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You Can Kayak In Ann Arbor. Argo Cascade Adventure

The Huron River Water Trail runs through Ann Arbor, Michigan making it a great place for recreation. The city runs a couple of liveries making it easy to canoe and kayak in Ann Arbor. The Argo Park livery and the Gallup Park livery. Both places have kayaks, canoes, SUP’s and other watercraft to use on Argo and Gallup Ponds. For the more adventurous, river trips are offered from the Argo Park Livery.

Downriver from Argo Pond on the Huron River is the Argo Cascade. The Argo Cascade is a 1500 foot series of 9 ponds connected by spillways. The cascade is very popular with tubers, kayaks and rafters. It is a lot of fun and you definitely will get wet.

Where can you kayak in Ann Arbor

The Huron River runs through the city of Ann Arbor. You can kayak on most of the 104 mile length of the Huron River Trail that runs on the Huron River. There are a few kayak and canoe rentals along the Huron River Trail. There are established launch and haul out locations as well for using your own kayak or canoe. You can easily kayak within downtown Ann Arbor on the trail or farther away from the city.

Huron River Water Trail

The Huron River Water Trail is 104 miles long. The trail starts at Proud Lake in Commerce Twp, Michigan. It goes west to Hudson Mills and Dexter and then turns back east, through Ann Arbor and down to Lake Erie.
Most of the Huron River is smooth and flat water. There are 3 sections of Class II rapids along the river. One of them being the Argo Cascades at Argo Park. The other 2 sections are at Dehli Metropark and Hudson Mills Metropark.

The Huron river is very popular with kayaks, canoes and people who just want to float down the river on tubes. The map below shows the Huron River Water Trail.

Huron River Water Trail

For more information on the Huron River Water Trail and links to an interactive map click here.

Ann Arbor Canoe and Kayak Rentals

There are a few places you can rent kayaks on the Huron River Water Trail in or near Ann Arbor. There are 2 Kayak and Canoe Liveries owned by the city of Ann Arbor and Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery.

argo pond livery

Argo Park Livery

Argo Park Livery offers kayaks, canoes, SUPs, rafts and tubes. Everything can be used on Argo Pond. Kayaks and rafts can go down Argo Cascades. Canoes can be carried past the cascades to go down the Huron River. Argo Livery offers river trips down the Huron River to Gallup Park. They also offer a longer trip from upstream at Barton Park. They run shuttle buses to bring you back to Argo Park from Gallup Park.

Gallup Park Livery

Gallup Park Livery offers kayaks, canoes and paddle boats to use on Gallup Pond only. These can’t be taken any farther down the Huron River than Gallup Pond.

Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery

Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery offers river trips between Hudson Mills and Dehli Metroparks. There are a few different trips available with different lengths and abilities. To learn more about Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery, click here.

Argo to Gallup River Trip – 3.7 miles, 1.5 hours

​​The most popular river trip to Kayak in Ann Arbor is the Argo Park to Gallup Park trip starting from Argo Park Livery. Cost is a very reasonable $27 for a tandem kayak or canoe or $21 for a single kayak. Shuttle service back from Gallup Park is included. The trip is 3.7 miles long and takes 1.5 to 2 hours.

Argo Park to Gallup Park Map
Image courtesy of the City Of Ann Arbor

The below video gives and overview of the cascade and the rest of the trip from Argo Park to Gallup Park.

Launch at Argo Park

Signout and checkout is an easy streamlined process. Reservations are required online to reserve your groups timeslot. You can reserve a group of up to 7. If you have more than 7 people in your group you have to make more than 1 reservation.

You load kayaks from a floating dock. The water is shallow at the dock. During normal operations, they help you load into the kayak. They aren’t right now thanks to Covid precations.

After launching you can paddle in Argo Pond until everyone in your group is ready to head down the cascade.

Argo Cascade

The first part of your trip down the Huron River is also the most fun and exciting. Argo Cascade is a 1500 foot long series of 9 ponds connected by small spillways. It is a lot of fun shooting down each spillway.
Argo Cascade is extremely popular with tubers. It’s in downtown Ann Arbor near the University of Michigan. On a hot day, you can expect a big crowd of families and college students tubing down the cascades. It’s an easy walk back up the path to go again. See the below video to get an idea what the Argo Cascades are like.

The Cascade becomes a bit of a cluster. You will encounter many slow drifting tubes that have little to no control where they end up. We have run into kids snorkeling in the cascade ponds on every trip as well. I don’t know why you would choose that location to snorkel but they do.

You can expect every trip down the cascades to be a combination of an amusement park flume and bumper boats. Some ponds have a lot more room than others. You may have to back paddle and wait for traffic to clear before going down the next spillway.

start of argo cascade
argo cascade spillway
middle of argo cascade
end of argo cascade

Huron River float

After you pass the cascade into the Huron River, the rest of the trip is much more relaxing. The Huron River is fairly wide and straight. There are a few rocks here and there but no small rapids or much else to avoid. It is not as narrow or windy as the Clinton River. The Huron River is a much better place for beginning kayakers, than the Clinton River, if you walk your kayak down the cascade.

The river goes past a hospital and some buildings in Ann Arbor. It’s mostly wooded with a few bridges. For wildlife, you will probably see some ducks and Canadian Geese. You might run into some swans in Argo or Gallup Pond. There are some picnic and park areas you can stop at along the way if you want to stop and take a break or eat lunch.

The river depth varies from a few feet deep to a few inches deep. On this last trip, I had to get out of the kayak a few times to walk it over some really shallow spots. A tandem kayak wouldn’t float over them with 2 of us in it.
You can expect a lot of tubers drifting down the river. The river is fairly wide so crowding isn’t a problem after leaving the cascade.

It takes 1.5 to 2 hours drifting and paddling at a lazy rate. There is a sign when you arrive at Gallup Pond pointing you towards the Gallup Livery.

Take out at Gallup Park

There are some ramps and floating docks to use at Gallup Park to get out of your kayak. After you get out there was a person there to check in your kayak. There are restrooms to use before you wait for the shuttle bus back to Argo Park. They are currently only loading up to 7 people in each van. The wait is a little longer than in years past.

Ann Arbor Building on Huron River
bridge and kayaks on Huron river
Ann Arbor Hospital Building on Huron River
Swans in Gallup Pond

Kayak In Ann Arbor FAQ

Q: Is kayaking harder than canoeing?

It is easier to learn to paddle on a solo kayak than to paddle a canoe solo. It doesn’t need any coordination between 2 people. If you go to a tandem kayak then they both become similar. Sit on top kayaks are just as easy to get in as a canoe. Sit in kayaks take a bit more effort since you have to squeeze your legs into it. From a paddling point of view, they are both controlled the same way. You have to switch hand position with a canoe paddle, you don’t with a kayak. To sum it up. No. A kayak is not harder to use than a canoe.

To learn more about the differences between a canoe and kayak, click here.

Q: Where can you kayak in Michigan?

You can kayak on almost every river or lake in Michigan. You can kayak anywhere you see any other kind of boat. The Huron River and Clinton River are popular in South East Michigan. Lake St Clair and the Metroparks with lakes are also popular places.

Q: Where is the Huron River in Michigan?

The Huron River is 130 miles long starting in Oakland County, Michigan. It goes southwest to Dexter Michigan. From there it turns back southeast, goes through Ann Arbor, and then continues and flows into Lake Erie. See the map below for a detailed look at where the Huron River flows.

Huron River map

To learn more about the Huron River, click here.

Q: Is the Huron River safe to swim in?

Most of the Huron River is safe to swim in. The region between Argo Park and Gallup Park has one of the lowest bacteria counts along the river. To learn more about Huron River water quality click here.

Q: Do kayaks flip over easily?

Kayaks that are meant for beginner kayakers tend to be wide with flat bottoms. This makes them more stable. The more stable a kayak is, the harder it is to flip. These kayaks won’t flip if you use just a little bit of caution. The only exception is going through rapids where you might get caught on a rock or branch and roll over.

Most kayak rentals such as those available at Argo and Gallup Park’s in Ann Arbor of the beginner variety. You don’t have to worry about getting a narrow, round bottom kayak there.

Q: What happens if you flip over in a kayak?

The quick answer is that you flip it back over, get back in, and keep going. The Huron River, in Ann Arbor, is never more then a couple of feet deep. In most places, the water is less than knee deep and at most waist deep. There are always shallow areas nearby along the shore. Float the kayak over to shore. Drain the water out if you need to. Get back into the kayak and keep going. Flipping kayaks on a shallow river is nothing to worry about at all.

argo cascade bridge

Final Words

If you want to Kayak in Ann Arbor, Gallup Park is a great place to go. Argo cascade is a lot of fun even when it is overrun with tubes. The Huron River is a nice way to relax for a while after having fun going down the cascades. If you are looking for a place to have fun around Ann Arbor, give kayaking a shot.

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selfie for info block

About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an outdoors enthusiast always looking forward to my next adventure. I spend as much time skiing, biking, and paddleboarding as I can. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things outdoor adventures and to help other people have as much fun as me.

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