When most people think of a trail, they might picture a narrow dirt path through lush summer or autumn woods, a groomed cross-country ski trail through majestic snow-covered pines, or even a paved walking path through their hometowns. But there is another kind of trail becoming increasingly important in the Western U.P.: the “water trail.” A water trail is defined as “a network of launch and landing sites, rest areas and attractions for human-powered water crafts on lakes and rivers.” There are two main types in the region:
- Traditional Water Trails are defined routes along river courses with water volumes and depths sufficient for kayaking, canoeing, or boating. Facilities such as watercraft launches and public campgrounds are identified for utilization during either day trips or long-distance multi-day trips. A great many streams of all types are utilized by watercraft, but water trails have characteristics that make them destinations for recreational travel as opposed to serving mostly as means to take part in a different activity such as fishing.
- The Western U.P. Water Trail skirts the shores of Lake Superior from the western tip of the U.P. to Huron Bay at the eastern Baraga County border. The six segments of this route, which was recently established through a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality grant program, is intended for paddlers such as kayakers. Three routes connected to the Western U.P. Water Trail are the Lake Superior Water Trail along the Wisconsin shoreline east to the Upper Peninsula border, Hiawatha Water Trail along the Central Upper Peninsula shoreline west to the Baraga County border, and Keweenaw Water Trail circling the northern Keweenaw Peninsula. The website for this trail provides maps, information about paddling safety and trip planning, and all the other information an enthusiast needs.
The traditional water trails are inventoried with informational listings on the county trail pages.
A wealth of information about water trails (as well as land-based trails) is available at www.trails.com. Some relevant stream information, particularly identification of difficult-to-navigate segments, can be found at www.americanwhitewater.org.