Discover Otsego County’s Five Fabulous Rivers

Many counties are lucky to have one river flowing through their area, but here in Otsego County, we hit the jackpot with not one, not two, but five stunning rivers! Let’s take a dive into each of these waterways and explore why they’re the heart and soul of our beautiful region.

The AuSable River

First up, the mighty AuSable River! While on the AuSable, you stand a good chance of seeing bald eagles and other wildlife – don’t forget your camera! This gentle flowing river is great for beginners and guarantees a leisurely float, with ample opportunities for a quick dip in sandy-bottomed patches along the way. Multiple liveries and launch sites are located in Grayling, just a short drive south of Gaylord. The AuSable is also known for its world-class trout fishing. The crystal-clear waters and scenic views make it perfect for a relaxing day of fly fishing or a peaceful paddle.

The Sturgeon River

Looking for a bit more excitement? The Sturgeon River is the fastest-flowing river in the Lower Peninsula. While it’s not whitewater, its quick and often tricky current makes for a thrilling adventure. If you like a good challenge, this is your river! Some stretches of the river can be suitable for beginners, and our friends at Sturgeon River Paddlesports in Wolverine and Big Bear Adventures in Indian River provide your favorite gear rentals and expert advice to enjoy the Sturgeon River in all its glory.

The Pigeon River

Nature lovers, this one’s for you! The Pigeon River winds through the 114,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest, home to Michigan’s largest free-ranging elk herd. While navigable, this river is known for offering a true backcountry experience with sharp bends, possible beaver dams and other obstructions that may require portaging. Launch sites are rustic, and this river winds through some of the most unspoiled wilderness you’ll find.

The Black River

The Black River is a hidden gem perfect for those seeking solitude. This river can also be found snaking throughout the Pigeon River Country State Forest. Only 20 minutes from downtown Gaylord, this river jumps with premier brook trout. While the Black River’s claim to fame is most definitely an abundance of this feisty fish, launch sites for kayaks and canoes can be found here. Keep an eye out for otters and beavers – they love this peaceful spot as much as we do!

Photo by Chris Engle

The Manistee River

One of the Manistee’s most pristine stretches can be found in the 4,700-acre Deward Tract in Gaylord. Its cool, narrow waters are home to plentiful brown and brook trout, making this section a fisherman’s paradise. Although scenic, you’ll find more easily navigable waters toward the Grayling area. Stretching from its headwaters in Otsego County to Lake Michigan, this popular river features a slow but heavy current with some deep holes carved into the riverbed.

Ready to Explore?

With five incredible rivers to choose from, there’s always a new adventure waiting just around the bend in Otsego County. Whether you’re fishing, paddling, or simply soaking in the natural beauty, our rivers offer something for everyone.