What you need/want to know about our guided kayak tours:
The guided tours start and end at a parking area in Empire.
The total time from your car is over three hours for the Pierce Stocking tour, and over four hours for the Pyramid Point tour.
We feature sit-on-top kayaks. The tandem (two-person) is over 16’ long. The one-person kayak is over 13’.
The kayaks, seat backs, and paddles will all be at the water for you.
Life jackets will be provided before you proceed to the water.
Safety will always be our number one priority.
All reservations must be made online, in advance, with our reservation system.
What happens if the trip is canceled due to weather?
On days when Lake Michigan conditions are not conducive to kayaking because of current or forecast weather, we will offer alternatives.
- the first will be to reschedule your reservation to another day; or,
- you could choose the self guided trip down Crystal River and receive a refund of the difference in cost between those two options (Crystal River is $25/person); or,
- you could opt for a rental of our kayaks and gear for use on some other body of water – Cedar Creek, School Lake, Little Glen Lake, etc., and receive a refund of the difference in cost; or,
- you could accept a 95% refund of your original charges for the canceled tour; and finally, new for 2019, we may reroute the trip so that it is a one-way trip to/from Esch Beach south of Empire and North Bar Lake, north of Empire. There will be more information about this trip provided after your reservation is confirmed.
More Info About The Guided Kayak Trips
Prior kayak experience required?
Prior experience in a kayak is not necessary to enjoy our guided kayak trips.
We can provide you with instruction on what you need to know to have a safe, enjoyable kayaking trip.
Some minimal physical fitness is required to participate in the guided kayak tours.
All About Water is not aware of reasonable objective criteria to determine who is capable of making the kayaking trip, and who is not. It is simply up to the individual to make the appropriate decision.
We have put together our guided kayak tours with planned rest stops, but the outing will require some minimal physical strength and stamina. This is not meant to deter those who do not exercise regularly, but just to help remind people that this will not be like floating the lazy river at Disney World. Expect to paddle at a leisurely pace that will be comparable to that of walking.
Reservations for children as young as 14 are accepted, but we must speak with you before accepting any reservations for children under 14.
We provide sit-on-top kayaks so there is no issue of whether someone will fit into a small kayak cockpit. Our maximum capacity is 350 pounds for an individual, and 600 pounds for two passengers.
Credentials of our guides:
Our kayak guides have all been trained by instructors with credentials through the ACA (American Canoe Association, www.AmericanCanoe.org). The instructors will have put together an instruction program specifically designed for our guided kayak tours in northern Lake Michigan.
The summer at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is short and subject to a wide variety of weather.
Our guided kayak trips will proceed even with less than ideal conditions. Fog, rain, and cool temperatures will not lead to cancellations. However, high winds and waves, and lightening will keep us off the water. The weather can change quickly, so we may try to wait out a storm to preserve the day. Alternatively, a trip could be canceled because of a threatening weather forecast even though the current weather may appear perfect. We will always use the latest technology to make the best, safest decision.
On those days when the conditions on Lake Michigan are just not conducive to kayaking because of current or forecast weather, we will offer alternatives.
Please keep in mind that the weather can vary greatly from the shores of Lake Michigan to inland communities.
The weather may be excellent at one location, and bad at another. Please do not assume that because the weather is bad where you are, the weather is also bad at the trip location. You should proceed to the gathering place regardless of your local weather, unless we notify you otherwise.
There is no deposit. Reservations are paid in full in advance. Packages purchased through promotions or special events have the opportunity to schedule the date of the reservation later. Reservations purchased without a promotional event may schedule the date of the reservation at the time of purchase or later. Please keep in mind that you will need a National Park entrance pass to enter Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
An actual conversation or exchange of confirming emails with All About Water will be required for a cancellation.
Where and when to meet?
The trips start at a parking lot in Empire, Michigan. Please be sure to the check the start time in the details of the trip you choose.
How long do the guided kayak tours last?
This is an obvious question, but one that is nevertheless difficult to answer.
Our expectation is that the average trip to the Pierce Stocking dune will be on the water close to two and a half hours, including rest stops.
The times will vary depending on the wind and waves, and the speed of the group.
Naturally, some groups will simply progress faster than others.
Please keep in mind that these guided kayak trips are based on specific distances, not times. We had a recent trip that was over an hour paddling into the wind, and fifteen minutes on the return trip paddling with the wind.
Our objective will be to get in the kayaks and on the water as quickly and efficiently as possible.
One-person kayaks or two-person kayaks?
We provide two-person kayaks unless there is a special situation.
If you have a private group of twelve we can be sure to assign you all to the same guide. Our authorization from the National Park Service allows up to twelve guests per guide. If you have fewer than twelve in your group we will do our best to get you all with the same guide.
You will take out of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore anything you bring into Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Calls of nature — You should expect that you will NOT have access to any toilet facilities from start to finish. (There are outhouses at some of the starting and ending locations, but you should not assume that we will depart from those locations.) Our National Park Service authorization requires that anyone who needs to defecate shall do so in a product that is essentially a portable outhouse – really just a plastic bag. We will have a supply with each group. You would take the used portable outhouse product with you from the park and dispose of it in an appropriate receptacle.
What to expect on your guided kayak tour
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a unique geologic area. Many consider the extensive dunes beautiful and perhaps even spiritual. Others simply do not understand the attraction.
All About Water knows that the shoreline and scenery will not appeal to everyone. For example, much of the shoreline along the area by Pierce Stocking Scenic Overlook is simply sand dunes that rise hundreds of feet from the water with little vegetation. We want everyone to have reasonable expectations before they make reservations. If you are not familiar with the shoreline, seek out images on the Internet. In short, do your homework so that you have an idea of what you can expect.
We have read through online reviews for such spectacular places as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and other objectively beautiful places. Some of the negative reviews there, and comments about what people expected, are mind-boggling. We want you to avoid the types of disappointment experienced by some of those uninformed tourists.
You should understand that the name of the park, Sleeping Bear Dunes, is not based on bears seen sleeping there. The name comes from a Native American legend. Although there are reports of bears within the park, it is most unlikely that you will see any bears. Many areas along the trip provide little vegetation for the animals to hide, so you probably won’t even see any wildlife on the tour other than birds.