Kayaking the Fall Salmon Run on the Platte

The Platte River is one of my favorite places up here to kayak. The water is beautiful, and the surroundings are perfectly soothing. We put in at the national park area right off of M-22, near Riverside Canoe Trips. If you take the road directly to the mouth of river, it’s about 2.25 miles, but the Platte winds and bends a fair amount, so I’m sure it’s a bit more. I hadn’t paddled those waters since April, when my sister visited, but for the rest of my companions it had been since last August. Because the water is so clear and calm, it is also a favorite place for tourists, so we leave them to it in the summer and enjoy it virtually on our own during the off-season.

The journey

We began our trip yesterday at about 3:30pm. With the day’s high temperature in the low 60’s (~16C), it was a bit chilly in the shade, but for the most part we were able to stay in the sun if we angled our boats right. For the first part of our trip, the five of us were alone with the water plinking from our paddles and the wind riffling the leaves.

Jess and Jackson crossing under a pine


Love those white trunks!


Hello, world!


Coming up on Loon Lake

As we rounded the bend into Loon Lake, we joined a couple of folks in small fishing boats. We quietly waved our hullos, no one wanting to break the sacred silence, and paddled on.

If a gull can stand in it, we can’t kayak over it – around and into the lake!


On the cusp of river and lake


Me, crossing Loon

Whereas much of the river before Loon Lake run through forest, wetlands border the river on the far side of the lake. Tall grasses grow right up to the river’s edge, blurring the distinction between land and water. We often see herons plodding along in these grasses, but not yesterday.

A “blind” shot of the river-bottom weeds, which absolutely make my heart sing


Wetland grasses and river grasses

What we did see, though, were lots of salmon. Which is just what we expected, because this is the time of year when the salmon race upstream to make babies and die. I sure took the poetry right out of the circle of life there, didn’t I? The drive to mate in that way must be incredibly strong. About halfway down the river (from our put-in) is a fish weir, and the salmon are literally piled on top of one another, fighting – futilely since they are blocked by the weir – to continue against the current.

All those dark spots are salmon – and none small


Not a great shot, I know, but Tony would not swim out there. I kid, I kid. He bravely waded out and took about 20 blind shots, but that water was cold. The salmon were kicking up all kinds of “dust” dropping visibility, but the dark “shadow” to the right is actually just loads of fish


A personal favorite. Cliftons in the weeds behind fly fishermen


Fly fishermen – note the orange line


Caught salmon jumping – note the same orange line πŸ™‚

Things calmed back down after wending our way through the gauntlet of fly fishermen who set up shop just downstream from the weir. Following the river’s capricious path, we passed back into forests, out again, and back into wetlands. Nearing the mouth of the river, we spotted a couple deer. A perhaps otherwise uneventful sighting made special from our river-level vantage.



Let sleeping ducks lie?




The Clifton trio headed back to Traverse City, probably stopping for a photo-op or two on their way, but Tony and I lingered for a spell at Lake Michigan. Leaving about half an hour before sunset, we admired the fall colors in the pink September light.


The last bend in the river. Lake Michigan beyond

As we crested the last ridge before winding down into TC, the moon smiled broadly at us, just rising over the west arm of the Grand Traverse Bay – one last beautiful gift before the dark chill of night.

TC in the last rosy rays of the day


All the photos from this post were taken with our “tough” camera, which is designed to withstand the cold, moderate drops, and up to 40-ft depths in the water. Picture quality isn’t as good as I’m used to, but I could plunge it directly into the water and then turn right around and snap more above water photos without changing a thing. Plus, no worries about damaging my good gear πŸ™‚

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15 thoughts on “Kayaking the Fall Salmon Run on the Platte

    • Thank you Ashli (is this right?) – for stopping by and for the compliment! We moved here a couple years ago because we love it so much, and are still blown away by the beauty to be found in so many forms, and so accessibly. The fall color has really picked up, so if you’re anywhere near, this is definitely the time to come πŸ™‚ If not, you can live vicariously here: I took loads of “fall color” pictures today, and then – super awesome bonus – got some decent shots of aurora tonight! Will share soon.

      • Pennsylvania is finally starting to become colorful and fall is almost in full swing (all of these fall photos are getting me excited to get my camera outside!) But oh a road trip might need to happen in the future sometime soon! Thanks so much for sharing and look forward to the aurora photos! That is definitely something we don’t have here!

        • We seem to be a little early on the color, but I’m okay with it πŸ˜‰ I seem to be excited for each season before it fully arrives, so this suits me. Plus, now I know I won’t miss the color show while we’re Away in the near future. Do you have hills/mountains near you in Pennsylvania? I moved here from the north Georgia mountains, and while I would absolutely not trade back, I do love a good Appalachian (or any mountain!) view.

          • We do have mountains here! The Appalachian trail is actually only about a half hour from where I am living right now, we’ve been hiking a few times on it! I will have to go up there and get some photos this fall!

  1. I hope you are not disappointed, but I think someone did an incredible job with the tough camera. Absolutely beautiful pictures..and I must agree with Jess’s comment! lol

    • Definitely not disappointed! I did not expect that the camera would take the same kind of pictures. I love that I can still take nice pictures – including fairly deep underwater – and not worry about damaging the camera. And you would agree with Jess. My sense of humor came from somewhere πŸ˜‰

  2. Oh lovely~~oh fun! What a wonderful kayak trip! I can imagine how darn cold that water was. But I am specially loving that you captured the moon so beautifully. And that your heart sang with the underwater world.

    • Kathy, you will LOVE kayaking. I can’t wait to hear of your adventures! And I can only imagine how cold that water was – I was not brave enough to venture out πŸ˜‰

  3. Loved this post because of “Loon Lake.” My Aunt Belle had a house on Loon Lake and I spent my vacations as a child on that lake. My Dad and Uncle Dick loved the bass fishing. I loved the swimming off the dock. This brought so many happy memories. Thanks Heather.

      • Grandpa spent his summers at his Great Uncle Park’s cabin on the AuSable in Grayling. He was from WV, I was from Ohio, but we spent our summers as children just 30 or so miles apart. My mother was from Michigan and I still have some relatives there in southern Michigan. I lived in Battle Creek the first 3 years of my life. Of course, we camped with our kids for about 30 years in the Grayling/Baldwin area. I hope we get back. We have 2 kayaks, and as soon as we sell our Ohio properties, we want to get back to Michigan!

        • Tony and I have stopped by that Manistee River campground on numerous occasions, and have been through some of the other place you went with children/grandchildren. We love the rivers up here, but find the lakes even more appealing. Thanks to you taking your kids, and by proxy THEIR kids to Michigan, Tony and I live here now. He had talked often about how much river access there was, and so we took a road trip up from Georgia. Two years later and we moved. We’d love to join you on some kayaking adventures, so good luck selling!

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