Paddling beneath the towering sandstone cliffs of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore got a little easier last summer once the new 64-foot Kayak Express hit the water. The custom-built kayak tour vessel operated by Pictured Rocks Kayaking in Munising allows two kayaks to be launched or retrieved at the same time on the open waters of Lake Superior.
It is the second kayak tour boat in the company’s fleet and the first of its kind on the Great Lakes. It was built by Moran Iron Works in Onaway.
“We are the only kayak company that launches by boat and not by shore,” said Deidre Phillipson, manager of Pictured Rocks Kayaking. “Our boat stays with the group for the entire adventure. If at any time in the paddle guests need a bathroom break or are tired, the boat will be right there to pick them up.”
Kayak Express transports paddlers, kayaks and their gear to prime paddling spots along the rugged and beautiful national lakeshore. It is fast, wide and stable, able to handle the fluctuating waves of Lake Superior.
Departures leave from the East Channel of Munising Bay and head into Lake Superior, where paddlers are launched just past Painted Cove to begin their paddle toward Chapel Rock. With miles of sugar sand beaches and picturesque rock formations rising as high as 600 feet above the shoreline, it is a trip unlike any other in the country.
“This was by far one of the best trips I have been on,” said Carley Shinn of Findlay, Ohio, who visited with her boyfriend in September 2019. “The view from the water was unreal, and our tour guide was full of information and kept the tour entertaining and fun. We can’t wait to come back up there and tour Pictured Rocks again.”
Established in 1966, Pictured Rocks became the National Park Service’s first national lakeshore and last year — for the first time in its history — more than 800,000 people visited this area of the Upper Peninsula.
Kayak Express carries 36 18-foot tandem sea kayaks, 72 passengers and six trained guides, doubling the company’s tour capacity. The company offers up to four trips per day, each lasting four to five hours with two hours (or about 5 miles) of actual kayaking time.
Prices are $159 for adults and $119 for children ages 12 and younger. Personal flotation devices are provided for all, with spray skirts and wetsuits available upon request. Tours run late May through late September and are weather dependent. ≈
— Dianna Stampfler, Michigan BLUE Magazine.
*Photography courtesy Pictured Rocks Kayaking