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Marine News from the Great Lakes

Your Inland Waterway Exploration Begins In Cheboygan

Published: Sunday, March 1, 2020
By: Polly Schneider


Conveniently located in the heart of the Straits of Mackinac, Cheboygan is the gateway to the famous 40-mile-long Inland Waterway, and proud home of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to our crystal clear waters for pleasure boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and everything in between.

Cheboygan is Up North the way you remember it! Easy access from the Cheboygan River to unique dining, shops, and our award winning Cheboygan Brewing Company allows day trippers and transient boaters a variety of choices. Boasting four marinas within the first mile of the Cheboygan River from the Straits of Mackinac, we can accommodate boats of all sizes.

Our slice of paradise is the perfect home base for boaters looking to explore the northern waters of the North Channel and Lake Superior. We are 22 nautical miles from Mackinac Island, 39 from Drummond Island, 60 from the North Channel, and 80 nautical miles from the Soo Locks. Many boaters who stop by Cheboygan for fuel or repair fall in love with our small town charm and return time after time.

Explore the Inland Waterway

If the big waters of the Great Lakes aren’t your first choice, we have plenty of inland water to explore. The unique Inland Waterway connects some of the most pristine waters in Michigan through its 40 mile route, including two locks. In Cheboygan, which is the gateway to the Inland Waterway, the Cheboygan River lock can accommodate boats up to 60 ft. long with beams up to 17 ft.

Along the upper section of the Cheboygan River, you will find riverside lodging options with available dockage, and access to convenience stores for everything from ice to steak. Don’t forget to have dinner at the most iconic restaurant in Michigan—The Hack-ma-tack Inn! This historic inn offers riverside docking for visitors arriving by water.

On Saturday afternoons in the summer, where the Cheboygan River and Mullett Lake converge, Mullett Lake Marina hosts “Music on Mullett”, a concert series where the entertainment plays at the mouth of the river on a barge. Boaters gather for great music, dancing, and to enjoy the warm water and sunshine the Up North way!

Continue on your journey into the Indian River, where, once again, you’ll find riverside docking for easy access to lodging, restaurants, and shopping in the quaint village of Indian River. Midway along the Inland Waterway is Burt Lake, 17,000 acres of water and shoreline perfect for picnics, swimming, tubing, and fishing to break up your journey.

Once you’ve crossed beautiful Burt Lake, you will enter the Crooked River. This meandering river is perhaps one of the most beautiful sections of the Inland Waterway, and once again you will find riverside docking and lodging. The Crooked River lock is the second lock of the Inland Waterway and can also accommodate boats up to 60 ft. long with beams up to 17 ft. Once through the lock, the village of Alanson houses the Inland Water Route museum, along with great dining and shops. The southernmost end of the Inland Waterways is gorgeous Crooked Lake, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your journey! Spend the day jetskiing, waterskiing, or fishing. Then, turn that boat around and head back north through the waterway, being sure to catch those fantastic stops you missed on the way down.

A Mecca for Anglers

Cheboygan offers lots of options for pleasure boaters, but we are a mecca for fishermen no matter the season. From epic walleye fishing in the spring, to summertime salmon tournaments, and the always-biting bass, muskie, and pike—we have it covered. Ice fishing on Burt, Mullett, and Black Lakes draw anglers from all over the Midwest. You can enroll in Mark Martin’s Ice Fishing Vacation School and learn from the pros, or try your hand at Sturgeon fishing on Black Lake the first Saturday in February. No matter the season, we are ready to share the ultimate Up North fishing experience and send you home with fish tales that will be talked about for generations.

Events, Festivals, and Adventure

Being at the heart of all this water, we wouldn’t carry out our promise of being “Up North the way you remember it” without good old-fashioned community events and festivals. Cheboygan is home to The Michigan Waterways Festival, which celebrates our rich heritage of lumbering and fishing, along with all of the miles of waterways we have the privilege of living on or near. Held during the last Thursday through Sunday each June, this four day festival rolls out the red carpet for visitors from far and near and invites all to share our slice of heaven!

The festival features three nights of live music, glass bottom boat tours of the shipwrecks in the Straits of Mackinac, guided kayak tours, and so much more. During the festival, you can watch or participate in the exciting and fun Open Water Challenge / Great Lakes Downwind Championship. This 13.5 mile open water race between kayakers, surfskiers, and SUP racers is known for great downwind conditions and often ends in swapping stories at the post race party and awards ceremony.

The Michigan Waterways Festival is the perfect festival for the whole family—not too crowded, many free events, great food, and activities for the kids, all in the heart of a small town that welcomes visitors as if they are neighbors. All summer long, you can enjoy a diverse Farmers Market, free concerts in Washington Park, lighthouse tours, fishing tournaments, and festivals galore.

Make a Plan

Come visit us in Cheboygan! If it’s for a day or a month, we would love to meet you, hear your story, and share our Up North, the way it should be remembered! For more information on boating, lodging, festivals, and events, visit www.cheboygan.com or call 1-800-968-3302.

This article first appeared in the Spring Issue (Mar/Apr) 2020 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

First 5 Featured Photos
Credit to: Remotepix

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