The Boardman River is located in Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties in northwest lower Michigan. It rises in the Mahan swamp in north central Kalkaska County and flows in a southwesterly direction for 40 miles. Turning north for nine miles, it empties into Grand Traverse Bay at Traverse City. The Boardman River system drains a surface area of approximately 186,000 acres and includes about 130 linear miles of stream.
The north and south branches of the river above the “Forks” consists of narrow channels, shallow riffles, overhanging brush and fallen trees which make these streams undesirable for recreational canoeing.
The mainstream of the Boardman from the “Fork” downstream to Boardman Lake, aa distance of about 25 miles, provides a full day trip. The moderate to fast current of the Boardman makes this an enjoyable stretch to traverse by canoe. Portages are necessary at Brown Bridge, Boardman and Babin hydro dams. Any one wishing to continue a trip through Boardman to the mouth of the river at Traverse Bay must portage the water control dam at Boardman Lake.