The approximately 42 miles of the Inland Waterway is a boating experience you will not forget. The trip will take you through three rivers and three lakes with the beautiful northern Michigan scenery you would expect. Plenty of communities are along the waterway and offer dining, lodging, marinas, activities and more.
Let’s start our trip right at the mouth of the Cheboygan River at Lake Huron and head west. Cheboygan offers lodging, dining, and shopping along the river. You can also explore the town; most options are within a block of the river.
One of the fun highlights of the your trip will be passing through the Cheboygan River Locks located near the center of town.
The first lake you will enter from the Cheboygan River is Mullet Lake. The lake is 17,000 acres and 120 feet at its deepest. In the waters you will find plenty of trout, smelt, pike, musky, perch, walleye, bass, and lake sturgeon.
The communities of Aloha and Topinabee are on the lake and offer dock space for dining and shopping in these communities. Aloha State Park sits on the shore of Mullett Lake which is the central point for the Inland Lakes Waterway.
You also want to make sure you do not miss “Music at the Mouth” where bands play live music on a floating stage during the summer on Saturdays. It is located at the sandbar near the mouth of the Cheboygan and Mullet Lake.
Leaving Mullett Lake you will travel down Indian River to the village of Indian River. You will be taken through the heart of the community with dockage available to stop and explore the town. You will find plenty of dining, shopping, and lodging just off the river. A wonderful place to take a break and relax for the night.
Indian River is also home to the Cross in the Woods, a seven-ton depiction of Jesus. Sculpted by Marshall Fredericks and cost of bronze in Norway. The crucifix is 55 feet tall and carved from a California redwood. on one of the world’s largest crucifixes.
As you cruise down Indian River it will open up into Burt Lake. Burt Lake is over 17,000 acres and 73 feet at its deepest. At the mouth of the Indian River make sure to visit Veteran’s Pier and DeVoe Beach. DeVoe has a beautiful pier that is wheelchair accessible. You will find plenty of dining, lodging, and shopping options on Burt Lake.
Burt Lake State Park with 2,000 feet of sandy pet friendly shoreline is on the southeast corner of the lake and open year-round. The park is about 400 acres with over 300 modern campsites, boat launch and hiking trails.
Across Burt Lake is the entrance to the Crooked River. You will find a lot of interesting turns and unspoiled beauty as you meander through. The river is the subject of Sufjan Stevens instrumental song “Alanson, Crooked River” from his 2003 album titled Michigan.
Alanson sits along the shore of the Crooked River where you will find Alanson Village Park with docks and picnic area. This is also your access to downtown Alanson with lodging, restaurants, trails and more. Make sure to visit the Inland Waterway Museum.
As you are leaving Alanson you will have to pass through the Crooked River Lock before you can cruise into Crooked Lake.
Once on Crooked Lake you can take the ½ mile Black Hole Channel that connects to Pickerel Lake. Crooked Lake also connects to Round Lake via Round Lake Creek. This creek is not very navigable and can dry up in the summer.
If you would like a shorter trip, there are multiple boat launches along the route. No matter where you start and how far you go, the Inland Waterway is a trip you will always remember!
Visit Northern Michigan History to discover the history of the Inland Waterway.
If you would like explore the Inland Waterway but do not have a boat, there are many watercraft rentals in the area. Below are a few that provide rentals on the Inland Waterway.