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Paddling the Boardman

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 of this part is quite open & the banks are filling in with new growth as the ‘new’ river flows through the former Brown Bridge Pond area.

The first public launch is adjacent to Forks State Forest Campground – Less than a mile from Supply on Brown Bridge Rd. There is a platform launch, parking is somewhat disorganized & limited (only campers can park in the campground), vault toilet in season (3.5 miles by dirt road, 2-3 hr. float). (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).


The middle Boardman is slightly wider with some deeper areas and a moderate-to-quick flow. There are more private homes and many bridges along the banks. Less forested and more open meadows with lots of wildlife, including birds, otter, beaver & more.

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 hours float).

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).


WARNING!: Until further notice, paddlers must exit at Lone Pine Landing due to dam removal.  Next available launch is at Medalie Park at the south end of Boardman Lake (see below).

Beitner ParkFor experienced paddlers ONLY as there are rapids from here to Lone Pine Landing! 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.

Oleson Bridge – Usual take-out for paddlers running the rapids.  Paved parking, on Keystone Rd near River Rd.

Lone Pine Landing – Walk-in/out only (and steep stairs), paved parking, on Keystone Rd near Hoch Rd. The river below Lone Pine Landing is CLOSED until further notice.


Boardman Valley Nature Preserve (old YMCA) – New landing under construction in 2018, Sandy swimming, paved parking, small wooden dock (behind tennis courts). Located on S Airport Rd at Logan’s Landing.


After passing through culverts under S Airport Rd, the river enters the approximately 2 mile long Boardman Lake. The lake is popular with many birds (& 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 Logans 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

The river is always changing, and this information may not be correct.

Be prepared for downed trees and varying conditions.