If the weather looks to keep Saginaw Bay calm and the winds low, consider a morning of paddling the waters of the Upper Thumb. The region offers some of the finest Michigan kayaking areas for both the novice and expert.
Three Popular Michigan Kayaking Destinations
Turnip Rock Trail – This paddle is 7 miles along the shoreline north of Port Austin. It has three unique features to explore. Turnip Rock has been called by CNN one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America. Nearby Thumbnail Point is really considered the true tip of Michigan’s Thumb. If the area around Turnip Rock and Thumbnail Point are crowded then continue paddling a hundred yards further into the Sea Caves of Pointe Aux Barques.
Broken Rocks Trail– This is a shorter water trail that extends south-west along the shore. The landmarks are Table Rock, Broken Rocks and Twin Sisters. This is an ideal paddle for families with children or novice kayakers. Table Rock is accessible to stop, take a break, re-energize with a trail snack, take pictures and swim. The trail can be completed in about two hours.
Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail – If your in for a long multi-day paddle consider taking this well-marked route along the shore of the Thumb. At 103 miles it offers an excellent opportunity to see the rocky shores along Lake Huron to the tranquil waters of Wild Fowl Bay. There are 44 marked access points along the trail to start or end your quest.
Use Safe Leave-No-Trace Principles on the Water
Leave the trail better then you found it. Pack it in, pack it out. Always wear a life jacket and watch the weather. If the wind picks up or waves come in its best to turn back and attempt another day
One of the most amazing sites in the Upper Thumb is Turnip Rock. Carved over time by the force of constant wave action the soft limestone has been shaped to its namesake and separated from the mainland over thousands of years. CNN called it one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America and Pure Michigan featured it on it’s 2016 magazine cover. International travelers coming into Detroit Metropolitan Airport see Turnip Rock as their first view of Michigan’s wonder scenes coming into customs. It’s a marvel to behold and it’s an easy trip if the conditions are right.
This small guide offers a local point of view to avoid problems with the local law enforcement and property owners while being able to enjoy a unique natural wonder.
Turnip Rock is on Private Land
Despite its uniqueness as a natural wonder is located and surrounded by private land. Thus the only way to access it is from the water. Fortunately that can easily be achieved by canoe or kayak. This means that you can’t go feet dry. Stay in the water. If you must get out of our kayak stay as close to waters edge as possible. (Unless its an emergency)
Paddling Near the Rock on Busy Weekends
During the weekends the number of paddlers can get quite large. If the area around the rock is crowded consider paddling a few hundred yards past and view the overhangs and cave features that border the Pointe Aux Barques community. During the late 1800’s the cave were hideouts for fugitives. It’s worth taking a few minutes to explore. You may be tempted to get out of your kayak and climb the rocks for a view. This is a no-no and there are several signs reminding not to trespass. (IMHO these signs are obtrusive, and possibly illegal as they are posted under the high water mark of Lake Huron)
Heed Weather and Travel Time
Plan on 2-3 hours total travel time to Turnip Rock from Port Austin. This assumes that the winds and lake are calm. You will paddle north-east along the shallow coastline until you see the small cliffs that mark the start of Pointe Aux Barques. If the wind is strong and the there are waves it’s a wise idea to defer to another day. Novice paddlers have been pushed by southern winds out into the lake requiring assistance or rescue.
Can I Climb on Turnip and Fingernail Rocks?
Despite numerous YouTube and other postings showing people climbing all over the rock formation, you are urged to not imbibe. The shore formations above the high water mark is private land. People have been hurt trying to climb it and arrested for trespass. Also the limestone is rather fragile and prone to breakage and collapse. The best way to mark your visit is to capture the rock formation with digital photos of you and your peeps in unique light and weather. Stay wet and wild and get a great shot from the water.
What to Bring on Board
Life jacket, Sunglasses, sunscreen, small towel, cell phone and a dry bag. Bring water and something to munch on. Water shoes are also highly recommended. It’s not a strenuous trip but winds and weather can make it a challenge for the unprepared.
Leave No Trace
Leaving no trace is everyone’s responsibility. While paddling to the rock remember to minimize your impact so it can be enjoyed for the next generation. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
Plan Ahead and Prepare. …
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. …
Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out) …