Family-Friendly Water Trails and Paddle Sport Fun in Macomb County

Get expert advice on kayaking or canoeing with kids, where to rent equipment and a list of water trails in Macomb County for you and your family to enjoy.

Are you looking for a fun way to get the kids excited about the great outdoors? Watersports such as kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding are a fun way to get kids to put down the tech and embrace everything that nature has to offer.

This rings especially true of families that utilize the water trails in Macomb County.

“Macomb County is becoming well known regionally for the exceptional water paddle trails both on the Clinton River, Coastal Salt River, Lake St. Clair and Anchor Bay,” says Gerard Santoro, the Program Director of Parks and Natural Resources for Macomb County. “(Through our water trails), kids can experience the outdoors and start to appreciate all of the wildlife that can be found right in their own communities.”

According to Santoro, Macomb County offers water trails for different skill levels, including beginner trails for families and more advanced options for the most seasoned paddlers.

“The stretch in Sterling Heights is a great family friendly location to try it out,” he explains. “Paddling farther upstream, such as from Dequindre Road to Downtown Utica, is technically challenging and should only be done in groups by the highly skilled and when conditions are adequate.”

And because of the area’s robust natural landscapes, you can explore areas that you typically wouldn’t visit while on foot and teach your kids about the birds, animals and plants that live there.

“Paddling the marshlands at Lake St. Clair Metropark is very family friendly and tons of interesting wildlife can be seen such as birds and turtles,” Santoro adds. And “with the newly opened paddle access locations in Brandenburg Park on Anchor Bay, that is another location that is worth venturing out to.”

Tips on kayaking with kids

Of course, kayaking with kids for the first time does take a little prep work. First, you need to get your gear, which includes a life jacket, paddles and some sort of watercraft.

You can purchase kayaks for $200-$1,000 each, but if that’s not in your family’s budget, you can also rent gear from Clinton River Canoe and Kayak Rentals in Sterling Heights.

Simple Adventures, which has locations in Harrison Township, New Baltimore, and Mount Clemens is a great local option.

Beyond that, Amanda Oparka, the Senior Planner in Parks and Natural Resources, suggests that paddlers always check the water levels in their area before heading out as rain or a change in the levels may move trees or debris in your path, making your paddle more difficult.

In addition, she says that paddlers should never paddle alone, should always wear a life jacket and should contact their outfitters to ensure you get an experience appropriate for your experience level.

“Call the outfitters before heading out and let them know what type of experience you are looking for and the ages of those that are paddling,” she explains. “They can make some suggestions based on conditions of the waters and verify the safety of any location before heading out.”

Families who are kayaking in open water such as Lake St. Clair or Anchor Bay may also consider using a sea kayak, which is specifically designed to be used in larger bodies of water.

Find more tips and safety considerations for your first outing in the American Canoe Association’s Beginner’s Guide to Safer Paddling.

Water trails in Macomb County

Think you’re ready for an afternoon out on the water in Macomb County? Here are a few beginner water trails for you and your family to enjoy. The type of paddle indicates if you’re paddling on a lake (coastal) or river.

Brandenburg Park

Enjoy a paddle along the banks of Lake St. Clair.

Budd Park

Start in this Clinton Township park and make your way down to the heavily wooded Shadyside Park in Mount Clemens.

Heritage Park

Paddle the Clinton River from Utica to Sterling Heights to either North Clinton River Park or Rotary Park for a calm day out on the water.

Lake St. Clair Metropark

Take a scenic paddle through Black Creek Marsh to see the wildlife. Daily admission to the Metropark is $10/car.

Walter and Mary Burke Park

Paddle alongside downtown New Baltimore on Lake St. Clair.

Webber Paddle Park

Take a leisurely paddle up and down Salt River. Feeling daring? Head on out into Lake St. Clair.

Once you have selected your water trail, you’ll need to find a paddling launch nearby to put your craft in the water. Here is the complete list of the paddling launches in Macomb County to help you plan your outing.

For more information on living and learning in Macomb County, visit Make Macomb Your Home. Find more articles like this at Metro Parent’s A Family Guide to Macomb County.

Metro Parent Editorial Team
Metro Parent Editorial Team
Since 1986, the Metro Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for metro Detroit families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.


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