Pere Marquette River


The Pere Marquette River is located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The river system begins east of Baldwin and empties into Lake Michigan at Ludington and is the longest unregulated (no dams or impoundments) river system in the Lower Peninsula. The river is a nationally known, high-quality fishing stream which supports large populations of resident trout, steelhead, and salmon. From M-37 to Gleason’s Landing, the state has designated the river as quality fishing water requiring catch and release with flies only.

Watercraft permits are required from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend for launching and retrieving watercraft from Forest Service access sites. Watercraft permit numbers vary by river segment and the day of the week, with permits divided between one permitted livery and the Forest Service. During this time period, watercraft hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Watercraft permits are available online at

Camping within the river corridor on National Forest System lands is allowed only at designated sites. Sites range in experience from campgrounds to canoe-in only camps; fees for camping and using access sites are charged. Forest Service access sites are plowed in the winter providing year-round access.

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Designated Reach

November 10, 1978. The segment downstream from the junction of the Middle and Little South Branches to its junction with U.S. Highway 31.

Outstandingly Remarkable Values


More than 500 heritage resource archaeological sites, spanning more than 10,000 years of human history, have been recorded within the Pere Marquette watershed. The earliest archaeological sites date to the time following the recession of glacial ice. The cultures of many peoples, from ancient Paleo-Indian hunters through woodland farmers to the period of written history represented by Euro-American traders, loggers, and settlers, are found in the watershed and designated corridor. This rich historical and archaeological record offers a wide and fertile array of interpretive and educational opportunities.


Most of the Pere Marquette River mainstem is designated as trout waters, and the system supports a renowned cold-water fishery. It is a designated “Blue Ribbon” trout stream from Reek Road upstream to Switzer Bridge on the Middle Branch. It has a self-sustaining resident fishery and also supports runs of salmon and steelhead from Lake Michigan that attract thousands of anglers to the river each year.

Most notably, the Pere Marquette River was the location of the first brown trout introduction in the United States (1884). Rainbow trout were planted in 1885, and this early introduction developed into a self-sustaining steelhead population. Coho and chinook salmon were introduced into Lake Michigan in 1966. The only fish stocking of salmon within the Pere Marquette River system occurred in Ruby Creek in 1967. However, a naturally reproducing salmon population is now established in the river.


Because the Pere Marquette is both free-flowing and includes public ownership, the historic record of the lands along the river is likely to be both well preserved and well represented. This record is unique in the sense that the historical record, the mix of physical resources, and their specific characteristics could not be duplicated elsewhere because of geographic, environmental, and cultural variables.


The river is a major recreational attraction for northwest Michigan and is within a two-hour drive of over one million people. The river provides a significant contribution to the regional economy and draws national and international attention for its high-quality fisheries.


The Pere Marquette watershed has “north country appeal” with a mixture of public and private land, rivers, lakes, and wooded hillsides. The variety of topography, vegetation, and the river’s clear water and sinuous alignment are the primary scenic features. River features, such as rocks, logs, pools, and eddies, make the river interesting and challenging to canoeists and anglers. In addition, the change of river character from open marshes and broad valleys near Lake Michigan to the confined reaches above Walhalla Bridge adds to the scenic value.

Managing Partners And Contacts


Scenic — 66.4 miles; Total — 66.4 miles.
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