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Michigan: Les Cheneaux Islands
|Author||Topic: Michigan: Les Cheneaux Islands|
posted 03-09-2006 01:52 PM ET (US)
Some questions for those of you with knowledge and experience regarding the Les Cheneaux Islands:
1. Is this area primarily a boating/fishing destination, or is it watersports-friendly, i.e., swimming, skiing, jet-skiing?
2. What are the average or expected water temperatures during August?
3. Are there sandbars or public beaches where a couple of boats can tie up and hang around for swimming and sunning?
4. Are there a lot of no-wake zones, or is the area primarily unrestricted with regard to speed?
5. I have been to the Inland Waterway (Burt Lake/Indian River, etc.) several times, and now I'm thinking about a little change of scenery. What are some of the differences or similarities between the Les Cheneaux Islands experience and the Inland Waterway experience?
Thanks in advance for any help.
posted 03-10-2006 12:38 AM ET (US)
Read my narrative:
The water temperatures will probably be in the 70 to 75 degree range. Great swimming for the kids; a little brisk for old farts.
Some areas of the waterway are NO WAKE.
Sand beaches...hmm. They may be a bit hard to find.
I am sure you could waterski in some areas; Government Bay would be a good place. There used to be more fishing up there until the Cormorants moved in and ate all the perch.
posted 03-10-2006 05:23 AM ET (US)
We had a very nice time up there last summer, stayed in Hessel. Boated through the area, and also made two day trips over to Mackinac Island / Round Island.
I'm at the office today, call 810-985-2400 in Port Huron for further.
posted 03-10-2006 12:14 PM ET (US)
Speeds in the Les Cheneaux are restricted to 55 MPH, and as mentioned, some no-wake zones (though fairly few).
The best (public) sand beach you will find for the kids will be in Government Bay back where Government Island and LaSalle Island come together. There are usually a few yachts anchored in this harbor in the summer time. Government Island is part of the Hiawatha National (state?) Forest and you can camp, etc. There are rustic facilities (privies). Government Island is a lot of fun to explore for the kids too. Some gravel beaches, and if you follow the "stream" between Government Island and LaSalle Island, you will find a very nice Lake Huron beach...almost guaranteed to be very few people back there.
Fishing sucks and has been that way since the early 1990's when the State re-negotiated tribal fishing grounds with the Indians. The introduction of Gill Nets offshore of the islands has severely limited what used to be a very plentiful perch and rock bass fishery...I remember catching 50-60 perch at a time when I was growing up up there.
There are plenty of great bays and calm areas for water sports. Cedarville Bay, while sometimes busy with boat traffic, is fairly shallow and has the warmest water. Snuggle up along LaSalle Island to better avoid weeds. Shepherd's Bay is also a good spot for skiing, with warmest water.
Other nearby beaches - around Pt. Brulee there is a sandy public (county?) beach. Also, East past Beavertail point there is a nice stretch of sandy beach, but both are exposed stretches and fairly COLD water.
Other good spot on a calm day is to go out the Yacht Entrance around Penny Island and Government Island and explore the beach on LaSalle Island near that little lake. This is usually completely deserted and though I think it is technically private property (be respectful!) - it is a great place to anchor slightly offshore and wade in..combination pebble and sand beach...great for skipping stones, etc.
If you're navigating the waters in Lake Huron (outside the islands) use your charts to watch for shoals. Some of those shoals off of Marquette Island and LaSalle Island extend quite far out into the lake....don't cut these short.
If Camping, consider the outer campsite on the inside edge of Government Island near the Yacht Entrance. Another good site for camping is to anchor the boat in Government Bay and camp along that lake Huron Beach I mentioned.
If you can get in towards Penny Island, there is a nice little campsite there as well...great views of the Mackinac Bridge all lit up at night.
August is the best month...expect 70 degree water in the bays, and about 62-65 degree in the outer harbors (Scammons Harbor, Hessel Bay out near Long Island, etc).
Take historical note of the Revolutionary War outposts on Long Island and on the Marquette Island point nearest Hessel (cube point?)... These were used to send smoke warnings of approaching ships to outposts on Mackinac Island to warn the fort.
Consider also a run from the Islands out to Mackinac Island - an easy 18 mile offshore jaunt...For dinner/drinks...makes a nice run back in twilight with the bridge all lit up behind you on the way home.
Be sure to check out the house on Dollar Island (in the Snows Channel)..and the homes on Club Point (Marquette Island). There's a little golf course that has public docking as well...not a great course, but the novelty of having your clubs in the boat is kind of fun.
E-mail me if you need other information.
posted 03-10-2006 05:08 PM ET (US)
I had the following material down at the office:
We stayed at Hessel Bay Sunset Cabins (www.hesselsunsetcabins.com). Docking across the street (we stayed not at the Sunset Cabins, but rather 1/4 mile east at another group of cabins, just east of Mertaughs's Marina. The cabin was called "Loreli 5". Right across the street was a nice dock, and walking distance of two places to eat, and the launch ramp. For early August, two people and boat dockage, it ran $545 for four days.
Another place we wandered by is:
About the same price, farther away from eating.
posted 03-10-2006 05:16 PM ET (US)
Hills point is nice.
There are also lots of rentals in the "snows channel" which is probably the "busiest" area.
A lot of the rental places up there are booked a year in advance, though there are more available than there were in the past due to the property values going up and I think people are renting out private cottages in efforts to contain costs of owning.
DFM's recs are all good. I'd also suggest Barefoot's on Hill Island (again, further from dining). The ones on the Snows Channel are all centrally located, though any restaurant other than Snows Bar and Grill is going to be an equal hike either direction to either Cedarville or Hessel.
I recommend you go to Cedarville for staples/supplies...they actually have a real "supermarket" which will help contain costs (Hessel's grocery is a nice little place, but spendy...so is "Cedar Pantry" in Cedarville...but both of those locations have better operating hours.
Cedarville also has the hardware stores for the area. Mertaugh's (Hessel) is the Whaler Dealer, and is one of the oldest Whaler Dealers in the country (also one of the oldest Chris-Craft dealers in the country). I think it's the second weekend in August for the Antique Boat Show in hessel. Good luck finding lodging in town that weekend, but what a great time to be in the area. You may have to stay in St. Ignace if your trip falls on that weekend. Those dates are booked solid up there.
Bon-Air in Cedarville for your after-dinner ice-cream cone (via boat to the Cedarville Public Dock, of course!)...and don't forget "Bumpas" in Cedarville for your "local flavor (local hangout), and adult beverages".
posted 03-10-2006 08:21 PM ET (US)
Thanks again for the information. After reading this, it appears that the Les Cheneaux Islands are more about boating than the Inland Waterway, which is more about playing and recreating in the water. The group I'm currently planning a trip with definitely prefer the Inland Waterway.
Nevertheless, my wife and I will probably book a long weekend somewhere on Drummond Island and take a day trip to the Les Chenaux Islands, weather and conditions permitting, of course.
posted 03-13-2006 05:24 AM ET (US)
During the GatheringOfWhalers up there last fall, we stayed at:
Great spot for working the Waterway either north or south. Launch Ramp, excellent docking with pilings on all four corners, 100 feet away from our cabin. Slightly tricky to drive to...just follow the directions closely (I'm not telling more....just slightly lost). Close to town by car. Good parking for trailer. Downside is having to drive to eat if you don't want to cook.
Another spot we looked at right in Indian River is:
_Very_ nice. Easy walk into town. Two downsides: no launch ramp on property (close though) and seawall mooring along the Indian River with current.
posted 03-13-2006 09:14 AM ET (US)
Thanks for the information. I've stayed at the Landings before, in one of their "aparments". It was very "rustic" to say the least, but it was nice having the boat in the water just a few feet from my room.
I've also stayed at the Best Western on the Cheboygan River, where you can tie your boat to seawall. The Best Western was much nicer than the Landings, and only cost a little bit more. The problem with the Best Western is that entire Cheboygan River is a no wake zone, so every trip begins and ends with a forty-five minute no wake cruise.
This year were going to try the Crooked River Lodge. It's a little more centrally located, but it does not offer any boat docking. They have suggested using the Crooked River Marina, which is apparently close by. I will report my findings.
One problem I've found with lodging on the Inland Waterway is that many of the resorts only offer week-long, Saturday-to-Saturday rentals during the peak months of July and August. It's hard enough to get a group together for a weekend - I think it would be virtually impossible to get a good-sized group together for an entire week.
posted 03-13-2006 10:18 AM ET (US)
I don't understand the "boating rather than playing or recreating in the water" statement.
I will say that the water is definitely cooler in the Les Cheneaux, which helps keep the jet-ski quotient down (though there are some darn hardy jet-ski riders up there!).
There is plenty of tubing and skiing going on on warm days.
The fishing is better in the inland waterway, principally because the state of Michigan re-negotiated fishing rights with the indian populations in the lower peninsula (areas like the inland waterway) for locations in the U.P....like the Les Cheneaux.
The biggest difference in the two areas is the proximity to sizeable towns (two one-horse towns in the Les Cheneaux and several decent-size (i.e. large enough to support chain restaurants) surrounding the Inland Waterway - principally due to location along the I-75 corridor.
All that said - I'm not trying to steer you away from the Inland Waterway (which I think is MUCH more about just boating...due to the length traveled). The fewer people to discover Les Cheneaux, the better!
Cheers and happy boating.
posted 03-13-2006 11:13 AM ET (US)
The group I'm planning the trip with are expecting more of a social event then a boating event. Although they enjoy riding in boats, it's more about rafting-up at a sandbar or near a beach, drinking some beer, swimming, people watching, and relaxing in the sun. Based on your description of the Les Cheneaux Islands, it seems pretty clear that there is more of this type of activity to be found in the Inland Waterway.
When it comes to pure "boating", i.e., riding around in the boat all day and sightseeing, that's something my wife and I are more likely to do on our own, without the group. From everything I've read, the Les Cheneaux Islands are a beautiful boating destination. I'd definitely like to spend a weekend there. I just think that the group will have a better time in the Inland Waterway.
posted 03-13-2006 02:56 PM ET (US)
You should check out Portage Lake and portagepointinn.com.
It's perfect for what you describe, and not a well known destination. One of Michigan's best kept secrets. It's 7 miles north of Manistee, on one of the most beautiful parts of Lake Michigan.
posted 03-13-2006 04:29 PM ET (US)
I have been to Portage Lake. I used to own a 1981 26 foot Searay with my brother and a friend. We had it rigged for salmon fishing, and we kept it at the Cedar Street Marina in Manistee, which is owned by Onekema Marine. We had to take the boat up to Onekema Marine, on Portage Lake, a couple of times for repairs. It's a very nice lake, but it does not offer the type of people watching available on the Inland Waterway. Thanks for the suggestion anyway.
posted 05-04-2006 07:50 PM ET (US)
I'm planning a kayaking trip in Les Cheneaux for the end of this month. I was thinking of putting in at Lakeside Rd., east of Cedarville, camping on Gov't. Is. for one or two nights, and taking out at Hessel. Or maybe one night camping and stay in Cedarville near the water the second night. I will be bringing a fold-up kayak and drysuit from San Diego. (anything below 70 degrees is cold for us) Any advice would be appreciated.
What are the best campsites on Gov't. Is.?
Any other good short kayaking trips nearby?
I will be based in St. Ignace.
posted 05-04-2006 09:18 PM ET (US)
The "best" campsite on Government Island is the one near the tip of Boot Island at the Yacht Entrance to the islands...There is a good gravel beach and a nearly new privy back in the woods a ways.
The next best is actually on Penny Island (which looks more like a peninsula) out in Lake Huron a little ways - from there it's a short nighttime paddle out to the lighted green buoy to see the Mackinac Bridge lit up at night.
Another favorite of mine, that is very seldom used due to location - on the backside of the island (lake Huron side) near the channel between LaSalle and Government Island, there is a sandy beach nearby...and a nice campsite about 1/4 of the way out from that beach (on the shore) toward Penny Island. Those last two are very rustic with no privy nearby.
Prepare to be cold if 70 degrees is cold for you...expect low 40's at night and be grateful for mid 50's.
A good side trip is Beaver Tail Point, about 10 miles further East from Cedarville on M-134. Nice little paddle.
posted 05-04-2006 10:05 PM ET (US)
Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.
posted 05-23-2006 07:54 PM ET (US)
Good news Hessel and Cedarville fans!
After a danish-free 2005, the Hessel Bakery is again open. It appears to be long term. I filled up there this morning.
Additional gluttony at Snow's Bar is also a possibility in 2006. I had heard local reports that it was back in business under new ownership, stopped by last night, the sign in the window stated June 3rd is opening day.
posted 05-27-2006 09:43 AM ET (US)
I didn't even know Snow's Bar had closed down (haven't been up there in a couple of years), but I'm glad to hear it has re-opened. They used to have the best perch and walleye dinners in creation!
posted 06-03-2006 09:49 AM ET (US)
1. Is this area primarily a boating/fishing destination, or is it watersports-friendly, i.e., swimming, skiing, jet-skiing? I would say both. Fishing has improved since DNR started aggressive Cormorant reduction plan (oiling eggs, etc) Perch are still down, but Piking has improved. Salmon fishing is still awesome. Starting in late July, my dad and I fish out of the Middle Entrance in 60 feet of water trolling with Northport Nailers on downriggers. Our neighbors on Hill Island eat well on coho, king, and pink salmon. There is not a public beach that I can think of with lifeguards, swim buoys, etc. There are several nice public land sandy beaches. Gov Island has been mentioned. Another really nice beach is east of Cedarville on the way to Detour Village. The sand is nice, but the water is much colder than in the Islands. Goose Island has a rocky beach that is nice for secluded beach combing, campfires, etc. As far as boating, there are a lot of skiers and wakeboarders on the weekend, but much less traffic during the week. You could spend hundreds of $$ on gas each week if you wanted to. Mac Island is a straight 18 mile shot. Plenty of cruising sights to see within the islands if you like interesting cottages/summer homes and naturally beauty. Increasingly common are both small and large groups of kayakers.
2. What are the average or expected water temperatures during August? 72-75 f
3. Are there sandbars or public beaches where a couple of boats can tie up and hang around for swimming and sunning?
4. Are there a lot of no-wake zones, or is the area primarily unrestricted with regard to speed? As mentioned in above posts, 55mph limit other than in the few no wake zones. WOT on the way to Mac Island if you want.
5. I have been to the Inland Waterway (Burt Lake/Indian River, etc.) several times, and now I'm thinking about a little change of scenery. What are some of the differences or similarities between the Les Cheneaux Islands experience and the Inland Waterway experience? Depending on the day of the week and the time of the year, LCI will have much less traffic and fewer boaters in general. This is one of the nice things about the LCI, it's relatively quiet. Also, fewer ammenities. No fast food. Angios in Cedarville is good for pizza and burgers. Hessel Bay Inn is tops for breakfast. The ice cream shop The Bon Air has been closed for about 15 years, but there are other places to get ice cream. Cedarville foods is a full-sized supermarket. The Les Cheneaux Club is Michigan's oldest public golf course. There is a newer course two miles north of Hessel near the airport and casino. Overal, LCI doesn't have a Vacation Destination feel to it like Traverse City or Harbor Springs. It's more of a quiet, small town, "get away from it all" type of place.
posted 06-05-2006 05:57 PM ET (US)
St. Martin Bay West of Hessel also has a nice public beach that is sandy...but the access road to that beach is narrow and hard to find (dirt path, really)...you have to be willing to pull down a few driveways with the potential to haul backwards outta there if you're on someone's property. The access road is numbered and marked with a brown wooden sign, if I recall correctly, but I don't remember its name or number. We used to go out there when I was in High School...nice and private..heh, heh.
So...did this Southern California guy (alejo) get up there? (And did he freeze?! It was cold that weekend!).
Perhaps we should have a Whaler Rendezvous that goes through there in August during the antique boat show. LHG's 21' Outrage certainly qualifies as an antique, and is in similar condition to many of the woodies up there (immaculate).
It's unlikely there would be room to stay there at a marina overnight, but based in nearby St. Ignace or even Drummond Island could make for a nice day in the Islands with an evening run back "home."
posted 06-05-2006 07:58 PM ET (US)
I'd be game for August in the Les Cheneaux Islands, by the way Dave isn't it the Antique Wooden Boat Show ? The last time I was up there for the show I went by water, anchored the Montauk out in the bay and took one of several 13 foot Whalers that local kids had pressed into service as water taxi's....I think they made a bundle that weekend.....let me know....who knows maybe I'll be floating something bigger by then....
posted 06-05-2006 09:43 PM ET (US)
I'll be up that way in late August with Whaler.
posted 07-03-2006 09:19 AM ET (US)
Snow's Bar is now open. No liquor license yet. Same story you always hear, "the previous owner... the judge... should be real soon... just a few more days..."
Detroit Tiger fans, Snow's appears to be the only bar/restaurant in Cedarville or Hessell that has Fox Sports Net.
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