Sabin Dam Launch

Sabin Dam is located on Cass Rd behind the Boardman River Nature Center, less than 5 miles from downtown Traverse City.

The dam creates Sabin Pond, which is in the process of being drained because the dam is scheduled to be removed in the next few years. At the southern end of the pond is Boardman Dam; once both dams are removed the river will return to its natural path, as it has above the former Brown Bridge Dam.

The launch at Sabin Dam will change over the next few years as the dams are removed. Currently (2016), the easiest launch is a sandy walk-in site on a small peninsula between the old powerhouse building and the spillway.

On the path to the Sabin Dam launch

Picnic pavilion & restrooms
between Sabin Dam & the Nature Center

The parking area is shared with the Nature Center and is both dirt and paved. There are modern restrooms located in the picnic pavilion.

To reach the launch, walk down the big, paved hill and continue straight ahead; you'll see this sign:

Just past the red brick building (the old power house), but before the main spillway, there is a well-worn path to the left, going downhill. Follow that short path to an easy walk-in launch.


Below the dam the current is very slow and suitable for families or people who are inexperienced on a river. It's about a 1-hour float to the Boardman Valley Nature Preserve (YMCA), although many kayakers both put in and take out at Sabin because the river is gentle enough to paddle back upstream with little effort.

Sabin Dam kayak launch on the Boardman River
The beautiful riverside trails are part of the Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve; nearby trails include the Fox Den Trail which criss-crosses Jax Creek and connects to the trail leading to the YMCA. This makes it fairly easy to go tubing, even if you only have 1 vehicle; simply park at the Y, bring tubes & life jackets and walk south on the trail along the river (1+ mile) until you reach the dam, then put in and float back to the YMCA.

Jax Creek on the Fox Den Trail

All original photographs & text Copyright © 2017 @TheBoardman

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