Notice: Be prepared for downed trees and varying conditions.
This information is general, and subject to change.
The best of the Boardman is the upper river which begins when 2 small streams, the north & south branches, converge near Supply Rd & Brown Bridge Rd, about 15 miles SE of TC. Here, the river is narrow, quick & shallow, averaging 15-20 feet wide and 2-4’ deep. The riverbanks are mostly forested with some open meadows and a few scattered cottages. The final couple miles along this stretch of river is quite open & the banks are filling in with new growth as the ‘new’ river flows through the former Brown Bridge Pond area.
Forks State Forest Campground – Less than a mile from Supply on Brown Bridge Rd. There is a platform launch, new parking area and vault toilet (3.5 miles by dirt road, 2-3 hr. float to Scheck’s). (Ranch Rudolf is located between Forks & Scheck’s, but there is NO public exit or launch)
Scheck’s Place State Forest Campground – Located on the east side (upstream side) of Brown Bridge Rd, primitive launch, grass parking, vault toilet in season. (3.5 miles by dirt road, 1.5-2 hr. float to Brown Bridge).
Brown Bridge Landing – Platform launch, dirt & grass parking, vault toilet in season, on Brown Bridge Rd just east of Garfield Rd. About 7 river miles to Shumsky Landing (5 miles by paved & dirt road, 3 hr. float to Shumsky).
The middle Boardman is slightly wider with some deeper areas maintaining a moderate-to-quick flow. There are more private homes and many bridges along the banks from Shumsky to Beitner Landing prior to entering the Natural Education Reserve. Downstream of Beitner Landing are the Keystone Rapids, one of the fastest stretches on the Boardman (experienced paddlers only). Flow remains quick as it skirts through former impoundments in process of being restored (please stay off fragile banks). A portage option is available for those that wish to by-pass Sabin Rapids (at former Sabin Dam site). Beyond Sabin Rapids the river begins to widen and slows down as it enters the slack waters above Boardman Lake. One can expect to encounter forests and open meadows with probable chances of viewing wildlife, including birds, otter, beaver & more.
Shumsky Landing – Primitive launch with large gravel parking area and vault toilet. Located on Shumsky Rd off River Rd near Sleights Rd (3 miles by dirt & paved road to Beitner Landing, 2-3 hr. float to Beitner).
Beitner Park Landing – WARNING: For experienced paddlers ONLY as there are rapids from here to Jack’s Landing at Cass Road! It is highly recommended that EVERYONE who plans to go through the Keystone Rapids walk the trail to Oleson Bridge before attempting (the trail begins on the north side of Beitner Park.). Beitner Landing has a platform launch at the bottom of a few steps, very limited, paved parking, vault toilet in season, on Beitner/Keystone Rd near River Rd. (Approximate 1hr. float to Landing at Cass Rd.)
Oleson Bridge Access – Walk-in/out only. Paved parking, on Keystone Rd near River Rd.
Lone Pine Access – Walk-in/out only (steep stairs), paved parking, on Keystone Rd near Hoch Rd.
Landing at Cass Road – New gravel landing located just upstream from Robbins (Cass Road) Bridge at the former Boardman Dam site with a gravel parking area and vault toilet in season. Vehicle access down to the river from the gravel parking area is provided for loading/unloading purposes only. (Approximate 1 hr. float to Boardman Valley Nature Preserve Landing)
*No river access at the former Sabin Dam Site. There is an optional portage trail on the right around the Sabin Rapids for those who wish not to float the rapids.
Boardman Valley Nature Preserve Landing (old YMCA) – New ADA accessible landing installed in 2018, paved parking, vault toilet, small wooden dock (behind tennis courts). Located off Racquet Club Dr. from S Airport Rd at Logan’s Landing. There is a crosswalk at S. Airport road for an approximate ¼ mile portage opportunity for those destined to make it to Boardman Lake and beyond.
WARNING – DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GO THROUGH THE CULVERTS UNDER SOUTH AIRPORT ROAD due to potentially insufficient room to pass a canoe or kayak.
Do not attempt to pass through the culverts under S Airport Rd. Launch at Medalie Park (see below) at the south end of Boardman Lake. The lake is popular with many birds. It was once heavily lined with various industries, so it is not a swimming lake. It is popular with kayakers, fishermen and there’s a sailing school at the north end, at Hull Park. The shore is somewhat undeveloped with parks at both ends and dotted with condos & a few business on the east & west sides. It can be difficult to paddle end-to-end when there is a N or NW wind, which is often.
Medalie Park – Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and more for rent during the summer. Lots of birds, platform launch, paved parking, restrooms in the covered picnic pavilion, on S Airport Rd at Logan’s Landing.
Boardman Lake Trail at 12th St – new platform launch on the western shore, vault toilet in season, located at the east end of 12th St on the Boardman Lake Trail.
Hull Park – the river begins its urban section west of Hull Park, gentle flow, portage required at the Union St Dam. Dock & boat launch available, paved parking, restrooms, next to the Library near the corner of Woodmere & 8th St.
The Boardman becomes an urban river as it meanders through downtown Traverse City for nearly 1.5 miles. The river reforms at the north end of Boardman Lake, just west of Hull Park. The flow is quite slow and deeper than the upper river. It’s about 30 minutes to the portage at the Union St Dam (between Cass Rd and Union St). Use extreme caution as you approach the dam and exit the river on the left. Walk up the little hill & re-launch on the other side of the dam.
Adapted from boardman-river.blogspot.com
The river is always changing, and this information may not be correct.
Be prepared for downed trees and varying conditions.