Power Island is located six miles north of Traverse City, Michigan in West Grand Traverse Bay. While it lies only one mile offshore from the Old Mission peninsula, kayaking to Power Island is a three-mile paddle from the DNR boat launch at Bowers Harbor to the island itself.
Once owned by Henry Ford, and known as either Ford Island or Marion Island, it was gifted to the public by its previous owners, Glen and Annette Power. It is now owned by Grand Traverse County and managed as public park. The island has a dock, a sandy beach, swimming beach, hiking trails through a maple and beech forest. All surrounded by beautiful blue waters reminiscent of the Caribbean.
Kayaking to Power Island
This is an intermediate level paddle for experienced kayakers. Do not attempt it if you are unable to perform a self-rescue and have a sea kayak with dual sealed bulkheads, and a spray skirt is a must. And don't even think attempting this without wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) /Lifejacket. A VHF marine radio should be part of your safety gear as well.
Recreational kayaks are not suitable for this trip!
Water temperatures are cold to cool and rarely get above 70 degrees until mid-July. You should dress appropriately for the water temperature. The risk of hypothermia is high before July and after mid-September. Plan accordingly and consider a dry suit or west suit depending on the current water temperatures.
Always check the weather forecast before leaving shore and file a float plan too!
Navigation Charts - NOAA chart 14913
(click to download free PDF)
Where to Put In
The recommended, and closest boat launch is at Bowers Harbor. There really isn't any other viable option as the west shore of the Old Mission Peninsula is private property. Experienced paddlers might consider launching at Bryant Park or sunset Park near downtown Traverse City if you want a 6-mile one-way trip. Another option would be paddling from the DNR boat launch on M22 and Hill Top Road on the west shore of the bay. This option would require a much longer open water crossing.
If you are camping on the island, the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation department can issue you a parking permit for overnight parking at the Bowers Harbor boat launch.
Directions to Bowers Harbor Boat Launch
From Traverse City, take Garfield Avenue (M37) north to Peninsula drive, turn left and drive approximately 9.3 miles. Turn left on Neah-ta-wanta Road. The boat ramp is just past the turn.
Wind and Waves
Because of the length of Grand Traverse Bay, there is considerable fetch. Windy days can create large waves especially from the northeast and the south.
Typically, the prevailing winds are from the southwest. Generally, you will find some shelter as you are in Bowers Harbor but then you will become exposed to wind and waves. If the wind is from the north or northwest, you are likely to encounter larger waves between Basset Island and Neah-Ta-Wanta Point. This is caused by a combination of fetch and also a shoal that lies off of Neah-Ta-Wanta Point.
As you make the crossing between the Old Mission Peninsula, waves are likely to build. If you navigate more southerly and then turn west, you'll gain shelter from the wind and waves will subside as you approach the island. Paddling in straight line from Bowers Harbor to Power Island tends to expose you to larger waves.
Camping on Power Island
There used to be camping on Bassett Island but due to high lake levels in recent years, the isthmus that once connected Bassett Island to Power Island is mostly underwater making it difficult for the park ranger to manage the sites.
There are however 10 primitive campsites available on the south end of the Power Island. Reservations are required and can be obtained through the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation department.
Pit toilets are available and a pump for drinking water. You might consider bringing a water filter or purifier just to be safe. Firewood is available for purchase on the island from the park ranger. Be prepared for mosquitos although they usually aren't too bad.
From the southern end of the island, you can see Traverse City about 6 miles away. The city lights up at night and is a really surreal experience.
There are no bears, but you will want to take precautions protecting your food from chipmunks, racoons, and rodents.
If you are lucky, you might spot Bald eagles, Ospreys, and Herons.
At 200 acres in size, it has approximately six miles of hiking trails. The trails vary from flat to hilly as they traverse the hills. There are several orphaned or unmarked trails that allow an intrepid hiker to explore even more distance. The highest point is 689 feet above sea level.
Depending on water levels, Power Island is connected to adjacent Bassett Island by a narrow isthmus. Basset Island is tiny in comparison at a mere one acre is size.
Bassett Island is accessible via a short walk across the isthmus which connects the two islands. It's not uncommon to have to wade through shallow water when approaching the island.
Sandy beaches are plentiful along almost the entire shoreline. The west shore tends to be rockier but nothing too bad and landings are doable.
Where to Eat and Stay
If you are visiting the area, Traverse City has plenty of great lodging options. You won't go hungry either. Jolly Pumpkin Brewery is a great choice for an after paddling meal and drink. It's close by, just a half mile away from the boat launch.
This is a great paddle for intermediate paddlers and a perfect shake down camping trip to prepare you for longer kayak camping trips. You might consider this for a warmup before heading to Beaver Island, or the Manitou Islands. If pressed for time, it also makes a great day trip. Being a resident of Traverse City, this is one my frequent day trips. It's hard to beat the easy access, clean waters, and gorgeous scenery.
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