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This is my first time, what should I do?
Depending on your level of paddling experience, we generally recommend that most people try out rafting when on the Sturgeon for the 1st time. This is by far our most stable watercraft, and perfect for families/groups. Rafting promotes teamwork, and allows you to get a feel for the Sturgeon (without worrying about capsizing) before you decide to try out a more challenging piece of equipment.
How much are your river trips? Lengths of trips?
The cost for river trips depends on the length of the trip and the type of watercraft rented. Standard trips vary from 1 ½ hours to 5 hours. Longer trips and overnight trips are by special arrangement only.
What types of river equipment do you offer?
We offer genuine white water rafts, canoes, solo and tandem kayaks, catamarans (inflatable kayaks), and tubes. All of our rentals include personal flotation devices, paddles, maps, and transportation to the starting point.
How fast is the Sturgeon River?
The Sturgeon River is the fastest river in the lower peninsula of Michigan, yet without whitewater. It is considered a Class I and II river, which means a quick and often tricky current, numerous narrow passages and sharp turns, low-hanging trees, and surface logs.
Does the water ever get too shallow to paddle?
We are very fortunate due to the fact that the Sturgeon River is a naturally spring-fed river, and therefore, has a constant flow. The water levels can be affected with large amounts of rain, but fortunately the water levels do not decrease much with a drought, which is unlike most other rivers.
Can I bring alcohol on my trip?
Big Bear Adventures HIGHLY discourages the consumption of alcohol while on the river. The Sturgeon River is a technical, narrow, winding river and demands close attention while paddling. We LOVE sober paddlers! It is unlawful to operate a watercraft while intoxicated. Big Bear reserves the right to turn away any guest at any time, who appears to be intoxicated, with no refund issued. Although we don’t regularly check small coolers, we do reserve the right to check large coolers, bags, etc. taken on a river trip.
Am I allowed to bring my own lifejacket?
You are allowed to bring your own PFD’s on our trips, as long as it is U.S. Coast Guard approved. However, Big Bear Adventures does supply each paddler with a properly fitting type III U.S. Coast Guard Approved Life vest. We have sizes available for every age and body type.
Are reservations required?
Reservations are not required, as most of our customers are accommodated on a first come, first served basis. However, reservations are recommended for groups who would like to guarantee their boats (especially for large groups) and are available before 11 am. To make a reservation, please call Big Bear Adventures directly at (231) 238-8181, with your credit card ready. Visa, MC, and Discover are all accepted. The credit card information is necessary to hold your equipment, but will not be charged until you arrive for your trip (However, upon arrival, your group can pay for the trip via cash or credit card). In the event that you must cancel your reservation, it must be done so within 72 hours of your scheduled departure. If you do not properly cancel your trip, and the equipment cannot be rented, Big Bear Adventures reserves the right to charge for the amount of the trip in full.
What time of the day is best to come?
In the peak of the summer, Big Bear Adventures is busiest between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm. To get through the sign-up process and out on the river faster, we recommend arriving early. Early morning trips are very enjoyable because the river is quieter, and you have a much greater chance of seeing wildlife. Please see each equipment type for exact departure times throughout the day.
Is this river safe for families/small children?
While there is always inherent risk involved in taking a trip down the Sturgeon River, we offer equipment for all ages and skill levels. We do not recommend for children to go in canoes/kayaks due to their high tip-over rate. However, rafts are by far our most popular watercraft, and are perfect for families of all age ranges. These rafts are built for true whitewater rivers (even though there is no whitewater on the Sturgeon), making them nearly impossible to tip over.
Can I bring snacks/drinks along on my trip?
We welcome you to bring snacks/drinks along with you on your adventure. Big Bear Adventures offers a Subway® sandwich shop and general store stocked with all types of snacks and drinks available for you to take with you while on the river. The most important part to remember- NO Styrofoam, glass or large heavy coolers allowed, and anything that comes out of your bag/cooler must go right back in. Our river is natural and pristine, and we hope our customers show the upmost respect for the river and private land owners. No trash left behind!
Is there anything you recommend for us to take along on our trip?
We recommend bringing along sunglasses, eyeglass straps, hats, a waterproof camera, sunscreen, snacks, water, and your adventurous attitude!
What should I wear?
We recommend wearing a bathing suit, and/or light clothing that can easily dry out. You are out on the river, and therefore, have a good chance of getting somewhat wet. We also recommend wearing sandals that strap onto your feet; you have a VERY good chance of losing flip flops if you happen to go into the river.
What shouldn’t I bring along?
Big Bear Adventures does NOT recommend to bring along anything that you don’t want to risk losing or getting wet; this includes keys, jewelry, electronics, watches, purses/wallets, etc.
Can I bring my dog?
Unfortunately, we cannot allow any pets in any of our inflatables (rafts, tubes, or river cats). You can however, depending on the size of your animal, bring along your pet in a canoe. Please do keep in mind, that dogs do throw off the center of balance in your boat and DRAMATICALLY increase your chances of tipping over.
Where do we get out?
Unlike most liveries, Big Bear Adventures has multiple put-in points along the Sturgeon River, but a common ending point for all but our “Mid-Section” river trips. The common ending point is directly across from our location at Burt Lake State Park. For all river trips (except tubing trips), our guests will be instructed when and where to park their vehicles at the State Park, which will require the annual DNR “Recreation Passport” (or non-resident day or annual pass) to be displayed on the vehicle. The non-resident day and annual passes may be purchased at Big Bear Adventures.
What are your hours?
Our hours vary greatly with the time of year. Our official paddling season goes from May through October. For Memorial- Labor Day weekend, our first paddling trip departs at 9 am. The last departure time for each day varies depending on the watercraft and trip length. All equipment must be returned by 7 pm. Please see the specific watercraft’s webpage for departure times. For all trips before Memorial Weekend &/or after Labor Day weekend, please call ahead.
Can I rent your equipment and take it where I want?
Yes, Big Bear Adventures offers haul-it yourself rentals of aluminum canoes, kayaks, and tubes during our summer season. Canoes and kayaks may be rented for a 24 hour period or longer. Tubes may be rented and returned the same day.
Can I bring my own equipment?
Yes, Big Bear Adventures offers vehicle spotting and shuttle service for people with their own equipment. However, not all privately-owned equipment can be accommodated, especially tubes/rafts, and is up to the manager’s discretion. This service can be temporarily suspended during peak weekends or other high volume river trip customer periods.
Do you have group discounts?
We offer fantastic group deals for schools, family reunions, birthdays, corporate outings, and non-profit youth groups, and church groups! Advanced reservations are required, and group packages are available combining one or more attractions with river trips. Please see our page dedicated to group packaging for more information.
How much is Golf? How many holes?
Our 18-hole adventure golf course costs just $7 per person age 13 and up, $6 per person age 6 to 12, and children 5 years old and under play for free.
I am coming up for vacation, where should I stay?
Big Bear Adventures is affiliated with the Northwoods Lodge, just 1 mile north of our location. We also offer an on-site group lodging option. Anyone who stays in either establishment receives a 10% discount off any river trip!
Where is a good place to eat?
Indian River has several dining establishments. The Brown Trout Restaurant and Tavern and Vivio’s serve a variety of lunch and dinner entrees from fish to beef to Italian and pizza. Other establishments offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, including Subway, are also located in town.
What else is there to do by you?
Fishing, swimming, boating, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, tubing, snowmobiling, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, camping, hiking, dining, winter rafting, 18 hole championship golf, 18 hole adventure golf, water skiing, sledding, skating, casino gaming, and the world’s largest crucifix at Cross in the Woods Catholic Shrine are some of the area’s many attractions. We are centrally located for all of Northern Lower Michigan regional attractions.
How do I get there from Petoskey? Mackinaw? Gaylord? Boyne? Cheboygan?
From Petoskey, take highway US-31 north to Alanson. Turn right (east) at stop light on highway M-68 toward Indian River. Go 10 miles, then turn left (north) at stop light on S. Straits Highway/M-68 and continue north past the Inland Lakes Schools on the right. As you crest the slight hill, you will see Big Bear Adventures on the right across from the entrance to Burt Lake State Park.
From Mackinaw, take I-75 south to exit 310. Turn right (west) at exit stop sign onto highway M-68. Continue west ½ mile to the traffic light. Turn left (south) onto S. Straits Highway/M-68. Continue south over the Sturgeon River Bridge (about an eighth of a mile) and turn left into Big Bear Adventures across from the entrance to Burt Lake State Park.
From Gaylord, take I-75 north to exit 310. Turn left (west) at exit stop sign onto highway M-68. Continue west ½ mile to the traffic light. Turn left (south) onto S. Straits Highway/M-68. Continue south over the Sturgeon River Bridge (about an eighth of a mile) and turn left into Big Bear Adventures across from the entrance to Burt Lake State Park.
From Boyne, take highway US-131 north through Boyne Falls. Continue north ¼ mile to T-intersection of US-131 and county road C-48/Thumb Lake Road. Turn right (east) onto C-48 and continue past Thumb Lake to Old 27/S. Straits Highway, about 13 miles. Turn left (north) onto Old 27/S. Straits Highway and continue about 8 miles to Wolverine. Continue north through Wolverine about 9 miles to stop light at highway M-68. Continue north past the Inland Lakes Schools on the right. As you crest the slight hill, you will see Big Bear Adventures on the right across from the entrance to Burt Lake State Park.
From Cheboygan, take highway M-27/M-33 south to junction of M-27 and M-33 at stop light. Follow M-27/S. Straits Highway south to the right past Mullett Lake to Topinabee. Continue south, crossing under I-75 and then over the cement bridge at the north end of Indian River. Continue south through town to the traffic light. Continue south through the traffic light and over the Sturgeon River Bridge (about an eighth of a mile) and turn left into Big Bear Adventures across from the entrance to Burt Lake State Park.