No

Shuttle required

No

Site characteristics: Water

River

Portage required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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