Spring Kayaking on Northern Door County’s Inland Lakes

You push off from the sand and glide into the still water. After a few paddles you find your rhythm and set your course for a distant shore. Signs of civilization drop away and eventually you cease paddling, letting your kayak drift. The only sounds are the quiet lapping of the water interrupted by bird calls. Tiny waves gently nudge your boat. You look around, and as far as you can see to your left and to your right there are only trees, water and sky.

Midwesterners agree the first spring day above 50 degrees always feels like a heat wave. My husband Tim and I are no different, and the warmer weather pulls us to partake in one of our favorite outdoor activities: spring kayaking. Lake Michigan remains about 37 degrees in April and May, so our first paddles are usually in smaller inland lakes which are still chilly but arguably calmer. Though the lakes are calm and shallow, we watch the weather carefully and never shirk on safety gear.

Europe Lake is a lovely, secluded lake in northern Door that abuts Newport State Park on its eastern shore. There are some cottages and homes on the western lakeside, but the lake is shallow—only 10 feet at its deepest—keeping boat traffic low throughout the spring and even summer. Tim has tried fishing for the panfish, bass and walleye that reside here, and I enjoy paddling slowly along the wooded shoreline spotting wildlife and seeing water birds close-up. One could easily spend a half-day exploring this charming lake. Europe Lake is accessible to the public at the boat launch at Liberty Grove Park and picnic area, which features a flat, sandy put-in area, a small dock and parking.

Distance from Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 28 minutes (18.8 miles)

Pre-registration required: None

Cost: Possible launch fee, $8

Mud Lake is a hidden gem in the heart of the Mud Lake State Wildlife Area north of Baileys Harbor on County Road Q. Park and put in where Reiboldt Creek flows under County Q. The winding creek may slightly challenge your winter-rusted steering skills as it always does mine. The short, narrow paddle through wetlands is worth a little struggle when the creek opens onto Mud Lake. Truly cloistered within the wildlife preserve, the lake’s shores hold no sign of human interference. Grassy wetlands surround the lake and tall pines wall it in. Depending on the wind direction, one can paddle across in under an hour. Expect to see plenty of waterfowl and keep your eyes peeled on the treeline to spot bald eagles. Water lilies bloom in this shallow lake in late May and early June.

Distance from Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 5 minutes (3.5 miles)

Pre-registration required: None

Cost: None

Kangaroo Lake is the largest of the inland lakes in northern Door County, and it boasts its own charms. Uniquely split by County Road E, which cuts through the lake’s northern section, Kangaroo Lake has a quiet end and a busier end. The northern part of the lake is bordered almost entirely by the Kangaroo Lake State Natural area to the southeast and the Kangaroo Lake Nature Preserve to the north and west. Tim and I have put in at Coyote Roadhouse (after asking permission to launch) and spent several hours paddling the circumference of the lake. Like Mud Lake, this shallow body is a great place to find water lilies in the late spring. The southern portion of Kangaroo Lake is surrounded by year-round and summer homes, which make for fun and interesting scenery and sometimes more traffic while paddling. The focal point of the lake is an island in the middle. A public boat launch on Kangaroo Lake road gives access to the southern part.

Distance from Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 5 minutes (3 miles)

Pre-registration required: None

Cost: None

Inland lake kayaking is a great way to ease back into a season of paddling. If you don’t have your own boats, kayak rentals are available starting in late spring. On a calm day, explore the Baileys Harbor shoreline in one of the Blacksmith Inn’s complimentary kayaks. Be sure to book a place to rest after your spring paddle. Check the Blacksmith Inn’s availabilty here.

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