Rivers and Paddling in Manistee County

Big Manistee River

Meandering throughout the Manistee National Forest


This river is wide and smooth flowing. Some parts have tighter navigation and fast switchbacks which may take you a little off guard, but this is a great river for the casual paddler. You will also find an abundance of rope swings and great sand bars at which to stop and socialize.

River Difficulty/Paddling Tips

The entire Manistee River located within Manistee County is what we would consider easy to moderate for the paddler.  Like many rivers, the higher up the river you go, the swifter the current and tighter the turns.  This is a great river for the beginner paddler, but be sure to wear your life jacket, portions of this river can be quite deep.

Tubing Tips

Those looking for a lazy float down the river, tube the Hodenpyl Dam to Red Bridge access.  Make sure you leave early in the morning, this can be a long float, but a fun one.  Many places to stop and enjoy company with good friends.  Bear Creek > Rainbow Bend is also a nice float for those looking for a quick afternoon or morning adventure.

Not to Miss

The Manistee River Little Mac suspension bridge is a 245 foot long foot traffic bridge that is really something to see on the Manistee River Trail. Enjoy your view of the Little Mac on the Big Manistee River between Tippy Dam and Hodenpyle Dam.

Float Times

(See map below for location of access points)

– Hodenpyl Dam > Red Bridge :  4.0 hrs
– Red Bridge > Tippy Dam : 3.5 hrs
– Tippy Dam > High Bridge : 2.0 hrs
– High Bridge > Bear Creek : 3.0 hrs
– Bear Creek > Rainbow Bend : 1.5 hrs
– Rainbow Bend > M55 : 4.0 hrs
– M55 > Douglas Park : 1.5 hrs.

Access Points
 (See map below for location of access points)

Major Access Points on the River System: Download map for details.

– Hodenpyl Dam – Map (at the end of Hodenpyl Road)
– Red Bridge – Map
– Tippy Dam – Map (at the end of Dilling Road)
– High Bridge – Map
– Bear Creek – Map (east of Kettner Road on River Road)
– Rainbow Bend – Map (Just off River Road between Milarch and Kettner)
– M55 Bridge (no access only for float times)
– Manistee’s Douglas Park near Lake Michigan – Map

River Access Locations


Rainbow Bend Access

Bear Creek Access

High Bridge Access

Tippy Dam Access

Red Bridge Access

Hodenpyl Dam Access

M-115 Access

Glengary Bridge Access

LIVERY: Wilderness Canoe Rentals/Trips

Harvey Bridge Access

Fire Lane Access

Baxter Bridge Access

US-131 Access

LIVERY: Chippewa Landing Rentals/Trips