Negwegon State Park - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
The Negwegon State Park includes 2,400 acres of land and 8 miles of Lake Huron coast. The route from Black River to Ossineke includes the full 8-mile coast of the park with only short sections of private land holdings. The shoreline consists of cobble and sand beaches and many shoal and marsh areas, a perfect habitat for waterfowl and wading birds. Off South Point there are two low islands, Bird Island and Scarecrow Island, which are part of the Michigan Island National Wildlife Refuge. In the summer nesting season, both islands are teeming with bird life, with large gull, heron, and cormorant rookeries. The Thunder Bay area also had great spiritual significance to the early Native Americans of the region. In all ninety-eight small carved stone disks dated to the twelfth century have been found in this region. The disks depict sacred symbols, including Michi-gi-zhik, the Great Medicine Tree; Me-she-pe-shiw, the horned lynx that raises storms on the lake by thrashing its tail; and Ah-ne-mi-ke, the Thunderbird from whom Thunder Bay gets its name. Four of these carved stone disks were found near South Point under the roots of a tree that had been knocked down by high winds. The name Ossineke is an Anglicized version of the Algonquian word Waswsineke, which means image stones. Within the park near South Point, there are stone-lined pits and long lines of stones that are being studied as possible Native American ruins. If you come across any of these ruins, please respect them and leave the sites undisturbed.
Trip Highlights: Wild undeveloped coast, great bird watching, Native American ruins.
Beginner/Intermediate: A 9-mile trip one way down the coast from Black River to Ossineke. Beginners should only paddle this trip in calm seas.
Intermediate/Advanced: A 9-mile trip one way down the coast from Black River to Ossineke, plus a sidetrip to Bird and Scarecrow Islands off of South Point. The sidetrip adds a 4-mile round-trip for a total of 13 miles.
Trip Duration: Day trip.
Navigation Aids: NOAA chart 14864; USGS: Hubbard Lake (44083-E1) at 1:100,000.
Cautions: Boulder and cobble shore makes it difficult to land in rough conditions; shoals and boulders are common far from shore.
Trip Planning: Always check the marine forecast before heading out. Winds from the north or east can produce large seas. The water is very shallow along the coast, so watch out for shallow boulders offshore and be aware that the main surf break may be up to 1 mile offshore. If you are making the sidetrip to the islands, only do so in calm weather as the shoals surrounding the islands can produce large breaking waves as much as 2 miles offshore.
Black River: From Harrisville go north on Highway 23 to Black River Road (about 12 miles north of the intersection of Highways 73 and 23 in Harrisville). Turn right (east) and follow for 2.8 miles to Lakeshore Drive. Turn right on Lakeshore Drive for less than 0.1 mile, and you come to the sign for the boat ramp (just before you cross the river). The DNR public boat ramp is on the Black River, which empties into Lake Huron. The site has outhouse bathroom facilities, but does not have potable water.
Negwegon State Park: From Harrisville go north on Highway 23 to Black River Road (about 12 miles north of the intersection of Highways 73 and 23 in Harrisville). Turn right (east) and follow for about 1.5 miles until you see a small cemetery on the left (north) side of the road-take the next left on Sand Hill Trail Road. Note that Sand Hill Trail Road looks like a poorly graded private sand road and may not have a sign. Follow Sand Hill Trail Road for 2.7 miles, then turn right on to the well-graded gravel road by the state park signs. The gravel road takes you to the water access after 1.2 miles. There is a nice sand beach about 500 feet from the parking lot. Also outhouse bathroom facilities and potable water from an artesian well are available.
Ossineke: From Highway 23 head north (about 7.6 miles north of Black River Road) to the small town of Ossineke, and turn right (east) on Nicholson Hill Road. Follow the road for 2.4 miles to the DNR boat ramp. There is an outhouse, but potable water is not available at the site.
From the Black River boat ramp (N 44° 48.86', W 083° 18.18') head out into Lake Huron, then turn left to follow the coast north to Negwegon State Park.
For the first 0.5 mile the shoreline is sand beach with some small boulders, and the shore is lined with private homes. At Mile 1.0 after the private homes end, the Negwegon State Park shore is mostly beautiful sand beach with a few sandbars and rocky points.
As you enter the state park, the sand beach shoreline continues with a mixed forest of pine and birch. Negwegon, from the Algonquian language, means "fine plains." At Mile 3.0 you come to a point in the park where there is an artesian well and road access (N 44° 51.32', W 083° 19.32'). At approximately Mile 3.25 the sand beach disappears and the shoreline consists of large cobbles and small rounded boulders.
At Mile 4.0 there is a nice sand beach about 0.25 miles long that is a safe place to land (N 44° 52.32', W 083° 19.13').
From the sand beach the shore quickly returns to large cobbles and small boulders. At Mile 5.0 there is a long rocky point, South Point (tip of the point: N 44° 52.95', W 083° 18.84'). There are trails leading to the point from the park. If you follow the trails inland and search just off the trail, you may be able to find some of the Native American ruins (stone-lined pits, lines of stones from old stone walls, etc.). Please leave any artifacts that you find undisturbed.
Rounding South Point heading west, you see Bird Island about 0.5 mile offshore; beyond that is Scarecrow Island about 2.0 miles offshore. Intermediate or advanced paddlers may want to make a sidetrip to the islands-4.0 miles round-trip. Caution: There are shoals and shallow boulders between South Point and Scarecrow Island, and breaking waves on the shoals are likely even 2 miles offshore, so only make this sidetrip when you have calm seas. Both islands are teeming with bird life, with gull and cormorant rookeries. During nesting season keep a reasonable distance from shore to keep from disturbing the nesting birds. Watch the shallow rocks carefully on a calm day at Scarecrow Island, and you will discover that what at first glance appear to be natural reefs are actually human-made leads and walls for a huge funnel-shaped fish trap. If you choose to follow the mainland shore rather than visit the islands, stay well offshore as there is a wide, shallow area of cobble flats with a marshy shoreline.
The wide, shallow cobble and marsh flats continue with the shoreline edged with reeds and cattails. This is a great place for bird-watchers to view wading birds. At some water levels you may need to stay well offshore, and landing may be difficult because it can be a long slippery walk over the rocks to get to shore.
The last 0.5 mile is private land so please respect the property owners' rights and do not land except in an emergency. At Mile 9.0 you reach the Ossineke boat ramp.
Where to Eat & Where to Stay
When sea kayakers gather in the area for a kayaking event, the John A. Lau Saloon in Alpena becomes their unofficial headquarters. This frontier-style saloon has a great selection of beers, and yes, it serves food as well. The small towns of Harrisville and Ossineke do have restaurants, but a better selection is available in the larger town of Alpena. For information call the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-425-7362).
Lodging: There are a few lodging options in Harrisville, but a much better selection is available in Alpena. Call the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-425-7362) for more information.
Camping: The Negwegon State Park does not have developed campsites at this time. Wilderness camping within the park is allowed without any permit being required by the state park. In theory you are required to get a free permit from the DNR (available at any DNR office) to camp on any state lands. There are also several private campsites in the area. Call the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information about them.
The Annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival & the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse
Every year, starting the second weekend in October, Alpena hosts the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. The event includes booth displays by various nautical gift shops and maritime preservation societies, concerts, lectures, and tours (by land, sea, and air) of over a dozen historical lighthouses in the area. For information about the festival or touring local lighthouses, call Marv or Joy Theut at the Huron Lights Store (517) 595-3600. One lighthouse well worth visiting is the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, located about 8 miles south of the Black River boat ramp. From the bridge over the Black River head south for 7.4 miles on Lakeshore Drive, then turn left (east) on Point Road for 1.2 miles. The lighthouse began service in 1870, and in 1876, a lifesaving station was also established here. This beautiful and historic lighthouse has a very tall white brick tower and a small museum.
At the end of the point is the long cobble and gravel bar that was given the name of Sturgeon Point because of the huge numbers of sturgeon that would return to the bar to spawn every year. In the 1800s the giant fish (up to 12 feet in length) often damaged nets, and they were not considered a marketable fish. Fishermen would gaff spawning sturgeon off the point by the hundreds, pile them like cordwood on shore, and leave them to rot.
Excerpted from Guide to Sea Kayaking on Lakes Superior & Michigan: The Best Day Trips and Tours by William Newmanm et. al. with permission from Falcon Publishing.
Help support Paddling.net, purchase this book from the Paddling.net Store.
Great Products from the Buyers' Guide: