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Launches are sparse around the lakes. There is one tiny township launch in Indian River. I think its $10.
There is a DNR launch at Maple Bay which is really nice on Burt Lake (nice and all paved); next to Maple Bay campground on the West end of Burt Lake. There is another DNR Launch on Mullett lake on the East side off of Boy Scout Rd (this one is all gravel). Its right near the end of Jewell Rd. And there is another one in Cheboygan on the river which is deep water as well (all paved on this one too); right off M-27 by the Save-a-Lot Grocery. Aloha State Park on Mullett is really nice; I would recommend camping there if possible and they have a small boat dock / launch. Burt Lake State Park is nice also; but there is no boat launch. They have a very nice beach at Burt Lake State Park. You can anchor off shore and use the beach. And make sure to plan somewhere to watch the sunsets from 9-10pm during July / August. They are truly amazing.
Many people go on a day trip from Cheboygan all the way thru Indian River and into Alanson. Indian River has some nice restaurants and stores. If you go thru Burt Lake heading west up the Crooked River you can go thru a few locks and go thru Alanson where there are some nice restaurants; ice cream and other stores. If you keep going you can go back into Crooked Lake and Pickerel Lake. Keep in mind the locks have specific hours and close at night. Check the schedules on the website. http://www.emmetcounty.org/parks-recreation/crooked-river-lock-2/
There is also another boat launch in Conway on Crooked Lake so you could possibly launch there and go the other direction. But it's pretty small. I think there are only about 20 parking spots.
Enjoy and have fun.
2018 Crooked River Lock Schedule
APRIL 21 -22 9:00 A.M. – 5: 00 P.M.
APRIL 28-30 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
MAY 1 – 20 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
MAY 21 – JUNE 29 8:00 A.M. – 9:00 P.M.
JUNE 30 – AUGUST 12 8:00 A.M. – 10:00 P.M.
AUGUST 13 – SEPTEMBER 3 8:00 A.M. – 9:00 P.M.
SEPTEMBER 4 – 30 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. BEGIN SATURDAY AND SUNDAY ONLY
OCTOBER 6 – 7 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
OCTOBER 13 – 14 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
OCTOBER 20 – 21 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
OCTOBER 27 – 28 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Then you definitely want to check out Torch lake in July / August. The world famous sand bar is really a nice place to spend a day on the lake. Know that the water is cold up there. It doesn't really warm up like it does in Southern Mi. And Higgins Lake is really nice as well with crystal clear water and its sandy beaches. There are two state parks on Higgins lake; North and South. Both have boat launches; South is probably the better of the two; the one at North is really sandy and shallow. There is also a nicely paved deep water launch on the west side by M-127 that is run by the DNR.
Spending a day on Grand Traverse Bay is nice also; around Cherry Festival and the 4th of July there is an airshow over the water featuring the Blue Angels. Bowers Harbor is a really nice launch and not too crowded normally. Get a map of the lake too. There are some rocky shallows that will come up quick if you don't know where they are. The South end of both bays is all sandy; going North to Mission Point and it is all rocky. Also keep in mind that is a really large body of water; you have to keep an eye out and watch the weather out there as it can whip in really fast off Lake Michigan. If you stay in the south part of the East or West bay you will be fine. I don't get out there as much as I would like to; big plans this year. LOL!! I hope this helps you out.
Did the Michigan inland waterway last year and had a blast. There are a couple of interesting YouTube videos that will give you more. The Crooked River Inn is a great lodging option too.
Other fantastic lakes in the northwest are Charlavoix, Torch Lake, Leelanau, Glen Lake and on and on.
Can’t recommend it enough. We stay on Mullett for a week every year.
The only river you can run. These boats are just meant for this river. So much fun. Be careful, and keep an eye out for boats coming the other way. The Crooked Lake sandbar is a good time once you’ve made it all the way through the river.
Live music plays from a pontoon boat at the entrance to the Cheboygan River on the north side of the lake. So much fun.
Long, fun day. Watch the weather closely. If you get a perfect day, you have to go.
Food & Drink:
On Mullet. There’s a dock you can actually tie up too. Great food. Great view. Great time. We’ll go twice each trip.
-Cheboygan Brewing Co.
Across the street from the river in Cheboygan. This is my favorite brewery in the world. No food, so have a couple beers on the roof with a view of the river and then grab food somewhere in town.
Kind of hidden on Burt. Don’t miss it. Well worth the hunt and the 100 yard walk from the dock.
First, you have to go get donuts from the Aloha camp store. AMAZING. Blueberry only on Saturday mornings, and they’re the best.
The trip up to Huron takes between 60-90 minutes depending on how much you push the no wake. The Cheboygan police don’t mess around, so don’t over do it. The residents love to call the cops if someone is making a small wake in the river. And yes, you are correct, it’s no wake all the way to Huron.
The Cheboygan lock is cool. Here is the lock schedule. $6 cash each way. The rush of the current can be intense, so just be careful and make sure your crew is ready to help.
If you are planning to take your boat from Cheboygan over to Mackinaw Island, you will need to do your weather homework and watch the weather and wave conditions while you are there. It can be done, safely and enjoyably , but the Straits of Mackinaw wave conditions can be unforgiving and change very quickly. Good luck and safe journey!
Also, have at least a handheld VHF onboard and learn how to use it - will be a huge help communicating with the harbor master on the island. They can be a bit short - they need to be efficient due to frequent ferry arrivals and departures plus the pleasure craft traffic. Plus just about every marine VHF radio has pre-programmed NOAA weather radio channels. You definitely want to pay attention to the reports throughout your visit to the island. Glass in the morning can turn into confused six footers in a hurry.
I also highly recommend the MyRadar app for smartphones or tablets. Real time radar to watch out for fronts, squall lines or pop-up afternoon thunderheads. Other key feature is wind vectors - real time wind magnitude and direction, very helpful in visualizing the broader conditions before and during a crossing (note is much easier to see during daytime vs this night view):
Also, review charts (chart plotter w Great Lakes maps is major help) before you venture out. The Cheboygan shore has a somewhat rocky shallows that projects well out into the lake, for one notable hazard).
I’ll have to familiarize myself with how wind vectors affect the lake.
Luckily I already have a chart plotter and handheld VHF (may install a fixed base this summer). I’m a pilot and used to how little time you have on he radio while talking to tower/ATC, I assume marine vhf can be very similar.
I’ll probably keep my handheld with me while we’re on the island.
please take pictures along the way across to the island and post back here with some. would love to see them. I crossed on the ferry many (about 20) years ago. Sounds like a great trip, assuming the water works for you. Have you looked into where you will dock the boat on the island?
I plan to have a couple of GoPros hooked up or the trip and will take some stills also.
I haven’t looked into dock space yet too much, but I did see somewhere that mentioned “plenty of transient slips”. Hopefully this won’t be a big deal, especially since my Brother-in-Law will be taking his 242 also.