Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lake Michigan Water Trail

canoeists (photo by JHY)

compiled from several sources

The Lake Michigan Water Trail is a vision for a 1600-mile route to re-create the safe, legal and adequate access enjoyed by the first paddlers, the first Europeans and the first Americans, around the entire lakeshore of America’s Greatest Lake.

Of course, one can paddle around the edge of the whole lake even now. People have done it. But finding places to put in, camp, find food and other amenities, without encroaching on private property can be a challenge.

Parts of the trail already exist. Diane Banta, a National Park Service outdoor recreation planner in Chicago, coordinates the four-state NPS effort on Lake Michigan that may result in National Water Trail designation. Several things would need to happen for this to be a possibility. Communities need to participate in the Lake Michigan Water Trail Network, to help provide services for paddlers.

Michigan is slow to get on board with the idea. The short Indiana and Illinois shorelines were the first, and then Wisconsin got enthused about adding their 450 miles of shoreline. But the state of Michigan, with 1000 miles of shore, has a long way to go to create user-friendly stopping points.

The Michigan DNR states that they are now actively working on the issue. This includes a major change in the way State Park reservations will work. Any paddler (or bicyclist) who appears at a state park or state forest campground, even without a reservation, will not be sent packing. This is really good news for people whose only transportation is muscle-powered.

Learn more at Lake Michigan Water Trail Association

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