( refer to map below )
Hello fellow paddlers,
If you have an itch to explore the Tahquamenon River for an extended camping trip, I'll try here to be of as much help as possible. I have done this trip myself and can tell you that words cannot explain the beauty and tranquility of this region. This is still a very wild river, with very little access. I'll try to explain to you here a few things about canoe camping, a little bit about the river itself, give you a few camping tips, and warn you about what to watch out for. If this will be your first time on an overnight canoe trip, check out this website about canoe camping. Canoe camping is not for everybody, and if you can find others with the same interest, take advantage of it because most of the enjoyment of it is found when you can share the experience with someone else.
The other campground is Slater's Landing, which is located near the mouth of the East Branch Tahquamenon River. It's about 7-9 hours between McPhee's Landing and Slater's Landing, depending on conditions. Also remember that if you are in a kayak, kayaks are about 1/3 faster than a canoe. There will be few places to go ashore until you reach beyond the Sage River, and even then the steep banks will make landing in most places difficult. Lower water levels mean more visible shoreline, and more places to pull ashore.
To get to Slater's Landing you will have to paddle a very short distance up the East Branch Tahquamenon River. Pay close attention to where you are on the map by using your map and compass, while keeping in mind that it takes approximately 7-9 hours to get there from McPhee's Landing. Slater's Landing is a private campground that is self-pay, so be sure to have a little bit of cash on hand. The fees at the time of this writing are $10 per tent. On from Slater's Landing, it should take you about 6-7 hours to reach the end. This is where the sign says "DANGER FALLS AHEAD!" WARNING!: Sign is temporarily down!, and remember about the sharp drop-off here.
When camping in the wilderness, to avoid any problems with wild animals, it's a good idea to always keep any food or garbage at least 300 feet from your camping area, and hanging from a tree as high as possible. Never cook in your tent, or keep any food on you, or in your tent. You can quickly become an expert on why to follow these tips by not following them.
Wherever you decide to camp along the Tahquamenon, try to find a previously used site. If that's not possible, watch for No Trespassing signs, and try to disturb the area as little as possible. Extinguish all fires with water, and be sure that it is completely out, then cover with dirt. Leave all campsites, and every place that you stop along the Tahquamenon River in the same condition as when you found it. I always like to carry along an extra plastic bag to pick up garbage that I might see along the way.
Call Us Today 906-203-7624
You and your party can either start at the Tahquamenon Logging Museum, Dollarville Dam, or at McPhee's Landing (refer to map below). If you start anywhere before McPhee's Landing, you should take at least 3 days for your trip. A couple of miles past McPhee's, the river will open up into a vast marshland with some incredible scenic vistas. Past the marshland you will see large tracts of forested wilderness, with areas of mixed forest, and also some virgin white pine further on. Notice the unique amber color of the Tahquamenon River, which is caused by the tannin which leeches into the soils around the river from the cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees, and does not affect the water quality.
On the second part of your trip you will see an occasional rustic cabin along the shore; most of this area is privately owned, so watch for No Trespassing signs. Also be on the lookout for all sorts of wild critters. This area is home to moose, deer, bears, wolves, bobcats, and coyotes just to name a few. If you are lucky enough to see a river otter, don't be surprised if it comes right up to your boat. I had that happen to me a while back while on a short day trip. Mama otter was telling us to keep on moving while her children were playing a short distance away. Papa otter on the other hand disappeared into the bush as soon as he saw us coming. If you hear a loud splash, it just might be a beaver sending a warning to the other members of its family. There are a number of beavers in the Tahquamenon River. Some of the more notable birds that you're likely to see are bald eagles, blue herons, sandhill cranes, ospreys, belted kingfishers, and a variety of different hawks.
Fishing is a big part of most any canoe camping trip, and the Tahquamenon River supports a large variety of fish. We've had luck with walleye, perch, pike, musky, and some of the other varieties, but my favorite fish has always been perch or walleye. Make sure that you bring all of the essentials for a good fish fry after a day of paddling and fishing.
You will end your trip about 1/2 a mile before you reach the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. This is a bit of a steep portage on your left side, with a deep drop-off not far from shore, so be extra careful here. The sign at the portage reads "DANGER FALLS AHEAD!". I recommend that you don't go past this sign.
There are 2 designated camping areas on this trip, the Old Campground, and Slater's Landing. The Old Campground is located about 20 minutes west of McPhee's Landing, and is where you will want to camp if you start your trip either at the Tahquamenon Logging Museum, the Dollarville Dam, or if you start your trip later in the day. The Old Campground is not marked, and you'll have to look for it as you paddle by; it's located on a 15 foot bluff overlooking the river. Look for small, campsite sized openings in the forest on the north side of the river. There are about 10 sites here, but no water or toilets. The only toilets on this trip are at McPhee's Landing, Slater's Landing, and if you're starting your trip west of McPhee's Landing, - Dollarville Dam, and the Logging Museum. Be sure that you have a state land camping registration form when camping on any state land. The form is free at any Michigan DNR office, and we also have some here at The Woods.
When on your trip you might encounter some adverse weather conditions, such as high winds, or even a thunderstorm. Check out this link to know what you should do when you encounter a storm. This information is very important, and may even save your life. As far as winds go, if you run into some difficult winds while paddling, you can either stop and rest until the winds die down, or you can try paddling closer to shore. Usually you will be guarded from the strong winds more when you are closer to shore. If you are kayaking, kayaks handle much better in strong winds, and are generally easier to handle under adverse conditions. Kayaks are also much faster than canoes, but the drawback is that they hold less gear for camping.
Be aware that you may be sharing the river with a small number of motorboats when you are on the east side of McPhee's Landing, so be on the lookout, and listen. Always be cautious, especially around hidden bends, and move towards the right shoreline to avoid oncoming boats. The Tahquamenon River is a quiet, peaceful river without any heavy traffic, but you can further avoid traffic by scheduling your trip for the weekdays.
The Woods recommends that you always wear a life jacket while on the Tahquamenon River. The river can get very deep in some spots, and also the footing on the bottom may be unstable .
You must be well prepared, and in a general good physical condition to meet the demands of this canoe camping trip, but the rewards are infinite if you are both of these. You can see and experience many things on the Tahquamenon River, and I could say a lot more about it, but nothing can match the experience of actually being there on the river. Enjoy your trip!
We'll see you soon,
Note: If you are unable to view the maps below from your browser, you can see more maps and information about the Tahquamenon River here.