Last updated: 03:30 PM ET, Thu June 30 2016

Pictured Rocks: A Paddler's Paradise on Lake Superior

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | June 30, 2016

Pictured Rocks: A Paddler's Paradise on Lake Superior

PHOTO: Kayaking is the best way to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. (photo by Janeen Christoff)

A sunny, calm day with no wind on the lake is the ideal time to get out the sea kayak and head for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The painted rock cliffs that poke out more than 200 feet from the floor of Lake Superior are mesmerizing, and via kayak, you can get right up close to each and every formation. It’s truly a paddler’s paradise. 

The lakeshore extends for 42 miles with 15 miles of cliffs that begin near the harbor in Munising, Michigan. It is about the size of five Manhattans, so it is more than just the fringe of rocky cliff face that lines the shore. Historic sites include an 1874 lighthouse, early U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat stations, old farmsteads and a Civil War-era iron blast furnace site.

While kayaking is the perfect way to explore the shoreline, which is definitely one of the highlights of the park, Pictured Rocks is a four-season destination that offers hiking, canoeing, sightseeing, birding, backcountry camping, ice climbing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing and more.

A stop at the visitor center is the best place to start when you arrive. You can get updates on what’s going on within the park and obtain information on cruises along the shore, kayaking trips and more. You can also find the schedules to the many interpretive programs provided by the park rangers — one of the many values our national parks system provides visitors. 

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For those heading out to paddle along the rocks, be sure to check weather and make sure that you have the gear that you need. Lake Superior is known to kick up weather at times and currents and wind can get nasty. Make sure that you have a sea kayak that is 15 feet or longer and seaworthy. Recreational kayaks are not gonna fly on the lake, especially in such a large body of water as Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world. 

Kayakers should also make sure that they are equipped with a life jacket, a wetsuit (the water in the lake is pretty chilly all year round), a spray skirt to keep water and waves out of your boat, a paddle float, a bilge pump, a paddle leash, a marine radio and a whistle or horn. Weather can kick up at any time and the lakeshore is extremely isolated. If you get into trouble out on the lake, you are likely going to have be able to rescue yourself and wait for help to arrive. 

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That being said, being able to come within feet or inches of the stunning formations that line this stretch of the lake is something that an experienced sea kayaker will not want to miss. Even if you have little training, you can go on a guided tour to see at least some of the formations and have the experience of paddling along the lake.

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