The Pere Marquette National Scenic River is not only tranquil and beautiful but also an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, providing recreation from canoeing and kayaking to steelhead and salmon fishing, as it winds through the Manistee National Forest. The PM River is a waterway open for all seasons and flows into PM Lake in Ludington, which has always been known as a hotspot for those seeking outdoor adventure.
The Manistee National Forest encompasses 481,000 acres of woods, streams and lakes along the Lake Michigan shoreline, offering year-round outdoor activities including hunting, off-road vehicle use, biking, camping, hiking, snowmobiling, and berry and mushroom gathering. The PM River is part of what makes this forest (named after a Chippewa Indian god meaning “Spirit of the Woods”) legendary. The cool waters are the perfect environment for steelhead, salmon and trout making their way up the river to spawn. The watercourse is over 60 miles long without any man-made dams on it, making it one of the best fisheries in the state.
The PM River is known worldwide for its runs of natural-reproduction steelhead. Steelhead migrate upstream from mid-October to May and then back out to Lake Michigan. Spring is the main spawning run.
King Salmon will run up the entire river and head into small tributaries from mid-August to October, and Coho Salmon from mid-October to December. As the fish move up the river, you can fish for them in Ludington, Scottville, Custer, at Indian Bridge and Walhalla.
The best trout fishing is located in Walhalla and farther up-river, east. Trout fishing can be fantastic in the fall, as they like to feed on salmon eggs. As the salmon are finishing their life cycle, many anglers will target large trout in the deep holes behind the spawning grounds.
Not sure where to go? Contact Pere Marquette River Guide Service, which offer full- and half-day guided salmon and steelhead fishing trips on the lower section of the PM River.
Kayaking & Canoeing
Whether you prefer to row your canoe, kayak or raft, the Pere Marquette River is the perfect place for your adventure. The river has just enough current that will keep you moving but not overwhelm the inexperienced boater. It is a relaxing float great for families, since you can choose the length of your trip and stop along the way to swim or have a bite of your packed lunch.
If you are in need of a rental, check out Pere Marquette Expeditions, Henry’s Landing or Baldwin Canoe Rental. Most have a wide variety of canoes, single or tandem kayaks, tubes or SUP boards and provide transportation to and from docks. Paddle Sport Factory Outlet has a variety of boats and accessories, if you are looking to own.
Looking for a place to stay on the river? Try the Ludington East KOA Campground, Alpine Motel & Cabins, or Barothy Lodge Resort. Or you can check out a number of hotels in Ludington, where downtown businesses offer shopping and dining experiences.
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