(800)-Exit 310 - 231-238-9325 

Northern Michigan’s Inland Waterway

aerial of indian river - image The Inland Waterway is Michigan’s longest chain of rivers and lakes. Nearly 40 miles long, the Inland Waterway which is located in the Northern Lower Penninsula runs through Pickerel Lake and Crooked Lake, the Crooked River, Burt Lake, the Indian River, Mullett Lake, the Cheboygan River, and finally into Lake Huron.

The Inland Waterway Features:

•Can handle boats up to 65 feet long (18 foot beam) with up to a 5 foot draft, though navigation on the Crooked River generally limits boats to 25 feet.

•Bridges along the way that do not open include the Lincoln Avenue bridge with a vertical clearance of 20 feet, M-33 bridge at 16.7 feet, M-27 bridge with a clearance of 14.7 feet, and the M-68 bridge with a 16 foot clearance.

•The Alanson Swing Bridge on the Crooked River is the world’s smallest operating swing bridge.


watertrails map inland waterway - image
•Inland Waterway Route is 38.2 miles long. Visit the Michigan Water Trails Map to plan your trip with their interactive Maps. The Inland Waterway is located on the Water Trails website in the NorthEast section, Trail Number 2 – Click here.

•Route features two locks. Cheboygan River Lock –
Call the Michigan DNR Field Office in Cheboygan at (231) 627-9011 for fees and time schedules.

Crooked River Lock – Call the Michigan DNR Field Office in Petoskey at (231) 347-2311 for fees and time schedules.

•Longest distance between gas stops is 10 miles. 

•At the waterway’s north end, you’re just 15 miles from Mackinac Island, 18 miles to the Mackinaw Bridge, 21 miles to the Les Cheneaux Islands, 60 miles to the North Channel, and 80 miles to the Soo Locks.

•17 species of fish inhabit the waterway including bluegill, brown trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, steelhead, walleye, and yellow perch.

This historical marker can be found at Burt Lake State Park. Caption at right reads:

The glaciers of the last Ice Age retreated to the north some 25,000 years ago, leaving behind the lakes that rank as Michigan’s most notable and geographical feature. Among the state’s largest inland lakes is Burt Lake, named after William A. Burt, who, together with John Mullett, made a federal survey of the area from 1840 to 1843. By following the Cheboygan River, Mullett Lake, and Indian River to Burt Lake, then up Crooked River to Crooked Lake, Indians and fur traders had only a short portage to Little Traverse Bay. Thus they avoided the trip through the Straits. Completion of a lock on the Cheboygan in 1869 opened this inland waterway to the Cheboygan Slack Water Navigation Company, whose vessels carried passengers and freight until railroads put it out of business. Day-long excursions over these waters became popular with tourists.

Fun Things to Do on The Inland Waterway

Many of our Indian River Resort Region Chamber of Commerce Members have businesses that offer fun on the water from kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board rentals and river adventures to the rental of pontoon boats, speed boats, fishing boats and personal watercraft.  There is a beautiful fishing pier that is wheel chair accessible at the mouth of the Indian River at DeVoe Beach on Burt Lake. Learn more about Veteran’s Pier – click here. We also have beautiful beaches on Burt Lake and Mullett Lake, campgrounds, restaurants, shopping, ice cream shops, mini golf and more. Find a business in our Member Directory – click here.





Links of interest:
Inland Water Route Historical Society
Michigan Water Trails Website







Read More About Our Lakes and Rivers: