Tubing on the Big Sable River

Go for a tubing adventure in Ludington, Michigan. The journey ends at a Lake Michigan beach perfect for swimming and sunbathing. 

Family floating in inner tubes on the Big Sable River in Ludington, Michigan (photo by Todd Reed)

Forget the indoor waterpark, the winding route of the Big Sable River at Michigan’s Ludington State Park is the ultimate lazy tube ride. A 1-mile section of the Big Sable River runs between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, and its usual summer-day water temperature of between 75 and 80 degrees makes it the ideal spot to dip your toes and float along. 

Start your adventure at the park concession stand at Hamlin Lake where inner tubes are available for rent or purchase. Depending on the water levels from the Hamlin Lake Dam, some float rides are lazier than others. The river is always relatively calm, but if water levels are low, the ride will be on the slower side. 

Tubers float past low-wooded dunes, and several entry and exit points are available along a multi-use trail that runs parallel to the river. This path also offers an easy way to get back to the parking lot after your river ride. 

Sparkling sapphire waters and sandy beaches offer the perfect grand finale to this western Michigan gem. Park rangers recommend exercising caution around the river mouth and advise exiting the river immediately after heading under the bridge that crosses over to Lake Michigan’s beach. 

While you’re in the area, relax or walk the sandy beach and pay a visit to the Lake Michigan Beach House where you’ll find an interpretive museum with displays, a store and concessions. It’s also a great place to enjoy an ice cream cone. 

Take time to visit Ludington State Parks’ Big Sable Lighthouse and explore the sand dunes that offer sweeping views. The park is a mix of marshlands, hardwood forests and 7 miles of shoreline, while opportunities for fishing and boating, as well as three modern campgrounds make it a great place to linger just a little longer. 8800 W. M-116, Ludington, Michigan 49431, 231/843-2423, michigan.gov/dnr