This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by Explore Flint & Genesee.
Flint has a rich history and strong art community, and it offers unique shopping experiences. However, those aren’t the only reasons to visit this vibrant city. The Flint River runs through the center, creating an awesome opportunity for kayaking and many other activities.
About the Flint River and National Water Trail
Forming a watershed, the Flint River and its branches span across about 1,332 square miles in southeastern Michigan. The main river and basin extend for 142 miles, covering most of Genesee County and Lapeer County. There are 25 access sites in these counties, and you can see them on this interactive map.
As part of the Saginaw Bay Watershed, which is the largest in the state, the Flint River flows north and joins the Shiawassee River. Eventually, the flow empties into Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron.
In November 2020, the National Park Service designated the Flint River National Water Trail. Furthermore, it became one of the first eight of Michigan’s water trails to receive state water trail designation. The goal of the Flint River National Water Trail designation is to offer a variety of recreational and educational opportunities as well as economic revitalization for the community.
On top of that, the city began a Riverfront Restoration Plan to overcome the negativity that has surrounded the Flint River. It aims to increase access to the river and allow kayakers to paddle safely and unhampered from near Stepping Stone Falls to Mott Park Recreation Area. As a result, the Flint River is and will continue to be the perfect respite for kayak enthusiasts.
Where to Rent a Kayak for the Water Trail Journey
While there are many other rivers and lakes in Genesee County, the Flint River offers the perfect balance of quiet seclusion and access to city amenities. It passes through an assortment of forests, lakes, wildlife habitats, and communities. If you don’t own a kayak, you won’t have a problem renting a kayak in Flint.
Kayak Flint was the first paddleboat rental service in the city, offering affordable access to the river. Launched in fall 2018, it’s part of the Flint River Watershed Coalition and its Corridor Alliance chapter. The rental facility is located directly on the river behind Tenacity Brewing & Beer Garden. To make it easy for anyone to paddle on the water, Kayak Flint provides all of the necessary equipment and shuttles back to its facility after your trip. The company’s fleet includes 1 kid-sized kayak, three tandem kayaks, and 15 single kayaks. It has one aluminum canoe too.
Good Ol’ Redbeard’s Canoe & Kayak Livery is another place that offers kayak and canoe rentals for paddling the Flint River. It’s located in Flushing, which is northwest of Flint, and has six kayaks and 10 canoes.
Guided Tours of the Flint River With Kayak Flint
Under the FRWC, Kayak Flint is the only service that arranges guided kayak tours on the Flint River. Each tour takes a different path down the river, allowing you to explore various parts of its beauty. You get the chance to see a range of wildlife as well – great blue herons, turtles, bald eagles, and more. The guided tours of the Flint River include snacks and water, but some shuttle services might cost extra.
Along with standard guided tours, Kayak Flint offers mindfulness paddle trips. While you enjoy nature, you can learn mindfulness practices that support your overall well-being. Snacks, water, and shuttle service are included in the price.
Additionally, the FRWC partnered with Genesee County Parks and The Disability Network to provide Inclusive Kayaking workshops for people with disabilities. This iKayak program offers direction from a certified recreational therapist and a certified adaptive paddle instructor, and it includes training with the equipment. Mindfulness paddle trips are part of the iKayak program too. If there’s a hardship with paying the suggested donation, you can use a promo code to waive the fee.
More Outdoor Things to Do in Flint and Genesee County
Aside from kayaking the Flint River, the city and greater county have several parks and miles of trails awaiting your exploration. In fact, the Flint River Trail runs along the river. Part of it was opened to the public in 2013, but it will stretch for 18 miles when it’s completed. You can see a map of the Flint River Trail route here.
There’s a little bit of everything to experience at Bluebell Beach — seasonal swimming, biking the Flint River Bike Path (nearly 1 mile), and fishing at the dock. Kids will love the splash pad area, and there’s a playground and picnic tables nearby.
In Davison, the Lake Callis Recreation Complex is a 35-acre park with a beach, swimming area, concession stand, splash pad, six sand volleyball courts, and observation deck. Catch-and-release fishing is permitted. Richfield County Park & BMX Track is a 345-acre park with a playground, picnic areas, baseball diamonds, a trail, paddleboat launch, and more.
The For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum is a popular attraction in Burton. The 383-acre area preserve features 7 miles of hiking trails, a memorial garden, a treehouse, and a butterfly house. In Grand Blanc, Creasey Bicentennial Park offers rustic walking trails, a splash pad, and baseball diamonds.
If you’re looking for another place to kayak in Genesse County, consider the Shiawassee River Water Trail. You can rent a kayak or canoe for your journey at EZ Kayak and Canoe in Linden.
Where to Eat Great Food in Flint
Flint has numerous amazing cafes and restaurants, especially downtown. If you need a jolt of caffeine before you hit the Flint River, stop at The Good Beans Cafe for Italian espresso-based drinks, light edibles, assorted teas, and smoothies. Flint Crepe Company roasts its own coffee beans and makes crepes from scratch, allowing the kitchen to accommodate many dietary restrictions.
For lunch, Steady Eddy’s Cafe makes killer sandwiches, fresh lemonade, and vegetarian and vegan options. You can even order dietary-friendly dishes at Sweet Peaces Veggie Bistro, which is located inside the Flint Farmers’ Market.
If you’re in the mood for Latin street food, Xolo is a wonderful place to go for dinner, and it has a tequila bar. At Sauce Italian American Kitchen in the Hilton Garden Inn Flint Downtown, you can expect an Italian-inspired dinner.
Lodging in Flint and the Surrounding Area
The many hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds in Flint and Genesee County offer relaxing accommodations for your bucket list getaway. Here are some of the lodging options that we prefer:
Hotels and B&Bs
- Best Western Davison Inn
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Flint Grand Blanc
- Comfort Inn and Suites Grand Blanc
- Knob Hill Bed and Breakfast
- Outdoor Adventures Lake Shore Resort
- Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area
- Holly Recreation Area
- Seven Lakes State Park
Photos of Kayaking the Flint River