The beautiful Bear River in Petosky, Michigan is the only class 3 whitewater in the lower peninsula. Although the rapids are short (half mile) they are nonstop fun, dropping 66 fpm, manageable for rookies with a quality PFD and helmet, runnable most of the year, and there is a picturesque multi-use trail (part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, with both paved and dirt options) back to the “put in”, so it can be run as many times as you wish.
It’s situated in the charming harbor town of Petosky, MI, which boasts a gorgeous bay and marina, a 17 mile paved rails to trails path to Charlevoix (another quaint harbor town featuring the famed “mushroom houses” designed by Frank Lloyd Wright). This area is home to countless epic cycling routes including a route to the Mackinac bridge via the “tunnel of trees” along the bluffs of Lake Michigan, rides on the car-free historic Mackinac Island, and around the crystal clear Torch Lake and Lake Charlevoix.
Also a 30 minute drive from some respectable class 2 water on the Sturgeon river.
It’s also a 90 minute drive from the very popular resort town of Traverse City, which also boasts a fine rails to trails bike path network, some nice class 2 rapids on the Boardman River, as well as a booming bicycle wine tour industry, and is the gateway to the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore voted “the most beautiful place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011.
Directions: You may park at the takeout which is just upstream from the dam, along Quaintance Ave in Bear River Park. Or you can park on Porter Street near corner of Curtis Ave. There’s an entrance to Bear River Park at that corner. Walk about 100 yards in the park until you reach the paved North Country Trail. Head to the right on the NCT for about 50 yards and you will see a green sign posting whitewater safety reminders. The sign is next to the put in.
45.367926,-84.963911 put in
45.373317,-84.961049 take out
Video of our Bear River excursion September 2015: