Guide to Paddling the Dowagiac River

Local Businesses Providing Services for the Dowagiac River

Canoe Kayak Outfitters

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Car Spotting Services

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Bait and Tackle Shops

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River Fishing Guides

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River Overview:

The Dowagiac River is a southwesterly flowing 30.9-mile-long  tributary to the St. Joseph River.   Most of it’s run is shaded by several species of hardwood trees that are native to the area.  The river is divided into two sections by the Pucker Street Dam.  The upper portion above the dam is a popular summertime destination for families and individuals looking for a relaxed outing.

The lower section has faster moving water and requires some basic paddling skills to avoid various tree limbs and rocks.  The flooding that occurred in early 2018 piled up a lot of debris near the end of the lower section for several hundred yards before the M-139 take out.  Use caution in this area to avoid fast moving current that runs under several of the debris piles.

River Details

  • Total Length: 25 miles
  • Class: Flatwater
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Hazards: Deep water a Pucker Street Dam.  Can have log jams or fallen debris blocking the river in the section below Pucker Street Dam after heavy rains.
  • Fishing: Brown trout, steelhead, salmon, walleye, small mouth bass, suckers.
Dowagiac River Access Point Distance to Next Access Point
M-51 Bridge 4.5 miles
M-62 Bridge 4 miles
Sink Road Bridge 3.5 miles
Dodd Park 3 miles
Kinzie Road Bridge 1.5 miles
Losenski Park 2.5 miles
M-139 Bridge Last take out before St. Joe River

Dowagiac River from M-51 bridge to M-62 bridge

The M-51 bridge is the furthest upstream launch point typically used by most recreational paddlers.  There is a privately owned livery located next to the bridge that rents canoes here during the summer months.

The first bridge down stream of your launch point will be Middle Crossing Road.  Continuing down stream you’ll pass under your second bridge at Yaw Street and then your third bridge will be the M-62 bridge and the end of this segment.  This float trip is approximately 4.5 miles long and takes about 2 hours.

Skill Level: Beginner
Character: Family friendly
Public Restooms: No public restrooms are available along this stretch
Campgrounds: No public campgrounds are available along this stretch

Dowagiac River from M-62 bridge to Sink Rd.

*** It has been reported that the Sink Road access site is no longer available.  We are working to confirm this, but at this point you should plan accordingly.  The next take out point is another two hours down stream at Dodd Park.   We did hear that a new and improved access point is planned for Peavine Street.  We’ll update the site once we have more information.

As you paddle south of the M-62 launch point, you will see the old bridge used by the Interurban Trolley, which used to run between Benton Harbor and Dowagiac.  On the left side of the river, just south of the Interurban Bridge is the mouth of the Dowagiac Creek.  The next bridge you’ll come to on your trip is the Frost Street bridge.  There’s a forest area to right right as you approach the Frost St. bridge.  This is the Dowagiac Woods, a permanently protected area that is home to many endangered and protected wild flower species.  It is the last untouched woodland in the area.   Continuing down stream from here, the next bridge you’ll come to is the Peavine Street bridge.  Continuing downstream of  Peavine Street the river makes a wide sweeping curve to the right through some of the most scenic woodlands on the Dowagiac River before bringing you to the Sink Road Bridge.   This float trip is approximately 4 miles long and takes about 2 hours.

SKill Level: Beginner
Character: Family friendly
Public Restrooms: No public restrooms are available along this stretch
Campgrounds: No public campgrounds are available along this stretch

Dowagiac River from Sink Rd. to Arthur Dodd Park

*** It has been reported that the Sink Road access site is no longer available.  We are working to confirm this, but at this point you should plan accordingly.  The upstream launch point from here is at M-62.   We did hear that a new and improved access point is planned for Peavine Street.  We’ll update the site once we have more information.

About 1-1/2 miles downstream from Sink Rd. is the campground run by Crystal Springs Methodist church.  They run several youth camps throughout the summer time and you will often encounter several of their young campers during the summer months on the waters downstream of here.   After the campground you’ll pass under Crystal Springs bridge.   About a mile downstream from here you’ll  pass by Pokagon Creek before comming to the bridge at Indian Lake Road near the town of Sumnerville.  After the bridge at Indian Lake Rd.,  you will enter Arthur Dodd  Memorial Park.  This is a popular park for fishing and for family picnics.  It’s is also the take out point for this segment.  This trip is approximately 3.5 miles long and will take about 2 hours to paddle.

The majority of paddlers do not typically continue down stream from here at the conditions of the river down stream of here is always changing.   The stretch of river below  Arthur Dodd Park to the Pucker Street Dam above Losensky Park usually has significant log jams and will require experienced paddling skills to navigate.

 

SKill Level: Beginner
Character: Family friendly
Public Restrooms: Yes at Dodd Park
Campgrounds: No public campgrounds are available along this stretch, Dodd park does offer nice picnic areas.

Dowagiac River from Arthur Dodd Park to Kinzie Rd. Bridge

Paddlers heading down stream of Arthur Dodd park usually only do so if they are attempting to paddle the entire course of the Dowagiac river to its mouth.  The Kinzie Bridge access point is considered more of an emergency access point for those who find the obstacles and logjams south of Dodd Park to be too exhausting.   It is approximately 3 miles from Dodd Park to Kinzie Rd.  and the time to complete this segment can vary depending on how many obstacles there are and portages that are necessary.  The stretch of river below Arthur Dodd Park to the Pucker Street Dam above Losensky Park usually has significant log jams and will require experienced paddling skills to navigate.

 

SKill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Character: Can have lots of obstacles and log jams to navigate.  Might require several portages.
Public Restrooms: Yes at Dodd Park
Campgrounds: No public campgrounds are available along this stretch, Dodd park does offer nice picnic areas.

Dowagiac River from Kinzie Rd. to Pucker St. Dam \ Losensky Park 

This section of river is similar to to section from Dodd park to Kinzie bridge, expect to find obstacles and logjams along this route.   It is approximately 1.5 miles from  Kinzie Rd.  to the Pucker St. Dam.  Once you reach the backwaters of the dam, exit river right and portage across Pucker St. to Losensky Park where you can re-enter and continue heading down stream.

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Character: Can have lots of obstacles and log jams to navigate.  Might require several portages.
Public Restrooms: None
Campgrounds: None

Dowagiac River from Losensky Park to M-139 Bridge

Paddlers  will find the current below the dam to be quicker than they were above it.  Expect to encounter several rocks and fallen tree limbs that will require basic paddling skills to maneuver around.  On the second half of this stretch of river you’ll notice that the current slows again.  After passing the private campgrounds on river right, pay attention for obstacles in the water.   Right after the campgrounds the river bends to the right before making a large bend to the left.  There is a large back eddy area where the river turns left.  Take a moment in this area to line your boat up straight to go under a small old bridge that is not on google maps.  At the end of 2018 there was a tree that had fallen across the opening and was submerged about 2″-3″ below the surface.   Every kayak we saw was able to slide over this tree, but it’s always good to make sure you are square to the tree in case you get stuck momentarily on it.  The flooding in 2018 washed a lot of debris down the river and a lot of it accumulated in this last stretch before the final take out at M-139.  In this section, the river makes several sharp 180 degree bends.  If you keep to the slow moving water on the inside of each bend you’ll have no issues.  Try to avoid the faster moving current on the outer bends that run under some of the debris piles.

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Character: Can have lots of obstacles and log jams to navigate.  Might require several portages.
Public Restrooms: None
Campgrounds: None