The paddling opportunities in and around Drummond Island are simply outstanding. Imagine paddling the path of the Native Americans, missionary routes, French voyagers, the 18th century British military, 300 years of North American trade and commerce, as well as recreation that includes challenge, adventure, risk and environmental interpretation. From experiential learning to high adventure risk and challenge, paddling the Drummond Island Heritage Water Trail will provide that opportunity.
Photo by E. Clark
Drummond Island has over one hundred forty miles of coast and inland shoreline to explore. And, since sixty eight percent of the island is publicly owned property, your vacation can become a true Up North experience.
Because of the sheltering islands and inland paddling options, one can paddle safely in virtually any weather conditions. The Drummond Island Heritage Water Trail passes around and through the fifty three sheltering islands, bays and coves so numerous they are hard to count in the Drummond Archipelago and Potagannissing Bay. Add to this picture ever changing cloud formations, misty sunrises and some of the most beautiful sunsets one can imagine. As a paddler, how do you spell ‘bliss’?
Inland paddling in quiet waters of the Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding is a great setting to see and experience a wide variety of feathered and fur-bearing wildlife up close. The protected water and the open water paddling options provide ample opportunity to find great blue heron, eagle, osprey, migrating songbirds and waterfowl. One may see whitetail deer, river otter, beaver, muskrat and mink. There are outstanding fishing options for bass, pike, walleye, fresh water herring and salmon. Hooking a salmon while fishing from a kayak on open water is quite an experience!
In July 2008 I had the thrill of being the third kayaker in a group of three in the backwaters of the Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding. As I was setting up a photograph the others pulled ahead of me. I heard a rustling along the shoreline ahead of my position and behind the other two kayakers. Much to my delight a black bear entered the lake right in front of me I got the picture and a thrill!
Sitting about a mile off the north coast of Drummond is Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge shaped like one giant horseshoe lying on top of another to form two distinct spaces a large shallow inner harbor and a smaller yet deeper outer harbor. Deep draft sailboats tend to favor the outer harbor while smaller and shallow draft boats utilize the inner harbor to anchor off and laze away the evenings.
Harbor Island, once the site for boat building, is now a beautiful and significant wildlife sanctuary. Walking the deep green forested hills is like walking the halls of a great natural cathedral. Paddling through the outer harbor with a collection of beautiful sailboats, causes one to sense the character of the setting when the region was populated with schooners, barks, bateau and early steam powered craft. It’s a magical place for leisure and quiet time.
Photo by D. Sandell
Beyond recreation, Drummond Island is an example of geological history. Early in the Paleozoic Era, the Silurian system of limestone and dolomite was laid down to create the base for what is Drummond Island. The island, an area of approximately 145 square miles, is the largest island within the state of Michigan’s boundary and one of the largest in the Great Lakes Basin. The shallowness of the Potagannissing Bay allows waves to build very quickly adding to the sense of awe and adventure that abounds in the Drummond Archipelago. The shallowness also permits scouring the edges of islands and bays for evidence of shipwrecks. When fog shrouds the waterscape, the sensation of being in complete wilderness is utterly real. The crews of the lost vessels may have felt this sensation long ago.
The new Drummond Island map is an outstanding tool for locating the general position of numerous known ship wreck sites for exploration by kayak. This map available at most Drummond businesses is a must for kayakers. It is a wealth of information, this map combined with the Drummond Island Tourism Association's (DITA) web site will tell you about hidden secrets in each of the eight areas to kayak.
The last British fort in the United States was Fort Drummond, a slightly visible ruin from the water on Whitney Bay. Now Drummond Island hosts an official point of entry to the United States. It is one of the two United States and Border Protection offices in the Eastern Upper Peninsula and is located at Drummond Island Yacht Haven.
Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site, on the southern tip of St. Joseph Island, Canada is about ten to twelve miles from Drummond Island; the fort site has an outstanding interpretive display of British military history and fur trade of the region. Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site is a fine stop on the Drummond Island Heritage Water Trail.
Photo By S. Kovack
If getting a thrill “floats your boat”, then paddling in and adjacent to the shipping lane for A Great Lakes freighter is something to experience. Always be aware that paddling ‘safe’ requires good judgment. When you’re on the water, the lake freighter or ocean-going ‘salty’ moves more quickly than it seems. If you can see the bow wake turn over and appear white, it is a good idea to stop and let the freighter pass brace as needed or raft up, then paddle on.
Sometimes, you can feel the vibration of a passing ship’s propellers, followed by the water rising of a bow wake. It is a cool feeling. Different ship designs produce different sounds and wave patterns as they power through the water. Older designed ships make huge wakes as they pass, while a newer design will create a much lighter wake. This is when you get humbled. As a one thousand foot freighter passes your sixteen foot long sea kayak becomes dwarfed by the sheer height and length of the ship; it seems like it takes forever to pass, given the scale of reference and such a powerful craft creates a minimal wake, as it nearly sneaks by. It is great fun to be humbled in such a manner and enjoying ever moment of the experience to be sure.
Being humbled allows for appreciation of the small things. The wildflowers on Drummond Island and the publicly owned islands are spectacles of beauty. Some many varieties of flowers are just amazing. As the seasons change, so will the varieties that are showing. Drummond Island provides outstanding access for wildflower photography.
So spring, summer and fall, as long as the water is not ice, no matter the wind intensity or direction, there is always a place to paddle. If you have never seen a northern Lake Huron sunrise or sunset from a kayak you’re missing the best of it and if fall color is your passion Drummond is famous for it and nowhere better to see it than from skimming the shores, coves and bays of Drummond. Whatever your interest and skill from fitness and sport to exploration, history, culture, and environmental interpretation, there is always a place to paddle in any weather condition. The best of all, the Drummond community supports a full range of goods and services to support water trail travelers and kayaking recreation with unsurpassed hospitality.