Paddling the Huron River Water Trail



Oakland County has over 1,400 natural lakes, and headwaters of five major rivers: the Clinton, Flint, Huron, Rouge and Shiawassee Rivers. This is the story of a very small section of the 104 mile Huron River Water Trail, a beautiful river that rises from the Huron Swamp at Indian Springs Metropark. It then flows southwest through Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area, downtown Milford and Kensington Metropark before entering Livingston County and the Island Lake State Recreation Area. The river’s journey ends at Lake Erie.


People with paddles know no borders, so perhaps it’s time to pick up a paddle and sample four miles of the Huron River Water Trail: the Pontiac Lake section that meanders gently along with an unforgettable view of the wilder side of Oakland County to Central Park in downtown Milford. From the park, it’s just a five-minute walk to casual restaurants, outdoor cafés and ice cream shops. The current is gentle, there are no waterfalls in this section, and it’s easy to paddle back to the launch site. Don’t forget your headlamp if your cruise will take you past dusk!


Experienced paddlers do not need a guide for this Oakland County section, but for those that want to give it try the easy way, or paddle with a group, consider Heavner Canoe and Kayak Rental located within Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area as the outfitter and organizer. FYI: A state park permit is required and can be purchased at the Heavner launch site.


Heavner’s website explains their trips to Milford this way, “This popular event is great for the experienced paddler as well as the novice. Come to Proud Lake and paddle a kayak or canoe into the setting sun. Walk into Milford for dinner or desert before returning to the canoe rental, where a bonfire will be awaiting you. No partner necessary, all skill levels welcome.” Their detailed website lists numerous upcoming moonlight paddles and special paddle events including paddling to summer concerts in the park.

Paddling the Huron is perfect for viewing shoreline wildflowers and wildlife. Sandhill Cranes, Great Egrets, and Great Blue Herons are common. Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks soar overhead, and as night falls, moon shadows seem to dance and the riverside takes on the special beauty of the wilder, more secretive side of Oakland County.

Last year Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell designated the Huron River Water Trail as the 18th trail of the National Water Trails System. The Huron River Water Trail joined a network of national exemplary water trails from Puget Sound to the Hudson River. The National Water Trails System is an inter-agency collaborative effort administrated by the National Park Service. In the press release issued by the National Parks Service, Secretary Jewell recognized the achievements of local, state, and federal partners in the ever-growing water trail community that includes Oakland County. “Expanding water trails nationwide improves the environment and adds value to local economies”, said Secretary Jewell. “The National Water Trail System helps people discover the natural beauty and history of local places and provides fun opportunities for families to explore the world around them.”

Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

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