Galien River Kayaking: A Hidden View of Harbor Country

Kayaking usually involves portage, parking, and a lot of planning; enough to dissuade you from going because it seems like too much of a hassle. Not true in Harbor Country. The Galien River is incredibly easy to access. Park your car right next to the river, fill out a form (if you are renting a kayak), don a life jacket, and start paddling. The Galien is close enough that you can spend a few hours kayaking, and still have the rest of your day to sightsee or shop.

A short primer on the Galien: the river is named after a French missionary, explorer and mapmaker. It is 30 miles long, begins at Dayton Lake and eventually meets up with Lake Michigan in New Buffalo at the harbor. What will you see while kayaking? Heron, muskrats, beavers, turtles, birds and butterflies and various fish all call the river and it’s adjacent marshes home. In addition to wildlife, you will see bright green water lilies, trees, and marsh grasses, and feel like you have traveled to an entirely new destination.  Each time I kayak the Galien, I am awestruck by it’s beauty and tranquility, and how different it is from nearby Lake Michigan. 

Never kayaked before? Don’t stress. The river’s current is barely noticeable, making it easy to paddle and a great river for beginners and kids. Due to it’s gentle current, you can easily paddle in either direction. Tandem kayaks, available for rental, are a safe way for adults and children to experience the river together. 

Third Coast Paddling rents both kayaks and stand-up paddle boards for use on the river, and offers shuttle service from between their launch sites at New Buffalo Public Beach and on Red Arrow Highway. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, lightweight clothing that dries easily (you might get a little wet from water dripping off your paddle), and water to drink. Life vests are included with rentals.