Rifle River Recreation Area

The Rifle River Recreation Area covers 4,329 acres in Ogemaw County, and is the most predominant recreation facility in the watershed. The park offers 159 campsites, has several hiking trails and several lakes in its boundaries.

Also in the watershed are two state forest campgrounds. The Rifle River campground provides 40 campsites and is located on both sides of the Rifle River. Hardwood Lake State Forest Campground has 22 campsites available.

Public canoe access to the Rifle River is fairly good. Access sites are located in the Rifle River Recreation Area, the state forest campground, near Skidway Lake, Moffatt Bridge, and at Omer. In addition, there is a partially developed access site near the confluence of Klacking Creek with the Rifle.

Rifle River Recreation Area
  • Colwell Lake Trail Map
    Rifle River Recreation Area

    Hiking Cross Country Skiing Fishing Hunting Canoeing Swimming Camping Mountain Biking Snowmobiling Watchable Wildlife

    18 Miles NW of West Branch on Rose City Road (AuSable State Forest)Approximate Size: 4449 AcresTrails: 14 MilesPhone: (989) 473-2258

    Download Map 1 - 'Trails' pdf format 365 kb

    Download Map 2 - 'Fishing' pdf format 315 kb

Hiking, Biking, Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing

The 14 miles of pathways meandering throughout the park offer hiking, biking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Numbered posts keyed to the map will help keep you oriented while on the pathways. There is an observation tower that gives sightseers a fantastic scenic view of the recreation area.

Fishing

For the fishing enthusiasts, ten scenic lakes offer all types of fishing. Fisheries research is being conducted on Jewett Lake. This lake is closed to fishing without a permit which is available at park headquarters. All lakes are closed to boats with motors.

The Rifle provides fair to good brown trout fishing during the spring until about the last week of June, and again from about Labor Day until the end of the trout season. At these times, spin casting with hardware and streamer fly-fishing are productive methods. The slack fishing period which occurs during the summer appears to be the result of high water temperatures coupled with low stream flow.

Except for Skunk Creek and Ammond Creek, most tributaries north of Selkirk can be described as good to excellent trout streams. Of these, Klacking, Houghton, Gamble and Wilkins creeks are the best. Clacking Creek has an excellent population of brown trout with many fish larger than 14 inches and with some going over 20. Fishing is usually a challenge on this stream due to its extreme clarity.

Gamble Creek is a good brown trout tributary, and enters the Rifle via a diversion ditch around the northwest end of Devoe Lake.

Houghton Creek is an excellent feeder stream to the Rifle River and is large enough to support fly-fishing, after it is joined by Wilkins Creek. A previous state record brown trout of 36 5/8 inches, weighing 17 pounds five ounces, was taken from this stream in 1952.

Although brown trout typically predominate in the tributaries of the Rifle, some fine brook trout are also present.

Of the tributaries which center below Selkirk in Ogemaw County, only Eddy Creek can be considered a good trout stream. The West Branch of the Rifle, a sizable tributary, supports fair to good trout populations above Flowage Lake. From Flowage Lake to its confluence with the mainstream, the West Branch is considered nontrout. At this point, the West Branch represents about a third of the Rifle’s drainage area.

Each spring, the Rifle supports a tremendous sucker run from Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. While most of the excitement and activity relative to this sucker run takes place in the lower Rifle near Omer, the run extends to nearly all the waters in the system. For example, both Klacking and Prior creeks receive heavy runs.

Public canoe access to the Rifle River is fairly good. Access sites are located in the Rifle River Recreation Area, the state forest campground, near Skidway Lake, Moffatt Bridge, and at Omer. In addition, there is a partially developed access site near the confluence of Klacking Creek with the Rifle.

Rifle River Recreation Area - Canoeing & Boating

In terms of numbers of rental canoes available and combined with those of the Boy Scouts of America Camp, the Rifle River is one of the most popular rivers in Michigan. Its proximity to the population concentrations of the Saginaw Bay area, the river’s scenic beauty, the moderately fast water with numerous rapids, and the cold clear waters all add up to an extremely popular river for canoeists.

Through most of the year the entire Rifle River mainstream is floatable. During the low water period of mid-summer, the river can still be negotiated, although dragging of the canoe should be expected through the shallow areas.

There are numerous canoe liveries throughout the Rifle system. Many of these operators not only provide canoes, but for those wishing to take a trip more than one day, they offer overnight camping areas. The Detroit area Boy Scouts also have a camp located on the river, and provide overnight camping areas along the mainstream as well.


  • Great Getaways
    Online Travel Planner

    Online travel planner with video, photos, information and links from the "Rifle River Recreation Area" episode of Great Getaways

  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
    Rifle River Recreation Area

    Facebook page for the Rifle River Recreation Area

  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
    Wildlife Viewing

    Rifle River Recreation Area wildlife viewing information from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

  • Rifle River Campground
    Rifle River Campground & Canoe Livery

    5825 Townline RoadSterling, MI 48659Phone: (989) 654-2556

  • Big Mike's Canoe Rental
    Big Mike's Canoe Rental

    2575 E Rose City RoadLupton, MI 48635Phone: (989) 473-3444

Rifle River Cabin
Fly Fishing Rifle River
Rifle River Recreation Area
Rifle River Recreation Area
Rifle River Recreation Area
Rifle River Recreation Area
Rifle River Recreation Area
Rifle River Recreation Area
Rifle River Recreation Area