Kayakers enjoying their day on Lake Superior. Grand Island is in the background.

Kayaks on Lake Superior

NPS photo / Gregg Bruff

Kayak Safety (pdf)

Lake Superior is unpredictable! Kayakers must be prepared for cold temperatures, high winds, fog, and rough seas that may occur at any time. Be constantly alert to changing conditions and consult the current marine forecast before starting any trip (NOAA 1-906-475-5212 or Marine Band Radio Channel 16).

Within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, put-in points for kayaks are Sand Point, Miners Beach, Twelvemile Beach and Hurricane River. Additional put-in points in the Munising area include Grand Island Landing, Munising City Marina, Munising/Brown's Addition boat ramp, and the Anna River. In Grand Marais, you may launch at the Grand Marais harbor beach and marina.

Be Prepared

The Pictured Rocks extend for 15 miles and include sheer walls all the way to the water line. These exposed cliffs offer no way off the water if wind and waves increase.

Be aware of boat tours that leave Munising on a regular basis during the summer months. They run fairly close to the shoreline with a turnaround point at Chapel Beach or Spray Falls. Give them plenty of room and allow for their wake.

Sea kayaks with a spray skirt are recommended because they are safer on Lake Superior. Recreational kayaks are designed for inland waters and can be dangerous in high winds and big waves such as on Lake Superior. Sea kayaks for single person use are generally 16 to 19 feet long, with hatches and bulkheads providing floatation in the front and back. Recreational kayaks are usually 10 to 14 feet long with a large open cockpit and at most one hatch and bulkhead.

Most storm systems come from the northwest -- you are fully exposed to the winds when paddling on Lake Superior. There are no protected anchorages at any backcountry or front country campgrounds.

Wet or dry suits are recommended due to Lake Superior's cold water. U.S. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) are required for each person.

Hypothermia occurs when your body's core temperature is reduced below normal levels. Cold water conducts heat away from your body 25 times faster than cold air. Uncontrollable shaking, slurred speech, or difficulty moving are all warning signs -- you must be warmed immediately. If submerged in Lake Superior, it is important to conserve body heat to increase your chances for survival. Wear your flotation device, huddle with others or pull legs together and up to your chest to help conserve heat. Do not attempt to swim long distances.

Be prepared with provisions for at least one extra day. In your gear include PFDs, wet suit, spray skirt, whistle/emergency signal device, bilge pump, lighting device, self-contained stove, extra paddle, compass, maps, first aid kit, insect repellent, tow line, rain gear, waterproof matches, and dry storage containers.

Camping and Kayaking
A backcountry camping permit is required for overnight stays at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Reservations are possible, and there is a fee for backcountry camping. Pets are not permitted in the lakeshore's backcountry.

Campgrounds easiest to identify from Lake Superior are Mosquito Beach, Chapel Beach, Beaver Creek, and Sevenmile Creek. Other campgrounds (Coves, Pine Bluff, Benchmark, and Au Sable Point East) have special markers -- white-capped post -- to identify them from the water.

Backcountry campgrounds NOT accessible from Lake Superior are Cliffs, Potato Patch, Coves group site, Trappers Lake, and Masse Homestead.

Front country drive-in campgrounds also accessible by kayak from Lake Superior are Twelvemile Beach and lower Hurricane River. These campgrounds are first-come, first-serve only; no reservations. Specific fees and regulations apply at drive-in campgrounds, and the fee must be paid at the campground.

For more information ...

Kayaking - site bulletin (pdf)
Kayaking Safety - site bulletin (includes float plan) - pdf

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