With open water year-round on the Big Manistee River in Manistee County, winter paddling adventure abounds from all access points. For those even with a little bit of paddling experience, don’t let the colder temperatures keep you away from paddling in the winter months. You won’t regret a moment of your trip down the scenic rivers blanketed in the sparkle of winter.

Your Winter Adventures. #MyManistee


This easy, two page guide will guide you along two great routes along the Big Manistee River!


difficulty dial with 3.5 hour time indication and 3 out of 5 difficulty

High Bridge down to Bear Creek (3 hour float): Ideal for those who are looking for a half-day trip. The vehicle staging is very easy along River Road and High Bridge, and the river is wide and smooth flowing in this section. If you want a longer paddle, you can also easily tack on the 1.5 hour extension down to Rainbow Bend. The Bear Creek to Rainbow Bend float can also be nice if you really have just a couple hours.



difficulty dial with 4 hour time indication and 4 out of 5 difficulty

Little Mac Suspension Bridge/ Hodenpyl Dam down to Red Bridge (4 hour float): This is a perfect spot to explore in the winter months if you have an entire day to dedicate to the river. Starting up at Hodenpyl Dam, you will float down past the Little Mac Suspension Bridge and along the bends of the Big Manistee River. The high banks on this river also make the float a little easier, keeping much of the wind whipping the tree tops high above you. This portion of the river is in the heart of the Manistee National Forest, so your view will be of the pure winter landscape, complete with plenty of wildlife.



for the winter paddling adventurers

1) Be careful of thin ice gathering on the inside banks of the river bends (aka: switchbacks). The slower moving water will freeze and cause a thin sheet of ice that can tip your watercraft if you run alongside it.

2) Take two dry bags with a full change of clothing. Getting and staying wet is just not an option during these cold weather months.

3) A heavy wool blanket in the bottom of your watercraft, even if it is insulated, will be a blessing, as the winter water is REALLY cold.

4) Waterproof gloves to the middle of your arm are a necessity, (similar to a heavy snowboarding or skiing glove) as you cannot avoid your hands getting wet with constant contact with your paddle (this is especially true for kayak paddles).