101 E. Lake St.
Petoskey Michigan 49770United States
Even if you don't ride the rapids in this artificially enhanced river, you'll enjoy strolling wooded paths overlooking the rushing water.
When Petoskey's Bear River Valley Recreation Area unveiled its $2.4 million update in 2011, much of the buzz was about the new river rapids. Anyone with a kayak and experience enough can put in at the top and ride 1.5 miles through Class II (or Class III or even IV during rainy periods) rapids to the bottom, near where the Bear empties into Lake Michigan. Cool, right? It probably is, but at the time of our visit in June 2011, there was no obvious outfitter or concessionaire to hook up the average visitor with a raft or kayak, much less guide service for newbies. At first, that was kind of a disappointment -- but actually, we had a great time just strolling along the river. Tidy walking paths run along both banks, through wooded and occasionally open scenery. You get lots of good views of the river, and the sounds of rushing water and birdsong make a lovely, soothing backdrop. It's fun to see how enhancements such as piles of rocks and boulders have turned this already swift-moving river into a whitewater destination. And, we hope, as the years pass, it will be fun to see more people out on the water taking advantage of this unique local resource. In the meantime, we'll see you on the trails!