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Kayak The Menominee River

How to Rent and Where to Go
in Northeast Wisconsin



Overview

Wisconsin and Michigan Map This page is based on my experience renting a recreational kayak and paddling the 20 mile stretch of the Menominee River from the McAllister Bridge to a boat launch next to the Menominee (Riverside) cemetery. This page is not about white-water kayaking as the Menominee River in eastern Marinette County is typically not suitable for white-water kayaking. However, the information on this page would also be useful for those who wish to canoe this stretch of the river. I don't have any financial interests in any product or business mentioned. I no longer live in the area but have family there.

The Menominee River serves as the border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and empties into Green Bay. At it's mouth, on US Highway 41, are the "twin cities" of Marinette, Wisconsin and Menominee, Michigan. Coincidentally, the city of Marinette, Wisconsin is in Marinette County and the city of Menominee, Michigan is in Menominee County. Marinette and Menominee counties share the river as a common border.

While the majority of the Menominee River runs west to east, as you can see on the map below in Marinette and Menominee counties the river runs mostly north to south. Also note that each county has a road that somewhat parallels the river. On the Wisconsin side of the river the road is Highway 180 which runs from Marinette through McAllister to Wausaukee. On the Michigan side of the river the road is County Road 581 also know as River Road also known as River Drive.

Wisconsin and Michigan Map

Near the top of the above map you'll see a road labeled G-08 that runs over the river. On the Wisconsin side of the river this is County Road JJ. On the Michigan side of the river this is County Road 342. The bridge that connects these two county roads is the McAllister Bridge and it is the first bridge over the Menominee River up river from the "twin cities". The McAllister Bridge is the furthest practical spot to launch your kayak. About 1.5 miles further up river is the Ingalls Dam. While there is a boat launch near the Michigan side of the dam, the current there can be a bit swift and unpredictable. Because the water under the McAllister Bridge is deeper it is also slower moving and more suitable for launching recreational kayaks.

Launch Sites

Thanks to Marinette County the Wisconsin side of the river has several convenient launch sites denoted by the four red numbers on the following modified map. The variety of distances from the twin cities to these launch sites offers work-out options for recreational kayakers of all levels. And there's no law that says you can't simply kayak between two of these launch sites if shorter distances are desired. The GPS coordinates for the launch sites listed below were taken off of Google Maps at the launch site ramp at the river's edge so they can be used by both driver and kayaker.

Map of Marinette County boat launch sites on the Menominee River

Note that Marinette County has drop-boxes and envelopes so that you can deposit a $3 per vehicle fee (as of this writing) for use of the boat launch.

The numbers of the following launch sites correspond to the red numbers on the above map.

1. McAllister Boat Launch

GPS Coordinates: 45.325865,-87.663279

At close to 20 miles from the twin cities this is for kayakers who want a good work-out. The launch is on the south side of the McAllister Bridge. Unlike the other launch sites, you may want to access this site from Menominee County. If you look closely at the above map you'll see that Highway 180 (on the Marinette County side of the river) moves away from the river once you get north of County Road X. As a result, the best way to reach this site is by going north out of Menominee on US 41 for about 15 miles to Wallace, Michigan (note the blue triangle on the above map). There you'll want to turn left to go west on County Road 342. (As you approach Co. Rd. 342 on US 41 there's a sign with an arrow pointing to the left that says Wausaukee and a flashing yellow traffic light over the intersection.) Once you cross over the McAllister Bridge into Wisconsin simply turn left to get to the boat launch driveway.

McAllister Bridge and Boat Landing in Marinette County
McAllister Boat Launch
Click photo to enlarge
McAllister Boat Landing on Menominee River
McAllister Boat Launch Ramp Beneath Bridge
Click photo to enlarge

Like most of the Marinette County boat launches, there is no dock at the launch ramp. However, all you have to do is place your kayak at the water line of the ramp, climb in, and push yourself off with your paddle.

2. Menominee River Park

GPS Coordinates: 45.279495,-87.699583

The small, green square at the base of the number 2 on the modified map above is Marinette County's Menominee River Park. As you drive into the park the road forks. Stay to your right to get to the boat launch.

Marinette County Menominee River Park Boat Landing
Menominee River Park Boat Launch
Click photo to enlarge
Menominee River Park Boat Landing from the river
Menominee River Park Boat Launch From River
Click photo to enlarge

This park is approximately 14 miles from the twin cities and is located at County Road X on Highway 180.

3. Twin Island Wayside

GPS Coordinates: 45.259869,-87.712524

Just a mile or so south of Menominee River Park on Highway 180 is a wayside that's right on the river. This wayside does not have a boat launch but it does have a path right down to the river. It is not known if the Marinette County sheriffs department would have a problem with someone launching or landing a kayak here so use at your own risk but, hey, it just says "wayside" and doesn't specify for what types of vehicles.

As you can see in the photo below, the water here is pretty shallow. If the water level in this section of the river is ever extremely low due to drought conditions you may have to walk your kayak over the rocks here. However, it does drop off quickly so be alert.

Wisconsin Side Kayak Landing
Twin Island Wayside From River
Click photo to enlarge
Michigan Side River Park Kayak Landing
Menominee County River Park From River
Click photo to enlarge

Right across the river from the wayside on the Michigan side of the river is a Menominee County park called "River Park" which is not to be confused with Marinette County's "Menominee River Park" about a mile up river. Menominee County's "River Park" did not appear to have any type of formal boat launch but it seems to provide sufficient shore line access to launch or exit on the Michigan side of the river if you so desire. The park is located on Menominee County Road 581 (River Road).

4. County Road G Boat Launch

GPS Coordinates: 45.195286,-87.742230

Actually, this boat launch is about a mile north of County Road G on Highway 180. I just didn't know what else to call it. (Some of the Marinette County boat launches have names and some don't.) At 8 miles from the twin cities this is your closest option if you wish to paddle into Marinette or Menominee.

Wisconsin Side Highway 180 Boat Landing
Satellite View of CR G Boat Launch
 
Marinette County Highway 180 Boat Landing
CR G Boat Launch Ramp From River
Click photo to enlarge

Even though, as you can tell from the above satellite view, there is a lot of open area at this boat launch, it's not easy to spot from the river because the bank is over-grown. If you're planning on ending your trip here, or just want to take a break, you'll have to watch for the multi-colored invasive species sign (yellow arrow) that is at all Wisconsin boat launch ramps.

I M P O R T A N T ! ! !
    When deciding which boat launch to use, be mindful of wind conditions on the day of your outing, especially with recreational kayaks that ride high out of the water. As noted earlier, the river runs pretty much north and south in this stretch. The day I launched at the McAllister Bridge I had a head-wind blowing out of the south the entire trip. There was no "drifting with the current" due to the wind. I had to paddle the entire time. As a result it took me 7 hours to get to Menominee (not counting a 20 minute break I took at the CR G Boat Launch). Be sure to take adequate hydration and sun protection for a worst-case time scenario.
    In addition, don't assume you'll have cell phone service along the river. I have US Cellular as a provider and I couldn't maintain a call even one mile out from the cemetery boat launch. (Texting may have worked but I didn't try it.)

There is one landmark that is easy to spot from a distance to help you judge your progress. As you can see in the photo below, there is a power line pole sticking up out of the trees on the Michigan side of the river. As you make it around the bend in the river you'll begin to see that the power lines actually cross over the river and there's another pole on the Wisconsin side. When you cross under these power lines you're about two miles from the Menominee cemetery destination boat launch.

Power Lines Across Menominee River
Power Line Pole Marks 2 Miles Out
Click photo to enlarge


Destination Sites

There are two destination sites, one on each side of the river, that you can chose from; (1) a boat launch next to the Menominee cemetery and (2) the Cox boat launch on the Wisconsin side near the Marinette city limits. While not shown on most mapping sites, there is a dam (Dam 1) just east of the Cox boat launch. (Dam 2 is a little further down river next to the Hattie Street bridge.)

Map of Kayak landing sites in Menominee and Marinette Arial View of Kayak landing sites in Menominee and Marinette

As you can see on the map above, the river widens considerably in the area of the Menominee cemetery. As seen in the photo below, when you are approaching this area the back of the Dam 1 is very visible. Although not visible, the Cox boat launch would be to the right of the dam as viewed in the photo.

Kayak landing site in Marinette Wisconsin
Back of Dam On Right with Cemetery to Its Left
Click photo to enlarge

1. Cemetery Boat Launch - Michigan

GPS Coordinates: 45.115497,-87.658684

Menominee County maintains a boat launch on the north edge of the Riverside Cemetery. There is a pay station there but it's apparent from the state of disrepair that it hasn't been used in quite some time and there's no way you would want to leave money there. Essentially this boat launch offers free, although very weedy, access. The advantage of this site is that the boat launch access road merges onto 18th Avenue, and you can go straight down 18th Avenue to return your rental kayak if you rented it from Cycle Path (see below). As you can see on the map below, simply take 18th Avenue east to 13th Street, turn left and go up six blocks to 24th Avenue and you're at Cycle Path.

Kayak landing site in Menominee Michigan
Approaching Cemetery On Michgan Side of River
Click photo to enlarge
Menominee Cemetery Boat Launch Site
Satellite View of Menominee Boat Launch Site
 

2. Cox Boat Launch - Wisconsin

GPS Coordinates: 45.107888,-87.664142

Located on Highway 180 at the city line, Marinette County operates the Cox boat launch so the requested $3 fee is involved if you wish to exit here. There is a dock at this boat launch but at moderate to low water levels it's too high off of the water to be of any use to kayakers. The advantage of this site is its convenient location relative to drop-off sites further up Highway 180. During times of high current you may want to stay close to the Wisconsin shore line when approaching this site given its close proximity to the dam.

Kayak landing site in Marinette Wisconsin
Cox Boat Launch on Highway 180 at Left - Dam on Right


Kayak Rental

The only place my father was able to find that rents kayaks in the Marinette/Menominee area was:

Cycle Path - Closed on Sundays
2329 13th St.
Menominee, MI
906-863-9361
www.cyclepath360.com

(He couldn't find anywhere around the twin cities that rents canoes.) Unfortunately Cycle Path doesn't have a drop-off service. However, their 9.5-foot Perception Swifty kayak fit inside my father's minivan with the back seats down with no problem. And they do have foam blocks and straps available if you have a roof rack and want to transport the kayak on your vehicle's roof. (Remember that kayaks are transported right side up, not upside down like canoes.)

Kayak Rental in Menominee Michigan

US Highway 41 is the main drag through both Marinette and Menominee and Cycle Path is easily accessible from it. When you go over the Interstate Bridge (which is US 41) crossing over the Menominee River from Marinette, Wisconsin into Menominee, Michicagn, the first stop light you come to is 13th Street. Simply turn left and go north about 14 blocks and Cycle Path will be on your left side.

Map of Kayak Rental in Menominee Michigan

When leaving Cycle Path, if you wish to go north towards Wallace, MI on US 41 to access the McAllister boat launch, simply turn left onto 23rd Avenue from 13th Steet and go east to 10th Street. Then turn left onto 10th Street (US 41) and you'll be going north out of Menominee.

Local Dining Tips

In Marinette

As you enter Marinette from the south on US Highway 41 (1710 Marinette Ave) you'll see a small white building with big red "EAT" signs. It's the home of Mickey-Lu Bar-B-Q. (In many areas of the country "bar-b-q" means ribs and shoulders and such but in this area it's synonymous with charcoal grilling.) This little out-of-the-way burger joint was picked as having the best hamburgers in the state of Wisconsin in a USA Today article and, having grown up in the area, I whole-heartedly agree. They grind their own meat, cook on an open-flame charcoal grill, serve malts made with real Wisconsin ice cream (not the soft-serve used in most places) and use local vendors.

Best Hamburgers in Wisconsin at Mickey Lu Bar-B-Q

Another unique thing about this restaurant is that it hasn't changed since the 1940s. It's a neat place with great food that's worth a visit. Just be aware that they are closed on Mondays and don't take credit or debit cards or checks so bring plenty of cash (because you'll probably eat more than you planned).

Check out this YouTube video of a report by a Green Bay TV station when they visited Mickey-Lu's.


In Menominee   Upper Michigan Pasties

The pasty (past ee) is Upper Peninsula soul food. It's meat and vegetables wrapped up in a thin crust slowly baked to a golden brown. It was brought to the US by Cornish miners migrating to U.P. copper and iron mines because it makes for a hearty, but easy to carry and heat, lunch. The traditional pasty, sometimes referred to as a "Michigan Miner's Pasty," contains ground beef, potatoes, and rudabaga (aka "Swedish turnip").

Upper Michigan Pasty Shop

Located right on US Highway 41 in Menominee (1229 10th St.) is Colonel K's Pasties. (Just look for their yellow, red, and white sign at the corner of 10th Street and 13th Avenue.) They're open 7 days a week until 8 pm. They offer a variety of meat/vegetable combination pasties including the traditional beef and rudabaga pasty. While you may find frozen pasties in some grocery stores, they don't come close to a fresh, hand-made pasty which can only be found in small shops like this one. They sell both fresh pasties and frozen ones to take home. Here is a PDF of their menu as of the summer of 2013.

Alma Mater

If you found this page helpful and feel it may have saved you time and money, please consider donating a tax-deductible contribution to my high school alma mater's foundation. Given that your donation will go into a fund which generates annual returns, your gift will continue giving every year for years to come.

Marinette Catholic Central High School Foundation
PO Box 762
Marinette, WI 54143
715-735-6839
www.thomas-aquinas.org/about/foundation/



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