Thereís Nothing You Canít Find In Algonac
Published: Sunday, September 1, 2019
The city of Algonac and surrounding Clay Township are located 40 miles northeast of Detroit and 20 miles south of Port Huron. Both are located along the banks of the St. Clair River, which has a four mile per hour current, a depth of forty to fifty feet in most places, and in some locations a depth close to ninety feet. Established in the early 1800s, the area has a history that includes Gar Wood and boat racing, Chris Craft, the Detroit United Railway, world-class fishing, hunting, muskrats, salt mining, sand boats and ship building, just to name a few.
The Algonac Harbour Club is one of the largest deep-water marinas on the Great Lakes offering transient docking. The Club hosts events throughout the season, including family movie nights, Seafood Fest, and the Red-Hot Chili Cook Off. Once home of the original Chris-Craft factory, the marina showcases unique Chris-Craft wood boats at the Annual Antique Classic Boat Show held each June. Boat lovers enjoy three days of classic boats and classic boating in the historic waters of the St. Clair River. The on-site restaurant, Port-O-Call, is open to the public, and serves up live music and a fabulous tiki bar.
Get an up-close look at local maritime history with a visit to the Algonac-Clay Maritime Museum. It was Chris Smith and Gar Wood who came together to make Algonac known as the Boat Racing Capital of the world from the 1920s through the 1940s. More than 10,000 unique items are on display, including an ice boat built by Chris Smith, a 1949 Chris-Craft runabout, many motors and models, and a kit boat made by the Algonac High School Shop class. There is also a Visitor Center and Gift Shoppe.
The Algonac Riverfront Park features a boat launch and an 1,800-foot boardwalk along the St. Clair River. Fish off the boardwalk or relax in one of the colorful Adirondack chairs and enjoy the parade of lake freighters, tugs, Coast Guard boats, and pleasure craft that travel the St. Clair River daily. Get a sneak peek at the action by viewing the 24/7 StreamTimeLive Ship Camera and participate in the moderated live chats about boats and the local area.
The Riverfront Park hosts numerous summertime events, including a Beer, Wine & Cocktail Festival in June and the July 4th Lions Pickerel Tournament, which includes a carnival, car show, fishing tournament, and spectacular fireworks over the St. Clair River. August brings Bourbon, Brews & BBQ, an evening event featuring a wide assortment of craft brews, mouthwatering BBQ, quality bourbon, and live country music! The Algonac Art Fair is held annually on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, with 2019 marking the 47th year. This intimate juried fair features over 100 artists and craftsmen. Enjoy live music, the children’s creation station, face painting, Rosco the Clown, student art fair, and the Saturday Rumble on the River Car Show. Proceeds from the fair support local scholarships, events, and charities. Free shuttle service is available.
September brings the North Channel Sturgeon Festival, Michigan’s most unique catch and release sturgeon tournament. Fishing boundaries are from the Russell Island Ferry down to the westernmost no-wake buoy beyond Decker’s Landing. In addition to the tournament, there is live music, food, kid’s activities, a pancake breakfast, and more at the Clay Township Park! The St. Clair River attracts so many lake sturgeon fishermen that it was designated by the state of Michigan as the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan!
Want to enjoy an exciting kayak paddle in the aqua waters of the St. Clair River? St. Clair County, which shares an international border with Canada, has over 50 public water access points and a collection of 17 mapped water trails. Kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals are available at liveries on the island and surrounding areas. Check out the Krispin Blueway water trail by accessing Harsens Island by vehicle via the Champion Auto Ferry, or launch your kayak at the MDNR Boat Launch and cross the North Channel to find the opening to the Krispin Blueway across from the Algonac Harbour Club.
Take the water trail down to the Harsens Island Schoolhouse Grille for lunch. A local favorite, with a carefully selected wine list, seasonal menu changes, locally sourced foods with vegan and vegetarian options, you can enjoy a cozy and relaxed meal. At the end of each July, the Schoolhouse Grille hosts the annual Roots Music Festival, celebrating rock, reggae, folk, and bluegrass.
After lunch, continue your paddle journey down to Muscamoot Bay, which annually hosts the World’s Longest Raft-Off on the second Saturday of August. Over 60,000 people attend, with boats lining up side by side and tying off together, forming a walkable (or floatable!) corridor over three miles long in shallow water.
Harsens Island, which is only accessible by ferry or watercraft, is located within one of the world's largest freshwater deltas in North America. Transient boat wells are available at Sunset Harbor, Tashmoo Marinas, and the South Channel Yacht Club. Check out the all-you-can-eat perch at the San Souci Bar while you watch the freighters pass by. Visit the St. Clair Flats Wildlife Area, a bayside natural area offering 25,555 acres of land for bird watching and hunting. See tundra swans, northern harriers, bald eagles, short eared owls, and more! The SCFWA has been a managed wetland area for almost fifty years and is also widely known for its outstanding waterfowl hunting opportunities.
By boat or car, don’t forget to visit Brown’s Bar & Restaurant on Harsens Island off the Middle Channel. A local landmark since 1946, there are plenty of boat docks of all sizes and live entertainment on weekends.
St. John’s Marsh is a 3,000-acre wildlife sanctuary fronting on Bouvier Bay, with parking located at the M-29 Bridge and Beaubien Creek. Launch your jet-ski and head out to the river, paddle the marsh water trails, fish year-round, or try and identify some of the 160 different kinds of plants that grow there. Hunting is also popular, with wood duck hunting likely the most popular waterfowl hunt.
What about bike riding? Slow rolling community bike rides are held the last Wednesday of the month, May through October. The rides are free and open to all ages. These leisurely rides take bicyclists through a different neighborhood each month and have fun themes like Ride, White & Blue, Glow Your Roll, and Island Adventure. For more information, visit facebook.com/slowrollinginalgonacclaytwp. June also brings the popular Blue Water Ramble, a tour with 27, 46, 63, and 100-mile route options available. All routes will take a ferry to Harsens Island, where riders will experience low traffic and breathtaking views. Perfect for all levels of riders.
Photo credit: Kaptured Moments by Kara
This article first appeared in the Fall Issue (Sep/Oct) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.