Pere Marquette River Canoeing & Kayaking

The Pere Marquette is an extremely popular river for canoeists. The moderately fast current, the clear water, the low degree of stream bank development, have all helped to make this river a mecca for those who canoe or kayak.

The river is two to four feet deep and is divided into three sections:
Section #1: M-37 Bridge to Bowman Bridge
Section #2: Bowman Bridge to Upper Branch Bridge
Section #3: Upper Branch Bridge to Indian Bridge


From Scottville to Ludington
No permit is needed to enter the river...which is open to paddlers from 9am-6pm. We suggest you contact Pere Marquette Expeditions for kayak and canoe rental.

Scottville & Eastward


The Pere Marquette River has daily watercraft limits, and from Memorial Day-Labor Day, you must have a permit to enter the river...which is open to paddlers from 9am-6pm. A daily permit is available by calling the U.S. Forest Service at (231) 745-4631, or at the Baldwin Ranger District Office. Cost is $2.00 per watercraft...and you must obtain the permit for the particular section you wish to paddle. If you allow two weeks time, a permit can be mailed to you before your arrival at the Pere Marquette River. The Forest Service also charges a $5 daily parking fee at their access sites. You may also obtain a $15 weekly or $30 annual fee.

River Run Canoe Livery rents canoes, kayaks (both single and double), rafts, and tubes. They are conveniently located right in Scottville, and they will transport you to and from the Pere Marquette River launch. Dogs and fishing poles welcome!

When you rent a canoe or kayak from Baldwin Canoe Rental, your permit is included with the price of the rental. For more information regarding permits, contact the USDA Forest Service.

Commercial canoe liveries are well established on the mainstream. In Lake and Mason counties there are approximately 730 rental canoes available. Of this figure, approximately 450 were located on or near the immediate area of the Pere Marquette River.


The U.S. Forest Service has estimated that 90 percent of the canoe use in the system occurs from the "Forks" to Upper Branch Bridge with 65 percent of the canoe use occurring from the "Forks" to Bowman's Bridge. Canoeists on the Pere Marquette are further characterized by:

  • Over half of the use is by organized groups who tend to travel in parties.
  • Most of the use occurs on weekends, with Saturday being the most popular single day.
  • Few trips are more than one day, with four to six hours being the most popular canoe length.
  • Most canoeists are inexperienced and many are first-timers.
  • Use is concentrated from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.
  • Use season is from late May to October.

Boating with motors is concentrated from Indian Bridge to the mouth. Such boating is usually concentrated with fishing rather than pleasure boating and most often occurs during the spring and fall and steelhead and salmon runs.

Source: Pere Marquette River Natural River Plan, Michigan DNR (revised 2002)

Discover More Area Lakes and Rivers to Explore via Canoe or Kayak...

Ludington State Park on Hamlin Lake -- Explore Hamlin Lake and surrounding waterways, starting from the State Park canoe and kayak trails.
Hamlin Lake Area Canoeing and Kayaking -- Hamlin Lake offers so many neat areas to explore on a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board, including upper Hamlin Lake and three different bayous.
Explore the Lakes and Rivers of Pentwater -- Paddle the forks, estuary, and the head of Pentwater Lake on a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board.

More Pere Marquette River Info...

For more activities & attractions, check out these additional links for Things to Do in West Michigan:

West Michigan Map
Ludington Activities & Things to Do -- Play on a beautiful beach, take a tour at Historic White Pine Village, or explore the barn quilt trail, murals or sculptures in the county--Ludington offers many fun things to do for the entire family!
Have Fun in Manistee, Michigan -- Explore Manistee's historic downtown district and riverwalk, hike the Manistee National Forest, canoe on the Manistee River, and more.
Hamlin Lake -- Just 4 miles north of Ludington, Hamlin Lake is a great destination for boating, fishing and climbing dunes! The Hamlin Lake shoreline is also part of the Ludington State Park.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes -- Visiting the Silver Lake Sand Dunes makes for a terrific vacation because you can take your off-road vehicle for a spin on the scenic sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan and Silver Lake.
Things to Do in Pentwater, Michigan -- Nothing is quite like the quaint, artsy, harbortown village of Pentwater. Don't miss the popular Charles Mears State Park beach on Pentwater's Lake Michigan shoreline.
Lots of Activities in Scottville, Michigan -- Explore the Riverside Park along the National Scenic Pere Marquette River.
Canoeing or Fishing on the Pere Marquette River -- Many boat liveries offer canoe rentals.
Also, check out West Michigan Guides and our locally produced directory for our largest lists of Things to Do in West Michigan.
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Last Updated: 11-14-2023 02:25 PM ID: 531