If you only try one new adventure this year, make it Michigan winter rafting on the Jordan River…
It’s no surprise that I believe the winter season is pure magic- it’s restful, quiet, and full of experiences you only get to do in the weather these months provide.
We’ve lived in Northern Michigan for six years, and just when I think I’ve explored all that this region offers, I am surprised to find something new.
The Secret to Finding New Adventures
Sometimes, the best secret I’ve found is to put on a “tourist” mentality and do something I normally wouldn’t indulge in as a local. Luckily, we have friends who visit every year during the winter months- allowing us to showcase all the amazing experiences that Northern Michigan has to offer.
Years ago, in some of the most critical years of my life, we lived in the suburbs of Chicago. While we were here, we became best friends with the family that lived next door.
They were the ones who took our son to their house when I went into labor, the ones who met us at the door with cocktails in hand, and the ones who continually showered us with love without expecting anything in return.
Most nights, you’d find us dancing on their coffee table, celebrating just because we are alive. They are more than friends; they are family- and we couldn’t imagine life without them.
A Major Jackpot: Michigan Winter Rafting
When we moved to Michigan, we vowed to stay close. When we visit them, they take us to do things out of our realm of expertise- like head to the city for theatre or searching out the best Italian market. And when they head to our neck of the woods, we push them out of their comfort zone.
As much as they love to come in the summer, the winter months are what has inspired them the most- I think because Northern Michigan just knows how to do winter right. When I know they are coming, I put on my “tourist” hat, and try to find a unique experience sure to invigorate our whole crew.
This past visit, we hit the major jackpot. A friend recommended a winter rafting excursion with Jordan Valley Outfitters in the Petoskey area. My first thoughts were, “Rafting? In the winter?”
But, as I was about to find out, this proved to be one of the most wonderful trips I’ve ever had the privilege to experience. We booked our float, hoping our spontaneity would pay off.
Unpredictable Pure Michigan Weather
A few days before our friends from Chicago were due to arrive, the forecast predicted a major snowstorm. Luckily, they were able to make it to our house just as the first flakes were beginning to fall.
Over the next day, endless snow poured from the sky, painting the landscape with an icy white layer. Snowball fights and snowshoeing through our neighborhood filled our day, and we kept our fingers crossed the storm would end so we could make it to our rafting trip the following day.
We woke up the next morning with bright sunshine streaming through the windows. The snow was dazzling, the sky a crystal blue. We put on our snowsuits, and loaded into the car to make the hour long drive to East Jordan.
A Delightful Experience with Jordan Valley Outfitters
We were greeted with a joyous welcome from the small winter staff that runs the Jordan Valley Outfitters shop. The staff ensured we all had signed waivers and plenty of layers for the trip down the river. We loaded onto the bus, our guide telling us infinite jokes and stories about the area. He was a delight- making us laugh all the way to the put-in spot.
Stepping into the raft and onto the Jordan River took my breath away. The blue skies highlighted the snow on the banks surrounding us; the trees dripped with twinkling magic as the snow melted from the branches. The evergreens filled our vision with calming green, and the river below us sang of peace.
We were each given an oar, and the guide was excellent in directing us when and how to paddle. We cruised along the river, as our guide gave us facts about the area and the wildlife we spotted. Learning more about this unique landscape added to the experience immensely.
The Gifts of the River
Halfway through our trip, the guide docked us on the banks of the forest. To our delight, they unloaded supplies from the rafts, and served us hot cocoa and cookies. We wandered the woods with our treats, marveling at this day.
As we neared the end of our paddle, we stopped to listen to the singing birds and other signs of nature that filled us with wonder.
We finished our float close to downtown East Jordan, each of us picking a pine cone off of the forest floor to remember what we received that day- wonder, inspiration, and reverence.
These were gifts in and of themselves, but what made it even better was the constant current of laughter and lightheartedness that we shared along the river.
Michigan Winter Rafting FAQ’s
If you are considering a Michigan winter rafting trip, here are a couple things you should know before you book!
What should I wear winter rafting?
- We wore our winter coats, snowpants, and waterproof boots. Make sure to bring a hat and gloves to keep your extremities warm!
- Wear layers in case you get too warm- sometimes that winter sun reflecting off the river can heat you up!
- The float is fairly calm, so you don’t get super wet.
- They will provide life jackets.
How long is the rafting experience?
- The float we did lasted about two hours.
- You should arrive to the Outfitter shop about a half hour early to sign waivers and get everything loaded up.
- The drive to the put in was about 15 minutes, and the staff gets the rafts in the water fairly quickly for take off from there.
- You are on the river for about 1.5 hours, with a stop mid-way!
- The drive back to the Outfitter is short and sweet from where you take out.
Is winter rafting suitable for all skill levels?
- Absolutely! We had children with us on the float (the youngest was 7), but you could bring kids even below that age.
- The guide does most of the steering, and will direct you to paddle if you need to.
- The float has no rapids, so it’s a nice and easy ride.
Is there a maximum/minimum number of riders?
- When you book your float, you can indicate how many riders you have. If you only have a few people, you may be put with a larger group.
- We had ten people in our group, and they accommodated us with two rafts and two guides. They are very helpful and will adjust according to your needs!
How much does winter rafting cost?
- The best thing about this Jordan Valley Outfitters is they offer tiered pricing according to age!
- For kids 4-8, it’s $17.00.
- For kids 9-12 it’s $20.00.
- Ages 13-Adult is $47.00.
Add Michigan Winter Rafting to Your Bucket List
As we reflected on our weekend, we knew that winter rafting would now be added to our “bucket list” each winter- something we would look forward to every year. We are always looking to make new memories with our treasured friends, and this definitely topped our list.
If you are looking to embrace the winter and find magic during this season, do yourself a favor and book a Michigan winter rafting experience with Jordan Valley Outfitters!