Au Sable River Canoe Trip

This is a great time of year to plan a Michigan, summer canoe trip. If you are up for a little adventure with some excellent fly fishing opportunities then the Au Sable river canoe trip is for you. We love this trip and are planning for our 4th consecutive year.

One of the best things about this trip is that you can make it as long or short as you’d like. Our preferred length is a 3 day adventure that starts in Grayling and ends at either McMasters Bridge (8.5 hrs) or Parmalee Bridge (11 hrs) with stops at the various riverside campsites each night.

We always make sure to stop at Stephen Bridge where Gates Au Sable Lodge is located. They have great food, cold beers, Salmo Java coffee, a fly shop, ice and clean, comfortable lodging.

When you’re back on the water and ready for another break, be sure to stop at McMasters Bridge where you will find the Au Sable Riverview Resort. Here you will find a great little store with everything you need from Salmo Java coffee to ice, and again, clean, comfortable lodging. You can either finish off the trip right there or continue on down the river for a pick up at Parmalee or beyond.

Where to start? We start at Carlisle Canoe Livery in Grayling, though there are several to choose from this just happens to be the one used from the start. You can either rent a canoe or kayak or bring your own. We typically do a mixture, bringing a 17 foot canoe, a couple of kayaks and rent a canoe as well.

If you’re not up for ‘roughing it’, be sure to call ahead and make a reservation at Gates Lodge and the Au Sable Riverview Resort.

If you are planning on going all in, you will want to make sure you are prepared with a tent or hammock, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, cooler, food and water. We recommend bringing rain gear too. Also recommended: dry bags for gear and electronics, small tarp, PFD's, firewood and an adventurous spirit.

Keep in mind that in this area of the Au Sable River glass bottles, hard liquor (including Jell-O shots) and styrofoam coolers are not allowed. Most canoe liveries have a 6 beer per person limit so plan accordingly. The store at the Au Sable Riverview Resort sells libations and ice so you can always get more there. 

You have several options for camping which also includes a couple of canoe-only spots. The map above shows all of the campgrounds and their distance from Grayling. We will repeat the suggestion to bring some campfire wood, as it is hard to come by on the river. We recommend throwing some charcoal briquets and the prepackaged starters too. You can use those for heating meals while relaxing by the campfire. Meals wrapped in foil that you can toss on the coals are great, as is anything you would typically take on a multi-day hiking trip. The nice thing about having the canoe is you can bring more stuff than when you backpack. So you could bring a camp stove and really do some cooking if you choose. We use this trip to test out some gear for our backpacking, fishing and hunting trips. We like to keep it simple so the only cooking tool we usually take is the Jetboil Sumo and charcoal. The Sumo is great for heating up food and for making Salmo Java coffee. By the way, here is a fun fact: The idea for Salmo Java's Kenya Canoe Tripper came to us on this trip while brewing some coffee at the Rainbow Bend Campground. 


There are excellent fishing opportunities on the river for brown, rainbow and brook trout. Some stretches are flies only, catch and release so check the Michigan fishing regulations. If you will be fishing then we highly recommend stopping and getting the skinny from Gates Lodge. They have a great selection of flies and gear as well as a vast knowledge of flies to use for the time you are there. 

We hope you enjoy the trip!

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