Grab your paddle and explore the Keweenaw from a different angle!
The Keweenaw Water Trail is a designated route established in 1995 for paddlers of sea kayaks and canoes. Nicknamed “A Superior Sports Port” by National Geographic Adventure Magazine, the Water Trail exemplifies the Keweenaw Peninsula in the most literal sense.
The Keweenaw offers a rugged coastline that competes with that of the legendary Isle Royale, only without the ferryboat ride. It highlights a mixture of uninhabited wilderness areas, intermittent parks and nature preserves and sheltered harbors that offer the weary paddler the option for a hot meal, a hot shower or lodging at a comfy inn. The Keweenaw Water Trail is unique because it allows the ability to paddle a loop and return to your point of origin without having to backtrack. There is no need for two vehicles or shuttles for those paddling the entire route. The Keweenaw paddler can be totally self-sufficient. The entire route can be covered by the average paddler in 6 to 8 days, but you should allow a few extra days in your itinerary to compensate for being wind-bound. Gradually becoming more discovered, the Keweenaw Water Trail likely soon will be Michigan’s top paddling destination. In addition to doing the entire circumnavigation of the “Copper Island”, it provides plenty of opportunity for shorter overnights or day trips without compromising either scenery or safety.
The many moods of Lake Superior can change in short order. Although the Keweenaw receives a strong signal from NOAA weather radio at 162.4 Mhz – channel 2, paddlers need to be aware of strong winds that can arise with no forewarning. Additionally, quick moving thunderstorms can combine with heavy rain, lightning and/or high winds producing quick-brewed waves. Paddlers should be familiar with potential landing sites along the route as steep, rocky shorelines or cliffs and private property issues can be encountered. Cold water temperatures cool the air in the summer and a 10-degree temperature difference from the inland temperature and should be expected. Hypothermia and cold water immersion is the number one hazard for paddlers on Lake Superior. Water temperatures even during a hot day in August average only in the low to mid 50’s and the Lake is colder than that during most paddling season. The cold water creates even more of a need to wear a life vest (PFD) as the frigid water can quickly deplete motor skills if immersed in the event of a capsize. Most paddlers wear wetsuits for added protection.
Paddlers should be competent with their rescue skills, familiar with the use of safety and signaling devices and know their abilities and limitations before venturing out of protected areas. Much of the Keweenaw’s shoreline not owned by the State is either in private conservancy land or is registered as Commercial Forest Reserve (CFR) land. This land is valuable to the owners and their generosity should not be infringed upon by the negligent use of the land. The Horseshoe Harbor Nature Conservancy Preserve is designated as day use only. Most other areas that are not posted are open to “Leave No Trace” primitive camping. “Leave No Trace” consists of these seven basic principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly. Pack out what you pack in. Bury human waste at least 100’ from any water source.
- Leave what you find….take only pictures, leave only footprints.
- Minimize impacts of campfires.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
The practice of these principles in the Keweenaw are important to help to ensure that the land stays in its present status and contributes to the maintenance of a healthy Eco-system. Private land is encountered all along the peninsula. Please respect private ownership by not camping without direct permission from the owner and by obeying sign postings.
It is recommended that paddlers obtain the official Keweenaw Water Trail Map and camp only at areas that are indicated. Water-proof/tear-proof KWT maps are available by mail for $8.00, from the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau, 56638 Calumet Avenue, Calumet, MI 49913.