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Gaylord, MI Lakes & Rivers

It’s no secret that the lakes and rivers of Otsego County are beautiful and bountiful. With over 90 inland lakes and five coursing rivers, water play in and around Gaylord is a must. Throw on your suit, catch a wave, relax beachside, paddle pristine waterways, and more.

Beaches & Parks

With over 90 inland lakes, Otsego County is truly a water wonderland. Our lakes range from clear water with sandy, white beaches perfect for relaxing in the sun to glistening gems hidden deep in the forest, lined with trees. Whether you’re looking to relax in a beach chair at the Otsego Lake State Park, play a game of volleyball at the Otsego Lake County Park, or kayak along still waters, we have the perfect place for you to get your feet wet. Many of our lakes offer areas for swimming, with shallow water and gentle waves along strips of beckoning beaches. Local favorites for sunning and splashing include Thumb Lake and Otsego Lake, the largest in our county. The County Park also offers a manmade sandy inlet near the water. Lay back and relax on a tube or just enjoy the warmth with a good book. 

Paddling Our Lakes

If you’re looking for an active way to pass the time on these calm waters, kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards offer hours of exercise and entertainment, while allowing you to do some exploring away from the shore. Our lakes are paddle-friendly for everyone, with convenient public access sites, sparkling water, and abundant natural habitats for a variety of wildlife. A few local favorites include Dixon LakeBig Lake, and Big Chub Lake.

Need to be on the water but left your gear at home? No worries…our convenient list of recreation rentals will take care of all the missing details.

Sinkhole Lakes

When you need a true escape into nature coupled with the peace that only water can bring, seek out the Pigeon River Country State Forest’s coveted sinkhole lakes. 

If you’ve never visited one of our sinkhole lakes, add it to the top of your to-do list. Not only is venturing out into The Pigeon an adventure in its own right, but the sinkhole lakes add an extra splash of intrigue. Aqua and turquoise on the surface, these small forest lakes take a serious plunge in the center, some even reaching depths of 60 feet. When considering most of these glimmering gems are comparable in size to your average pond, that’s an impressive number. Sinkhole lakes are popular for fishing, floating, and photography. For more information and a map, please visit the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center’s website.


Otsego County is home to the headwaters of five sprawling rivers: Sturgeon River, Pigeon River, AuSable River, Manistee River, and Black River.

Sturgeon River

The Sturgeon River is the fastest flowing in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Not whitewater, but exciting and challenging with its quick and often tricky current, along with leaning trees, stumps, logs, numerous narrow passages and sharp turns.

Pigeon River

The Pigeon River runs through the north-central part of northern lower Michigan, with its headwaters located just a few miles northeast of Gaylord.  Launch sites are rustic, and, while navigable, this river is known for offering a true back country experience.

AuSable River

This gently 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.

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.

Black River

The Black River can also be found snaking throughout the Pigeon River Country State Forest.  This river is only 20 minutes from downtown Gaylord and jumping with the Midwest’s premier brook trout. 

Lakes and Rivers

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