Platte River Picnic Area Water Access

Standing along a path along a green river, a wooden sign leads to the river and the access
This way to the boat ramp.

NPS photo

Quick Facts

Canoe/Kayak/Small Boat Launch, Wheelchair Accessible

It's easy to get to the river at the Platte River Picnic Area: stairs and an inclined ramp lead you down to the water. Listen to the water lapping the shore and watch the ducks as you stroll along the scenic, hardened-surface river walk. You can launch your float down the Platte River from the carry-in access point adjacent to the river walk, or fish from one of the decks over the river's edge, or just sit on a bench and take it all in.

Above the river, the Platte River Picnic Area is equipped with accessible parking, restrooms, picnic shelters, and raised grills.

Paddling the Platte

Cooling off with a relaxing float on a tube or raft down the Platte River on a hot summer day is one of the most popular recreational activities in the Lakeshore to beat the heat of summer. The river is shallow and clear, and while it moves along at a good pace, there are no rapids to contend with. You will see a multitude of different wildflowers and birds on your trip, so pay careful attention to the shoreline.

Your float may end where the Platte empties into the Lake Michigan and forms a delightful sandy spit full of frolicking children and beachgoers wading across the river. Outstanding views of Platte Bay and massive Empire Bluffs and Sleeping Bear Dunes in the distance reward those who drift all the way to Lake Michigan. It's a wonderful place to take a quick dip if it's a hot day.

You can either bring your own tube, raft, air mattress, etc. or you can rent them from local outfitters. If you need to rent during the height of the summer season, you will want to plan ahead and get reservations.

From the Platte River Picnic Area water access, you can float a **one-hour loop** to just above Loon Lake and then carry your tube for a 10-minute walk back to your car.

If you want the full paddling experience, a 2-and a half-hour plus float will take you all the way from the picnic area water access to Lake Michigan. Put in along the ramp and drift down the pristine river, through Loon Lake (you'll have to paddle across the lake), past the fish weir and El Dorado, through beautiful sand dunes, all the way to the mouth of the Platte River. You will need to shuttle your car to the parking lot at Platte Point at the end of Lake Michigan Road.

You can also put in at the fish weir just below Loon Lake for a 2-hour float to the mouth of the Platte. In this case, you will have to carry your tube about 1/4 mile from the road to the river along a gravel road to the fish weir and shuttle your car to the parking lot at Platte Point at the end of Lake Michigan Road.

Offering a nice, easy, 1-mile float to Lake Michigan, a parking lot, and toilet, El Dorado is another popular put-in for tubers. You will have to shuttle your car to the parking lot at Platte Point at the end of Lake Michigan Road.

During the height of summer, the river is busy. And from late June through August, it can be like ‘bumper boats' with all the kayaks, canoes, and tubes going down the lazy river. Pick a warm day in early summer or September, and you'll have it pretty much to yourself. Fall floats on the river can be quite scenic and a great time to see a lot of fish!

Platte River Fishing Weir

Floating down the gentle flowing Platte you will pass through the State of Michigan's fish weir: an obstruction in the river with gates that can be raised and lowered to stop the migrating salmon from going up stream in the fall. The weir is in operation from the middle of August until October. When the salmon are running, the DNR uses the weir to harvest the fish, and their eggs are used at their hatcheries. During these months, you must portage around the weir. The best times to see returning adult salmon in the Platte River are from mid September to late October at the lower weir.

Paddle Safe

Before going out for a paddle, check the weather. Have a boating plan and make sure others know it. Always wear safety gear, including personal flotation devices. Buddy up, don't go out alone. Check your boat and make sure it is safe for conditions. And always keep the shoreline in sight.

Clean Your Boats
Please clean, drain, and dry your boat after you leave any body of water, especially Lake Michigan, to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. This is especially important for our inland lakes.

For more information on aquatic invasive species and their impacts to lakes, streams, and how we recreate please visit the following websites:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Last updated: November 7, 2021