East Jordan and the Jordan River Valley are the little known jewels of Antrim and Charlevoix counties. Literally bridging the Jordan River with Lake Charlevoix's south arm, East Jordan sits quietly between the hustle of Boyne City and bustle of Charlevoix. Best known for the East Jordan Iron Works, this tiny downtown district is steps from incredible natural resources and wilderness access.
Meghann is in Mexico this week at an exotic yoga retreat so I went off camping and fly fishing on the Jordan River. Solo camping can be dangerous but it is really liberating!
The updated downtown marina is a perfect option for boats with a cuddy cabin or larger. You can still enjoy the river activities without a car. Fuel dock prices are not outrageous and slips are plentiful even on short notice.
Camping at Graves Crossing is $15 per night and like many Michigan campgrounds, pay on your honor at the registration board. The Graves Crossing campground is steps from the Jordan River's blue medal trout waters. On the downside, the camp is too close to a M-66, a noisy major road. Bring ear plugs and your own firewood.
If you are new to informal campgrounds this is the drill. First, drive very slowly past all of the campsites looking for the best option. Wave to the other campers. Look at the wind direction to select a spot where campfires will not blow smoke and hot ash onto your tent. After you find a campsite, place your cash or check in the provided envelope at the registration board and stuff it into the locked metal slot. Pin your payment stub on your campsite marker.
Bring your own boats or rent canoes and kayaks on the river. Be sure to bring your fishing rod because this water is gorgeous! Cool, fast flowing, plenty of cover and submerged logs make for excellent trout habitat. Unfortunately, no fish were injured in the making of this adventure. Fish were rising at dusk every few minutes for my caddis attractor. Using barbless hooks makes it harder to land those trout but they were bumping it! My reel seat unglued from my rod making it a little tricky to fish but it was still a great way to start the season.
Swiss Hideaway is a canoe and kayak outfitter on Graves Xing Road just a half mile from the river. Swiss Hideaway has buses to shuttle you around. Anytime you are going to float a river make sure you have a way to get back to your car! Also triple check that you have the keys to the car you left up river.
Bring plenty of water and bug spray.
Stephanie and Steve from Charlevoix had just floated the Jordan River when we met at the Old State Road bridge public access. They recommended Murray's Bar & Grill ten miles north of Graves Crossing in East Jordan. Murray's smiley owner Emily was the hostess, bartender and my server. The menu had crystal clear instructions to Drink Michigan. Done! They carry a great selection of Michigan's finest beers including Shorts, Founders, Bells and New Holland. A pint of Shorts Key Lime Pie was the perfect ending to an 80 degree summer fly fishing day.
Giant burgers are served with a steak knife for a toothpick. If you finish your oversized burger you'll take home a free bumper sticker. On the sweeter side, Murray's has a Maple Walnut Bread Pudding served with ice cream and butter rum drizzle. Veggies like Meghann, can get salmon and dill or Michigan salads. Fresh whitefish is caught in Lake Michigan by John Cross in Charlevoix.
Join all of the locals who were enjoying dinner and drinks on the back deck overlooking the harbor sunset.
Find Murrays-Bar-Grill on Facebook
On your way Up North or back downstate, pull off of 131 onto Deadmans Hill Rd just a couple minutes south of M-32 (road to Gaylord) and soak up the view of the Jordan River Valley from almost 500 feet above the river! The lookout at Dead Man's Hill is only 2 miles from the highway and well worth the detour.
A good ol' boy watching the evening softball game in East Jordan saw my camera and politely asked "You takin' pictures for Comedy Central?" The current score of game was Home 12 and Guests 2.