Where to Find Adaptive Kayaking Launches

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Sliding a kayak into the water can always be the beginning of an adventure. You might be out for a brisk paddle across a big inland lake, a real workout for your arms and your core muscles. Or you might be looking forward to a slow trip that lets you drift close to wildlife on the shoreline. A fast-flowing river with obstacles to navigate might be a day that really gets your heart pumping. The good news is that there are several adaptive kayak launches across Michigan that allow people of different mobility levels the option of getting into a kayak and getting out on the water.
What is an adaptive launch? Adaptive kayak launches sometimes go by other names, like accessible launches and ADA launches, a reference to the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are specially-designed watercraft launches that allow people who use wheelchairs or who have mobility issues to more easily get into a kayak that is at the launch. These launches typically are accessed by ramps. They have lots of hand-hold areas to make getting into the kayak easier and safer. Some have transfer benches and slide boards to make entering and exiting easier. And they are usually spacious enough to accommodate a few people if the kayaker needs assistance getting in and out of the watercraft. In addition to kayaks, some of these launches can be used for small boats, canoes and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs).
“The easy-to-use transfer bench and transfer slide boards allow users to simply sit, slide over and drop down into a kayak or canoe then use the side rails to pull off or back on,” Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials said of the adaptive kayak launches that have been built at several state parks, recreation areas and boat launch sites. Here is a list of the adaptive launches offered at state-run areas:

Southeast Michigan

Belle Isle Park in Detroit: This nearly 1,000-acre park in the middle of the Detroit River is located between Michigan and Canada. Water sports are a big draw in the summer because it has a designated beach plus access to paddle sports. Bring your own kayak or rent one. Canoe, kayak and SUP rentals are available in the summer months.
Brighton Recreation Area: This nearly 5,000-acre expanse has lots of water options for kayakers. It offers inland lake access and grassy marshes. Kayaks and SUPs are available for full and half-day rentals, and there is one accessible launch.

Northeast Michigan

Rifle River Recreation Area in Lupton: There are plenty of places to try your paddle skills here. This recreation area has 10 no-wake inland lakes and ponds. The park’s Grebe Lake has an accessible launch.

Northwest Michigan

Interlochen State Park: This popular park just south of Traverse City sits between Green Lake and Duck Lake. The kayak launch with accessible features is located on Duck Lake between the picnic area and the boat launch. 
Ludington State Park: This park is sandwiched between the expansive Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan and also has Big Sable River running through the park’s southern end, so there are lots of options for kayakers. Paddlers who want to use Hamlin Lake’s accessible canoe and kayak launch will find it north of the main boat launch.
Mitchell State Park in Cadillac: This 660-acre park sits neatly between Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac and has a wide, picturesque channel along the edge of the campground that connects the two lakes.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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