Petobego swamp, creek, pond and part time inlet to East Grand Traverse Bay

Where was Shrek when I needed him?

Kayaking Petobego CreekOf the 50 tours that I may recommend in Northern Michigan, a paddle of any sort at Petobego would be 49. Ugh. The good news was that we did not see a soul out there. I had heard about this spot mostly through the kite boarding community, namely Broneah Kiteboarding and the M-22 guys. The conditions there are often idyllic for kiteboarders but were remarkably clumsy and inconvenient for our kayaks and paddleboards. We needed a swamp monster with a very strong back to get done what we had planned.

At 231 Outfitters, I loaded from the rental fleet, two Jackson Riviera Kayaks, one Starboard Sup, two children, Maggie and Finn and one eager cockapoo named Goose into the pickup and headed for Petobego Creek about 3.5 miles South of Elk Rapids on US 31. Our plan was to float a backwater swamp on the East side of 31, paddle West through the culverts, navigate the creek with a few expected portages to the Pond and perhaps enter East Bay through the sometimes open inlet: No Frickin Way! An impossibly boneheaded plan.
However, the float in the swamp was worth the trip. Mother Nature has created a gorgeous labyrinth of canals and small inlets cut into the swamp grasses and cat tails.

The current was adequate and the eerie depth of the water reminded me of a float I once took with son Fisher in the jungles of Nicaragua. Void of pirana and crocodile but aswarm with geese, ducks and turtles, we let little Goose overboard to fruitlessly pursue an unsuspecting couple of mallards. Daughter Maggie unconcerned, reminded us that Ducks mate for life, along with swans, black vultures, bald eagles, wolves and beavers. Good information for a young woman that eventually aspires to be an eco tour guide. She loves the water like no one I have ever known.

Finn & Maggie w PaddleboardIt became clear immediately that the 2.5 mile float on the creek would be unnavigable but there was a footpath that allowed us a pleasant and unexpected Cedar and Birch lined hike. I made the decision to leave the kayaks with the truck and carry the SUP, hopeful that I could find a put in somewhere along the creek but most certainly on the Pond.

Neither of those scenarios happened and my wrists now both suffer. We unleashed the eager Goose and trudged on donning our inadequate flip flops.

The hike allowed us no opportunity to float the paddle board. I carried that stupid thing around the entirety of the pond and never found access until we had arrived at the Bay. By this time, my children were ready to mutiny and my fatigue was beyond recoverable. So we ended this adventure anticlimactically with a little group hug on the beach and a quick whistle to the dog.

Incidentally, I do recommend the paddle portion on SUP’s or kayaks in the swamp and also the hike to the bay from 31. There is parking on the East side of 31 at the culverts and even a little two track to allow for easier vehicle access just above a little dam they built for reasons I can’t imagine. Feel free to call me with any questions and of course we (myself or eco guide partner Tree Sturman) are happy to guide this trip for you if it fits your needs. 231-883-7890.

Also, being nearly starved to death and so close to Elk Rapids, we headed for authentic and fabulous crawfish étouffée and fresh oysters on the halfshell at Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen. Over dinner, my ever optimistic son Finnegan summarized the adventure as “awesome” and reminded Maggie and I that even marginal trips outdoors are way better than the best days indoors.
So, let’s get outdoors and make some memories!

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