Upper Chain Route

Over 20 miles of beginner and intermediate routes through seven small inland lakes

Home / Regions / Upper Chain Route


The Upper Chain of Lakes is a portion of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. This portion of the water trail has both beginner and intermediate level routes.  While there are many different access sites you may choose to begin and end from, below are some popular segments. Paddlers may combine different segments to create a longer paddling experience.  

Section 1: Six Mile Lake DNR Access to Ellsworth River Park: Intermediate Level - 4.6 miles - This route takes paddlers through Six Mile Lake and St. Claire Lake, including over a mile of protected shoreline  of the Six Mile-St. Claire Lake Natural Area. The route is rated intermediate because as paddlers go from St. Claire Lake into Ellsworth Lake there is portage across the road.

Section 2: Ellsworth River Park to Wilson DNR Access: Beginner Level - 3.4 miles - This route takes paddlers through Ellsworth Lake and Wilson Lake.

Section 3: Wilson DNR Access to Thurston Park: Beginner Level - 4.0 miles - This route takes paddlers through Benway Lake and Hanley Lake before entering Intermediate Lake in Central Lake. 

Section 4: Thurston Park (Central Lake) to Richardi Park (Bellaire) - 8.4 miles or ____, depending on route selected. This route is considered an intermediate level route due to the potential of waves and motor boat traffic on Intermediate Lake.  The southern end of Intermediate Lake you will see an island that is used for nesting birds in the spring.  The route ends with a very picturesque paddle through the Intermediate River into Bellaire.  

Section 5: Richardi Park to Openo DNR Access - A popular trip from Bellaire is to launch at RIchardi Park and travel upstream on the Intermediate River. It is 3.3 miles to the Openo DNR Access. For those interested in going out and back, it is 1.5 miles one way to reach Intermediate Lake.  

The route ends at a dam in Bellaire but see the Lower Chain Water Trail for information on continuing on the other side of the dam.  It is about a 1/3 mile portage across M-88 to the Ohio Street Launch to continue your adventure.  

All of the access sites included on the trail are open to the public and have been approved for inclusion by the site owner. This water trail is still in the beginning stages and therefore no additional water trail signage is installed on the ground at this time.

Find Upper Chain Route on Facebook

Contact: Paddle Antrim