Manistee River Trail – Backpacking and Kayaking

Manistee River Trail – April 23,24 & 25, 2010


We left right from work on Friday. We made a quick stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in Muskegon for some wings and a buffalo chicken sandwich and then on to the Seaton Creek campgrounds. We had just enough time to get our tents setup and find some wood for a fire before dark. We had the campgrounds all to ourselves, the pit toilets were still closed from the winter and the water pump wasn’t working yet either. The weather called for rain all weekend but it ended up being a nice clear night with almost a full moon. We made a fire and had a couple beers and then it started to get cool so we decided it was time to get in the bags for the night. With the temperature getting down into the lower 40s it was going to be the perfect night for sleeping …until they came. I was just getting into a good sleep around 11:30 when a loud truck pulled up and a couple yelling dudes and who knows how many loud mouth kids jumped out and started to set up camp in the site right next to ours. Did I mention the entire campgrounds was open? They went on to talk extra loud until what must have been 3 am.

Even with the interrupted sleep we woke up fairly early Saturday morning to a cool cloudy morning, but still no rain! We had some breakfast and packed up camp. We should have been extra loud, but we were not. We then drove around to the other side of the river. The plan was to hike Manistee River Trail and then paddle the river back to our truck parked at Red Bridge. We found a good spot to stash our kayaks near the suspension bridge and then drove back down to Red Bridge threw on our packs and started walking. Just as we started the hike, it started to sprinkle. We put the rain covers on the packs but decided it wasn’t coming down hard enough to put on the rain gear. It sprinkled a few different times during the day but it never amounted to too much and it ended up actually being a good day for backpacking. This was our first time on the trail and it was good walk with good lookouts from the top of the river banks and a little up and down, but overall a fairly easy hike. It looked like there were good options for camp sites along the entire trail. It ended up taking us about 5 hrs to go from Red Bridge up to the Suspension Bridge with a stop for lunch and a break to filter water.

We retrieved the kayaks loaded them with our gear and strapped our packs on the back. It was about 5 pm when we were ready to hit the water. The river was quicker than we expected and was a fun paddle even with our loaded down kayaks. After about an hour we were ready for some dinner so we started to look for a place to camp. We were surprised to find that almost every decent spot was already taken. It was opening weekend for trout fishing and it was busier than we expected with fisherman and hikers. Finally after about another 1/2 hour we finally found a bend in the river we could have all to ourselves. We quickly set up camp and had a very tasty freeze dried chicken and rice meal. We gathered some wood and made a fire in the pit that someone made right on the bank of the river. It felt warmer than it had been all day. We could see the wind starting to blow the tops of the trees high up on the tall bank across from our camp, but we low in the valley out of the wind. When our wood pile ran out we headed to the tents for some well deserved sleep.

Sometime in the middle of the night a cold breeze started blowing down along the river and through our tents. I zipped up and slipped under the hood of the mummy bag to stay warm. A short time later a steady rain started which made for some good sleeping noise. In the morning it was cool and the rain was still coming down. We put on the rain gear and hid under a group of cedar trees for a quick breakfast of bagels, granola bars and coffee. Just as we were finishing our coffee the rain started to let up. We quickly used the break in the weather to pack up camp and get the kayaks ready. The timing was perfect just as we were pulling the kayaks into the river the rain started to fall again. Paddling in the rain is not too bad, we stayed warm and dry under the kayak spray skirts and our rain jackets. Just a little down river from our camp the river began to slow down as we started to enter the back waters of the Tippy Dam. In a big hour we reached our takeout at Red Bridge. We threw all our wet gear in the back of the truck and headed to the House of Flavors in Manistee for a late breakfast.


The ridge above the river.


New maple leaves.


The bridge over Cedar Creek.


The view from one of the marked campsites.


At times the trail was right on the edge ridge.


U-turn on the Manistee River.




Stopping to filter water and rest.


S-bend near the suspension bridge.


The “Little Mac” suspension bridge.


Our riverside campsite.


Playing with the settings on the new camera.



-The End-



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Backpacking in Michigan

Backpacking in Michigan has always been one of my favorite Michigan guidebooks. It highlights 50 trails that range from an easy overnight at the hike-in sites at Ludington State Park to a week long adventure on Isle Royale.  I have read it cover to cover at least a couple times and have found that it is also a good resource for planning shorter day hikes on portions of the the trails.

Like all of the books written by Mr. DuFresne, there are well written trail descriptions and nice maps of each outing.  This book also includes 65 photos.

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6 Responses

  1. Way to follow the camp 200′ from water rule.

  2. Time to broaden your horizons a bit…only 1 visit to the sunrise side, you are missing out. I invite you to try Negwegan State Park in Black River. One of Michigan’s best kept secrets!

    • MyMichiganTrips

      Thanks for the invite! We vacationed on the east side a couple times before we started the website and we do need to get back.

  3. Hey there! I found your site and trip report on the Manistee. Very helpful sounds like and awesome trip!

    I would like to try something similar in the future. Were did you “stash” your kayaks? Was it on the East (Seaton Creek Camping) side or West side? Where did you put in?

    Hope you read this 🙂



    • MyMichiganTrips

      Hi Tom, Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. My message notifications were not getting though. We left the kayaks on the west side near the suspension bridge. We found a low spot in the trees and then secured them with a bike lock. Then we drove back and parked at Red Bridge. It really could be done as a nice long day trip if you didn’t want to spend the night.

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