State officials have named eight navigable waterways as the first state-designated water trails in Michigan.
The water trails total about 540 miles and flow through more than a dozen counties in the Lower Peninsula, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. They are intended for paddleboarders and boaters on lakes, rivers, canals and bays.
"It's a really exciting part of the state trail program because now we can open up these water corridors to trail users just like with our land based trails," said Bob Wilson, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, a statewide advocacy group for non-motorized trail users.
Wilson said that creating a water trail system is about increasing outdoor recreational opportunities and boosting tourism and local economic development.
"It's also a way for us to open up the inland waters to actually learn about the history of those areas, to learn about water quality, to learn about natural resources," said Wilson.
"To be a water trail, it's got to be accessible to the general public. It's got to be safe. There's got to be some significant signage along the water trail so people know where they are," said Wilson. "And it's got to be endorsed by a local paddle club or a local unit of government."
Wilson said water trails will also be classified by the skill level needed to navigate them.
"For the most part, the eight water trails announced last week are really set up for non-motorized users, a person who canoes, who kayaks, a person who is into paddleboard activities," said Wilson. "So really, the focus is on non-motorized use. But some of the water trails are going to be appropriate for motorized use as well."
The eight inaugural water trails include:
- Central River Raisin Water Trail, 11 miles in Monroe County.
- Chain of Lakes Water Trail, more than 80 miles in Antrim and Kalkaska counties.
- Huron River Water Trail, 104 miles in Livingston, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
- Island Loop Route, 10 miles in St. Clair County.
- Flint River Trail, 72 miles in Genesee and Lapeer counties.
- Middle Grand River Water Trail, 87 miles in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Ionia counties.
- Shiawassee River Trail, 88 miles in Genesee, Oakland, Saginaw and Shiawassee counties.
- Upper Grand River Water Trail, 91 miles in Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties.
They can found on this DNR map.
The DNR and the Office of the Great Lakes worked jointly to finalize this inaugural round of water trail designations.
Local water trail organizations with established water trail plans were invited to submit applications for the designation.