Indian River Canoe Trail

Canoe Trail Map of Indian River

ALERT: Due to large amounts of debris currently in the river, the Hiawatha does not recommend paddling below Steuben.

The 51 mile long Indian River was designated a Federal Wild and Scenic River in 1992. The designation will allow the nationally significant resource values and free flowing condition to be protected for future generations. The excellent water quality of the Indian River is an important component of the local ecosystem and provides quality habitat for fish and game species. Many rare, threatened or sensitive species such as the bald eagle, American marten, wolf, common loon, osprey and wood turtle call the corridor home. Once a working river during the log driving era, the Indian now is a great river for a day paddle or a multi day canoe trip.

INDIAN RIVER CANOE/KAYAK TRAIL:  Link to Trail Map The Indian River offers excellent canoeing/kayaking and provides beautiful and varied scenery, from canyon-like banks and sharp curves, to broad marshland reaches. After mid-June, the gentle flow of the river, combined with its scenic beauty, will impress any canoeist. A one or two-day trip will take you deep into the Hiawatha National Forest, where you will drift past northern hardwoods, mixed conifers, rolling hills and marshlands. The average width of the Indian River is 30-50 feet and has an average depth of 1 to 3 ft. NOTE: Before mid-June the water may be high and fast. We recommend paddlers scout conditions before floating the river during this time.

For detailed access points and descriptions, click the plus sign next to the water activities link below.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: The Area is cleared from Fish Lake to Cedar Point campsite. It is Not Cleared from Cedar Point campsite to 8-mile. 
Open Season: January - December
Closest Towns: Munising, Manistique and Steuben

General Information


The Indian River stretches all the way from Doe Lake on FR2268 (13 miles south of Munising) to Indian Lake just north of US 2. There are multiple access points to the river. Refer to map for directions to access points.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Campground Camping

There are 2 developed campgrounds along the Indian River.

Widewaters and Indian River Campgrounds are developed multi-user campgrounds. These campgrounds provide many first-come, first-served sites. Widewaters has sites that are reservable in advance. These campgrounds charge a per night fee and provide basic amenities like pit toilets, pressurized water and picnic tables.

For information about group camping, guided trips, or the availability of rental equipment, please contact the Hiawatha National Forest.

Dispersed Camping

There are 12 dispersed campsites along the Indian River. These camping areas are provided at locations so that you can plan a trip based on your skill and experience level. Due to the fragile nature of the river corridor and watershed area, river users should plan on using ONLY these designated sites during their trip.

The 12 dispersed campsites available for a more private, rustic camping experience. There are no fees or permits required to stay at these sites, and they are all first-come, first-served. Some of these campsites are accessible only by canoe, while others are accessible by foot and/or by vehicle (see map for details). All of these single sites can accommodate up to 8 people (and 2 vehicles at the drive-in sites). Fires are permitted only in the fire rings provided. Please use Leave No Trace Principles.

For information about group camping, guided trips, or the availability of rental equipment, please contact the Hiawatha National Forest.


• Pack in, Pack out- you must pack out all trash.
• Properly dispose of what you can’t pack out: clean fish away from camp; use biodegradeable soaps; do all cleaning and washing as far away from the river as possible and scatter your dish water.
• Be Sanitary! Use designated toilet facilities if provided.
• Respect private property. Stop only at designated access and campsites.
• Leave what you find, respect all wildlife- enjoy from a distance without disturbing.
• Be courteous to other river users. Respect other campers’ privacy. If a campsite is full, move down to the next site.
• Noise disturbs the natural atmosphere of the river – please keep noise levels to a minimum.

Boating - Non-Motorized


Doe Lake to Fish Lake (4.8 miles): Although Hovey Lake is the headwaters of the Indian River, the first river access site can be found at Doe Lake. The section of river from Doe Lake to Fish Lake is considered a scenic route and is not maintained for canoe passage. Throughout this section the river is narrow and very shallow, and many portages may be necessary. After the Squaw Creek area however, the river slows and moves through Crow and Bar Lakes, as well as scenic wetland habitat. Wildife is common in this area. Many paddlers put in at Fish Lake and travel upstream to Bar and Crow Lakes. There is a campsite located on Bar Lake.

Fish Lake to Widewaters Campground (.9 mi):From Fish Lake you travel the widest part of the river for 1/2 mile to Widewaters Campground. This is a fee area with toilets, tables, fire rings and drinking water.

Widewaters Campground to Tommy Page Bridge (4.7 mi.): There is a short stretch of swift water above Forest Highway 13 to add to your canoeing excitement. West of the bridge you can portage into Straits Lake, Deep Lake, and Corner Lake. There is one canoe campsite located in this stretch.

Tommy Page Bridge to McCormick Access (4 mi.): This stretch tends to be shallow and rocky and the terrain varies from wide openingsto forested areas. Blue Joe Hill is visible from the river displaying a striking forest of white birch. The slow pace makes for easy paddling.

McCormick Access to Thunder Lake Road (3.9 mi): This stretch flows along the northern boundary of the Ironjaw semi-primitive non-motorized area. There are four campsites along this stretch . NOTE: There are steep banks and erosion is evident. Please do not climb these steep slopes.

Thunder Lake Road to Indian River Campground (9.7 mi.): Just south of Steuben you will drift past high banks. Please do not climb these high banks. At the Indian River Campground, use the day use area for put-ins and take-outs. The campground, a fee area, has tables, toilets, and drinking water. There are also two other campsites along the river in this stretch. NOTE: This reach is not recommended for novice canoeists. Moderate skill is required to avoid logs in the river. Portaging may be necessary.

Indian River Campground to 8-Mile Bridge (7 mi.): In this reach the river transitions from high forested banks to marshlands. The river breaks into numerous braided channels in the area called the Upper Spreads. Nature enthusiasts, anglers and photographers will delight in this environment.

8-Mile Bridge to Indian Lake (DNR boat access – approx. 10 mi.): Below this access point the river enters the Lower Spreads - a series of shallow, maze-like braids. Traveling beyond 8-Mile Bridge is recommended for only the most adventurist paddlers . There are no roads or access points below the 8-Mile Bridge and Indian Lake is 8 miles downstream. The State Park boat launch is another 2 miles. Caution is advised on Indian Lake because this large shallow lake can be dangerous during periods of strong winds. For safety, canoe near the shoreline.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Intermediate

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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