Category Archives: Paddling

Cool Beaches to Check Out in Delta County

The Escanaba municipal beach.

The Escanaba municipal beach.

Beaches come in all shapes and sizes. On the serene shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll find everything from secluded swimming holes and out of the way sand spits to bustling city beaches with modern amenities galore. And because this part of the world is big on the changing of the seasons, you’ll have something to do at these places throughout the calendar year. If you’re ready to explore the points where Delta County’s rolling landscape meets seemingly boundless Lake Michigan, check out these beaches – and the two or three dozen other spots that welcome members of the public all year long.

Sac Bay Beach

Located just off County Road 438, near the end of the Garden Peninsula, Sac Bay Beach is just one part of beautiful Sac Bay Park. This 65-acre expanse includes a mature mixed forest of pines, hemlock, spruce, fir, maple, basswood and birch. After you’ve had your fill of the trails that wend through the tract, pitch your tent at the nearby campground and bring your cooler down to the secluded beach on beautiful Big Bay de Noc.

If you squint just hard enough, you might be able to see the lights of Escanaba in the distance – but, more likely, you’ll be gazing out on the broad expanse of Lake Michigan as the sun winks over the horizon. There’s not as much sand here as at some other Lake Michigan beaches, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t break out the towel and soak up some rays after taking a dip in the cool, clear water.

O.B. Fuller Park and Campground

O.B. Fuller Campground

O.B. Fuller Campground

One of the most popular non-city parks in Delta County, O.B. Fuller Park and Campground occupies a choice location on the Lake Michigan shore, in the county’s southeastern corner. Much of the 85-acre campsite is taken up by modern campsites that can accommodate full-size RVs, but there’s a sizable amount of well-preserved forest land as well. And visitors to this beautiful spot get two great bodies of water for the price of one: The Bark River, with its excellent fishing and wildlife-spotting opportunities, passes right by on its way to Lake Michigan. The mouth of the river lies at the campground’s beach, which is a family-friendly swimming hole that warms up (fairly) quickly in the summer.

Escanaba and Gladstone City Beaches

Delta County’s biggest settlements both lie on Little Bay de Noc, within easy boating distance of larger Green Bay and the open expanse of Lake Michigan. Both have beautiful, popular municipal beaches that attract sun-seekers during the warm months and winter sports junkies during the cold season. Escanaba’s sits in the heart of Ludington Park, Escanaba’s most popular city park. You can easily spend a few hours here and then head downtown or a bite at one of Ludington Street’s trendy eateries. In Gladstone, the municipal beach doubles as a popular campground. Hitch your trailer here and dive into the sparkling waters of Little Bay de Noc!

Point Detour Beach

City beaches aren’t your speed? Looking for a more secluded place to spread out and dip your toes in the water? Escape to the end of the road – literally – at Point Detour beach, located at one of the farthest-flung corners of the Garden Peninsula. Due to treacherous underwater formations and unpredictable weather, several shipwrecks lie just offshore, although you’ll need proper equipment and training to reach them. Curious limestone formations, complete with prehistoric fossils, dot the shoreline here. And evidence of settlement as far back as 2,000 years makes Point Detour one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the Upper Peninsula. Even if you just spread out a towel and enjoy a cold beverage on a warm afternoon, though, you’ll get plenty out of your time at this special beach.

What are you waiting for? Throw on your swim trunks, pack a picnic lunch, and hit the sand (or rocks)! If you’d like to learn about Delta County beaches that didn’t make this list, don’t hesitate to get in touch – we’ll give you the lowdown.

Ludington Park: The Crown Jewel of Escanaba’s Park System

From the intersection of U.S. 2 at the edge of downtown Escanaba, the view down Ludington Street is an impressive one. Have you ever gazed out that way and wondered how Ludington Street got its name (it’s more than a hundred miles across the lake from the lower Michigan town of the same name, after all)? Or, for that matter, what lies at the far edge of your view?

The answer to both of those questions – sort of – is Ludington Park, one of Escanaba’s most popular outdoor attractions. Let’s discover why this gem needs to be high on your list of things to see on your next visit to Escanaba.

Ludington Park: Location and Layout

Located at the eastern end of Ludington Street, on the beautiful waterfront of Little Bay de Noc, Ludington Park draws hundreds of visitors on nice days (and a fair number on gloomy, cold ones, too). The park actually stretches a long ways down the shoreline, angling back to the southwest and encompassing a beautiful series of inlets. It’s also within spitting distance of the Sand Point Lighthouse and Delta County Historical Society, two popular attractions for Delta County visitors. So if you’re sick of walking (or snowshoeing) along the waterfront with the breeze in your hair – or if that breeze is driving sleet or snow into your face – you can certainly take shelter in some interesting indoor spaces here.

During the warm season, you can take advantage of plenty of outdoor facilities here too. From the basketball, tennis and volleyball courts to the boat-friendly confines of the nearby harbor (complete with Escanaba’s main marina), it can take hours to exhaust your options. A beach and wading pool offers swimming opportunities for folks of all ages and skill levels. And during the cool season, a hockey and skating rink caters to fans of true U.P. sports.

Special Events and Attractions

But the real highlights of Ludington Park are the scheduled events that enliven the place throughout the warm season. During the summer, Blues for a Cause sponsors Monday evening (7 to 9 pm) music shows that attract such luminaries as the Madison Avenue horn/rhythm band and the Cadillacs classic rock band. Meanwhile, the Escanaba City Band plays at the Karas Band Shell on weekday summer evenings (the rain date is Thursday). Bigger events occasionally come to the park as well, with the city offering a speedy event application process.

Visit Ludington Park Soon!

In Delta County, nature and history collide. And you don’t have to travel far off the beaten path to see both in the same location. At Ludington Park, you’ll find something to keep the whole family busy – and more than enough to keep you coming back a second and third time.

The Ford started out beautiful and didn't let us down.

Paddle the Ford River – CR 414 to US 2&41

Delta County’s Ford river makes for an easy, scenic paddle in either a kayak or canoe. According to the book Paddling Michigan (A Falcon Guide, 2001), it’s best paddled in May through Early June and October, and based on my experience I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

I’ve been driving past the Ford for years, but only recently picked up kayaking and thought it might be fun to paddle. Sure enough, the Ford was listed as one of the few Upper Peninsula routes in the book. So, my dad and I recently packed up the kayaks and set out to paddle the Ford.

The Take Out

Let’s start with the take out, since that’s were you park the first car, right? One of the great things about the Ford is you’ve got quite a few options for taking out, but for this trip my dad and I opted to park at the US 2 & 41 bridge between Escanaba and Bark River. There’s plentiful parking here, and the parking area extends to right below the bridge, so you can drive right down to the water’s edge and grab your canoe or kayak when you’re done.

ford river kayak escanaba michigan1

The Ford River bridge at U.S. 2 & 41 has ample parking and served as our take out for this trip.

Here's a view of that same bridge from the river, at the end of our trip.

Here’s a view of that same bridge from the river, at the end of our trip.

 Another option for taking out is the M-35 bridge at the river’s mouth, but I’ll cover that section of river in another post.

The Put In

Though there are also a few options for putting in, most paddlers (us included) put in at the County Road 414 bridge just a few miles north of US 2 & 41. (See below for full directions.) There was ample parking space here a few hundred feet away from the bridge along with a good temporary parking spot right next to the bridge where we were able to unload our kayaks.

The Paddle

The Ford’s water moves swiftly beneath the CR 414 bridge, which made a great start for our paddle. After a while, the river’s pace slowed down in spots, but always picked back up again as the bottom changed from sand to bedrock and the river narrowed in spots. It was a great mix and ended up taking us about two and a half hours to float, with minimal paddling, from the CR 414 bridge to to the US 2 & 41 bridge.

The Ford started out beautiful and didn't let us down.

The Ford started out beautiful and didn’t let us down.

I’d highly recommend this relatively unheralded section of the Ford for both kayakers and canoeists looking for a great spring to early summer Paddle in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Directions:

Just a short distance west of the US 2 & 41 bridge over the Ford (toward Bark River), turn north onto county road 533 and drive roughly four miles to county road 414. Turn west (left) onto county road 414 and drive about a mile to the bridge. Drop your boats off at the bridge and then park in the parking area a few hundred feet before the bridge. The U.S. & 41 bridge (where we took out on this paddle) is located about 5.5 miles west of Escanaba.