What you need/want to know:
We pick you up at “The Village” parking area in The Homestead at 8:20 am (5:45 pm for evening tours)
Everyone is welcome at The Village, not just those staying at The Homestead
We shuttle you to North Bar Lake where we start the trip
We expect to have you on the water at 9:00 am (6:30 pm for evening tours)
The group paddles the approximately 1.5 miles to the base of the dune at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Overlook
The group has a break along the beach there and everyone is encouraged to climb at least some small portion of the dune (maybe only 10-20 feet of the 450 feet total)
The group paddles back to North Bar Lake
Time permitting, you paddle to the south end of North Bar Lake – we think there is a family of bald eagles with a nest there
Total time from leaving North Bar Lake to the return is approximately 2.5-3.0 hours
We shuttle you back to the parking area at The Village in The Homestead
We expect to have you back to The Village at 12:30 pm (9:30 pm for evening tours)
Candidly, you can see many of the things featured on the tour without going on the trip.
For example, the dune at the scenic overlook is visible from the public beach in Empire about four miles south.
Or, you could descend from the public overlook atop the dune and view it from the bottom just like our guests.
Unlike our guests though, you would then have to climb back up the 450′ dune – an arduous task, indeed, that may take hours.
North Bar Lake is accessible to the public and you could go there on your own, too.
So why take our trip?
Because approaching the dune from the water in the peace of a kayak is truly unique.
You can relax and know that the guides have been trained to provide a safe, enjoyable experience.
All of the equipment is provided so that all you have to do is paddle.
Our primary concern will always be the safety of our guests and guides.
So, 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.
The first option will be a rain check to another day.
Another option will be use of All About Water equipment on that day on an inland body of water – Crystal River, Victoria Creek, or School Lake.
If necessary, a refund will be provided.
Prior experience in a kayak is not necessary to enjoy our guided trips.
We will provide the kayaks, paddles, seat backs, dry bags for personal items, and life jackets for all. You just need to bring water, suntan lotion, snacks (high energy snacks are recommended), and plenty of enthusiasm. Please wear synthetic materials rather than cotton.
The authorization we received from the National Park Service to provide guided tours includes a number of conditions: the safety of our guests and guides, and respect for nature are primary themes of these conditions. All of our plans flow from those themes.
More Info About The Guided Kayak Trips
Credentials of our guides:
Our 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 tours in northern Lake Michigan.
Prior kayak experience required?
There is no prior kayak experience required! We can provide you with instruction on what you need to know.
Guided kayak trips along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore should be considered an activity that will require at least moderate physical fitness.
All About Water is not aware of reasonable objective criteria to determine who is capable of making the trip, and who is not. It is simply up to the individual to make the appropriate decision.
We have put together our 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. We expect to paddle at a leisurely pace that will be comparable to that of walking.
We will accept reservations for children as young as 14, 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 over 600 pounds for two passengers.
The summer in northern Michigan is short and subject to a wide variety of weather.
Our 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, the weather may appear perfect, but the trip could be cancelled based on a threatening weather forecast. 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. All 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. Other than our fee, and the State of Michigan Use tax, that is the only additional required charge.
Cancellations seeking a refund: voicemails, regular mail, texts, and emails that have not been received and confirmed by All About Water will not lead to a refund. An actual conversation or exchange of confirming emails with All About Water will be required.
Where and when to meet?
The following information is subject to change.
The morning will start with everyone meeting at a parking area in The Village within The Homestead resort in Glen Arbor. We will provide you with transportation to the water, and return you to the parking area after the tour.
We request that guests arrive at the parking area by 8:20 a.m. (5:45 pm for evening tours). We will have to wait for everyone to arrive. The kayaks will be in the process of being delivered to the water so you won’t have to wait on those. During this time All About Water will be monitoring weather conditions.
How long do the trips last?
This is an obvious question, but one that is nevertheless difficult to answer. Our expectation is that the average trip will be on the water close to two and a half hours, including rest stops. This will vary depending on the wind and waves, and the speed of the group. Naturally, some groups will simply progress faster than others. You should plan on four hours from the time you arrive at the parking area until we return you there. Please keep in mind that this trip is based on a specific distance, not a time. 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 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 the Park anything you bring into the Park.
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. 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?
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. You probably won’t even see any wildlife on the tour because many of the areas are so exposed and provide little cover for the animals to hide.