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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Benzie County, Michigan / Upper and Lower Platte River, Platte River State Forest Campground, Lake Township Park

July 2016, Weekday-weekend, 3-nights

View of Platte River across the road from site 17

Platte River State forest Campground, Sites 18 and 17

This was our first time staying in Platte River State Forest Campground. Not many State Forest Campgrounds offer campsites large enough to accommodate large RVs, and I could not find much information about this campground or kayaking the Upper Platte River before our stay. I had found one vague reference to 45' sites (not on the state forest website), so we decided to arrive with our kayaks on Thursday evening - hoping to find a suitable site, and hoping we could access the river from the campground.

Labeled campground map; click to enlarge
There are 26 sites in this state forest campground. All of the sites are located across the road from the river except site 16. Site 16 is not right on the river, although it does offer an excellent view of the river without the road in between. It is possible I do not have the site numbers on the photo above exactly correct; however, they are all labeled in the correct locations, as I am referring to them in this post.

The campground was mostly to entirely full during our stay (depending which night). We chose site 18 the first night, as it is a large, somewhat open, and level site. This site is in front of one of the outhouses, which we were not crazy about. The outhouse did not smell bad from the campsite; however, we noticed that campers with children often chose sites near the outhouses, and there was a lot of activity around this site because of the outhouse. We do not have anything against children. In fact, I am hoping for grandkids someday! Currently, it is just the two of us, and we prefer a more secluded and peaceful atmosphere.

View of Upper Platte River from front of site 17
When we saw the campers on site 17 packing up the next morning, we decided to move to that site for the next two nights. Site 17 is also a spacious and level site, located a bit farther from the outhouse. There was a bit of activity around this site also, as there is a fresh water pump handle across the road from the site. No parking signs were posted by the water handle; however, many people briefly parked in this area anyway. I imagine the no parking signs are posted to keep the corner clear for campers coming around the bend.

View from site 17 facing away from the river
Site 17 is completely shaded, as are most of the sites in this campground. We like shade, although we also like seeing the sky overhead. Because it is so shady in this park, it was darker during the day, and it felt much cooler than the temperature on the river or anywhere outside of the campground.

Misc. campground info

Goose Rd., where the campground is located, was tar. The tar was fresh and in good condition, although the road was a bit narrow with gravel sides. We did not pass any large RVs on the road. The road inside the campground was dirt with several large potholes. Traffic in this campground was greater than we expected. Many vehicles were driven through in both directions, and often at higher speeds than expected in a campground. Many of the campsites were large enough for a large RV, although some of the tree branches were quite low. There were several fresh water hand pumps and outhouses in this campground. I observed at least three of each.

River access from Platte River State Forest Campground, and Platte Springs Pathway

There are two trails where you can access Platte River from the state forest campground. I have marked the locations on the map near the top of this post. The trail that starts next to the parking area is level at the river, and it is located by a log/stone jam. A camper we met said he had missed a marker they had placed at this spot when kayaking from Veteran's Park. I do not think you need a marker for the spot; just remember the stone/log jam in the photo below. The walk back to the parking area from here was a bit farther than we wanted to carry our kayaks.
First state forest campground stopping point

Another portage spot would be the river access point for Platte Springs Pathway. Platte Springs Pathway starts in Platte River State Forest Campground, and crosses the river. The trail start is located across from site 20. We had planned to cross the river and walk the pathway; however, we ran out of time. Marker #2 is visible across the river from the campground access point. This spot would be more difficult to see from a kayak on the river without a marker. 

The Platte Springs Pathway entrance is also labeled on the map I provided above. The two photos here show the river access, and a map of Platte Springs Pathway, which is posted near the water entrance. The distance to carry kayaks to the road from this location on the river is almost as far as the first location.

Pathway river access from campground

We opted to take our kayaks out of the river across the road from our campsite. This was the shortest carrying distance; however, it was also the least convenient water access spot. There is seaweed/grass growing in the water, the ground is quite mucky, and there are several logs in the water. Even so, it was not too difficult.

River by campsite 17

Upper Platte River has a good current with many obstructions. The trip from Veteran's Park to Platte River State Forest campground was less than 1 hour.

Lower Platte River, Lake Michigan, Lake Township Park

Lower Platte River is much slower than the Upper Platte. It gets very busy and filled with tubers by 11:00 a.m. in the summer. We kayaked from the picnic/portage area across from Platte River Campground-National Park to Lake Township Park at Lake Michigan. After dropping our kayaks at the national park point, we drove to Lake Township Park. It is $5 for a day pass at the township park. We then rode our bicycles back to the national park. The ride was just over 2.5 miles, and there was a bicycle rack located at the west entrance to the national park.

When we arrived in the area before 10:00 a.m., groups were already preparing in the national park portage area. There were less than 10 vehicles in the township parking lot. There was not much traffic on the road during our bicycle ride, and there were only a couple of cars parked along the road. We were on the water around 10:30 a.m.

This trip took us less than 2 hours. We stopped briefly in Loon Lake, and again in a sandy spot near the end. Because we were ahead of most people, we saw some enjoyable wildlife: large turtles, fish, muskrats, herons, ducks, birds, etc. The wildflowers along the banks after Loon Lake were gorgeous. I wished I had not left my camera and and phone in our vehicle. The paddle across Loon Lake was not difficult, even with a slight SW breeze.

Lake Michigan - view from a sand bar between Platte River and the lake

We swam and sat on the beach for a short time after our kayak excursion. The water was clear and warm where the river ends and Lake Michigan begins. Many swimmers were in the water before we left. Again, it was not too busy when we first arrived.

We left Lake Township Park around 2:00 p.m. At this time, the parking lot was full, and people were driving through looking for spots. The entire roadside between this park and M-22 was close to 75% filled with vehicles parked along both sides of the road. More tubers were visible than river water in the areas of the river we could see from the road. We had initially planned to kayak this portion of the river on Friday morning; however, the weather was not good Friday, so we did it Saturday morning instead.


We plan to kayak the Upper Platte River from the state park to Deadstream Rd. at some point. On our way back to the campground, we passed about 10 vehicles parked alongside Deadstream Rd. where it crosses the river.

Please let me know if you have any questions. You can comment below, on Facebook, or on Google. I know I had a difficult time finding much information about Upper Platte River before our trip. As always, feel free to share this post!