Inner tubes seem to be the transportation option of choice on the slower-moving Rifle River, which meanders from the Rifle River Recreation Area (2550 E. Rose City Rd., Lupton, 989/473-2258, $12–19), about 15 miles northeast of West Branch , to Saginaw Bay, some 90 miles south. Paddlers shouldn’t overlook the Rifle, though, since it flows through Devoe Lake, one of five paddle-only lakes in this spacious preserve.
The 4,449 acres that now make up the Rifle River Recreation Area were once part of the private hunting preserve of H. M. Jewett, an early auto-industry tycoon. Today, most of the visitors who are hoping to leave with a catch are bagging bass and other varieties of fish, not four-legged game.
The recreation area includes several miles of paved and packed dirt trails that travel across one-lane bridges, past forest-fringed lakes, and up several high hills that reveal vistas of tangled stands of cedar. For a great view, head for Ridge Road, a dirt track that passes over the park’s highest elevations. Those who like to hike can follow 14 miles of picturesque trails that cut through some of the park’s most breathtaking terrain.
Visitors can stay at a choice of on-site accommodations, including both rustic and modern campsites as well as five “frontier-style” cabins, all located in secluded areas far from campgrounds and day-trippers. They have vault toilets, hand pumps, and only basic furnishings. In winter, the park is a popular spot for cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling.