The Inland Waterway
Northern Michigan’s Inland Waterway offers you a boating trip unlike any in the world. The approximately 42 mile trip takes you through three rivers and three lakes and surrounds you with some of the most beautiful scenery and captivating communities in Michigan. Once the route of large Inland Route steamers, today’s boaters can enjoy many of the same sights that those a generation ago experienced.
A voyage on the Inland Waterway can begin at the north end in Cheboygan, the south end in Conway, or anywhere along the way. Boat launches are conveniently located at many places along the route. The trip can be made in a day or over a weekend, with the communities of Cheboygan, Topinabee, Aloha, Indian River, Alanson, Oden and Conway all located on the water. Dining, lodging, supplies, and banking facilities can
be found in most of these communities. Numerous marinas also dot the Inland Waterway where marine fuel, boat rentals, and ships stores are situated for your convenience.
Whether you choose to make the Inland Waterway journey in a day or make it a weekend, you will see a side of Northern Michigan that cannot be seen along a highway or freeway. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a boating excursion unlike any other!
Cheboygan, ideally situated on both Lake Huron and the Cheboygan River, is an ideal place to begin or end your Inland Waterway adventure. There are numerous places to stay either on the river, such as the Best Western or Fleetwood Inn and Suites, or just off of it. Dining options such as the Boathouse and Pier M33 allow for dockside dining on the water. Access to downtown shopping and dining is easy by docking on the river and walking less than a block to the downtown district. Riverside docking is free for shoppers and diners. One of the highlights of an Inland Waterway trip is “locking through” the Cheboygan River locks, located towards the center of town.
Numerous lighthouses are another highlight of a trip to Cheboygan. Both the Cheboygan Front Range Light and the Cheboygan Crib Light are visible from the river. Two more lighthouses, Fourteen Foot Shoal and Poe Reef, are located just a few miles out in the Straits of Mackinac.
Mullett Lake & Topinabee
Mullett Lake features the communities of Aloha on the east side and Topinabee on the west side. The mouth of the Cheboygan River and Mullett Lake features a large sandbar that is ideal for dropping anchor and jumping in for a swim. It is also the location of “Music at the Mouth,” where bands play live music on a floating stage on Saturdays during the summer. Dock space is also available at the communities for stocking up on provisions or grabbing a bite to eat or a drink.
Indian River & Burt Lake
Located about midway along the Inland Route is the Village of Indian River. The meandering river of the same name takes you through the heart of the community, with conveniently located dockage available to tie up and explore the town. There are also dining, shopping, and lodging options such as Pines Cottages and Fay Martin Resort just off the river, making Indian River a great place to take a break. As the Indian River opens up into Burt Lake, be sure to check out the newly constructed Veteran’s Pier and DeVoe Beach.
Indian River is also home to one of Michigan’s best known attractions, the Cross In The Woods. Sculpted by Marshall Fredericks and cast of bronze in Norway, this seven-ton gigantic depiction of Jesus is suspended on the world’s largest crucifix, 55 feet tall and carved from a California redwood. Annually thousands of visitors come to visit the crucifix in this beautiful wooded setting.
Crooked River & Alanson
A cruise across Burt Lake puts you in the Crooked River. This meandering river is a place with interesting turns and unspoiled natural beauty. Upon coming into Alanson, the beautiful Crooked River Lodge and Suites offers a place to stay right on the river. Entering the village, boaters will have to pass through the Crooked River Lock, a clam-shell lock that makes for a unique experience. Once in town check out the Inland Water Route Museum and the quaint shops and stores.
Crooked Lake offers the small communities of Conway and Oden, both of which were historical jumping on or jumping off points on the Inland Waterway. These communities are little more than a stone’s throw to Petoskey, which although not on the waterway itself, was by many considered the “end” of the Inland Waterway. Oden is home to the Oden Hatchery Visitor’s Center, located at the site of a fish hatchery that operated from 1921-2002. The center offers exhibits, nature trails, a restored railroad car, and more.
Download a PDF copy of the Inland Waterway Brochure and Maps