2017-07-13 / Outdoors

Crystal offers family fun on trip to Lake Michigan

Swim, paddle or tube
By Hannah Lentz
Enterprise intern

THE DYKSTRA KIDS jump into the Crystal River during a recent vacation in Leelanau County. THE DYKSTRA KIDS jump into the Crystal River during a recent vacation in Leelanau County. The Crystal River is a busy place.

Each year, more than 19,500 people paddle, tube, swim, fish or in some other way use the Crystal River.

Traveling 6.3 miles from Glen Lake through sections of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the river is a favorite of families, said Phil Akers, Chief Ranger.

“It’s a wonderful place for family fun,” Akers said. “Not to mention the view.”

The Crystal is only one to two feet deep in most places and 15 to 20 feet wide.

“It’s a river with a more intimate feeling,” Akers said.

To accommodate visitors from out of town, two main commercial rental stores for kayaks and canoes are located in Glen Arbor.

One reason the Crystal is popular is its slow, meandering pace. But there are rare instances during which activity gets a little out of hand, Akers said.

“It can get a little busy on weekends, especially during the summer,” Akers said.

Akers recommends that those looking to visit the river arrive early or try to take a trip down the river on week days.

“It only gets busier as the day goes on,” Akers said. “We try really hard to maintain a family atmosphere along the river and throughout the park.”

Overall, efforts to keep the river calm have been successful, Akers said.

“We have extra people out patrolling the area to make sure that things are looking how we want them to,” Akers said. “This isn’t a huge problem at the Crystal, but it’s something we’ve seen and have responded to.”

Crystal is also popular with fly fishermen in the spring and fall seeking out spawning salmon and steelhead that have lived most of their lives in Lake Michigan, Akers said.

“It’s one of the most picturesque places in the area for those looking for a fun trip down the river,” Akers said. “Definitely something to check out.

Brad Dykstra and his family, originally from Grandville, visit the Crystal River every couple of years to stay at The Homestead. For a family like the Dykstras with kids ages nine and seven, the Crystal River has become a staple of trips to the area, he said.

“It’s an excellent place for kids,” Dykstra said. “The kids made up games like kids do and had water gun fights and had a little place to jump in from a platform.”

Usually, the family kayaks or floats on tubes along the river on visits. The kids also like to wade and swim in the more shallow parts when the weather is nice, Dykstra said.

“To be able to (rent) a $2 tube down the street and jump in and float for an hour with the kids and come out in Lake Michigan is just the best,” he said.

The Dykstras will be coming back to visit the Crystal River in August for family fun and again in October for fishing.

“The river is amazing,” Dykstra said. “I’ve been on a lot of rivers in Michigan and Crystal River is like no other because of how clear it is.”

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