This is one person’s story, but you could have something like this on your wish list. Maybe you should go for it!


Tied up at the Cheboygan River

A bucket list includes what a person wants to do, or “unfinished business”, to be accomplished before…

Mine included traveling, in my own boat, through the inland waterway at the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula. This is a tortuous series of inland lakes and rivers between Lake Michigan on the west and Lake Huron on the east. This waterway was used by Native Americans as a shortcut to avoid the open waters around the top of the peninsula. Traces of Indian habitation can be seen along the route and artifacts dating back thousands of years have been uncovered. In the summer of 2018, I had a small boat suitable for the trip. It was a 22 ft. lobster boat with an outboard motor.

The trip began at 9:00 am with Brian, a longtime friend and expert boater. His presence was company and also help, the kind that any of us might need. We launched the boat in Crooked Lake just a few miles from Lake Michigan. The August morning offered sunny skies a gentle breeze, flat water, and temperature in the 70s with a promise for the low 80s. Higher winds and rain were forecast for later.

Michigan inland waterway

The first lake was shaped like a triangle. We were headed for the northeast corner. Traveling at 14 mph near mid lake we could see onshore an array of cottages mingled with more substantial homes. Crossing the lake in less than an hour we arrived at Crooked River.

The Crooked River is narrow, well-marked, and shallow. We paid close attention to its continuous twists and turns. Traveling east we were technically leaving a body of water, so we kept the rectangular green markers with odd numbers on the right (starboard) and the triangle red even number markers on the boats left (port). On the way we entered a lock that lowered the boat one and a half feet. Shortly after this, we paused for a few minutes for a swing bridge to open. After a little over an hour in the Crooked River, travelling at a “no wake” speed of 5 mph, we entered Burt Lake.

Once on the lake, our GPS indicated that the Indian River connecting Burt Lake to Mullet Lake was five miles southeast at a compass heading of 150 degrees. The sky had become cloudy behind us and along with it came winds gusting to 30 mph out of the west and with this, soaking rain. Rain jackets and the cockpit cover kept us dry. The three- and four-foot following seas made steering a challenge.

By the time we entered the Indian River the rain had passed, and the sun was out. The river was lined with homes, small cottages, fish camps and the occasional restaurant and bait shop. The shoreline was studded with boats tied up singly in front of houses or in small marinas with mostly battered wooden docks in the river which entered Mullet Lake.

After crossing Mullet Lake, we entered the Cheboygan River. The houses here were larger and the river was wider. As we approached the City of Cheboygan the river widened further until we came to the Cheboygan lock. Here the drop was 13.5 ft. This served the dam that made the waterway navigable. One can only guess how often the Native Americans had to portage when making this 40-mile trip.

After a satisfying day we spent the night in Cheboygan Harbor and retraced our steps the next day. Mission accomplished. Now how about what is next on your bucket list?


By Savvy Senior

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