At 222 feet long and 88 feet high, the Players Riverboat Casino II wouldn't fit on parts of the upper Mississippi River. So when it had to leave its Louisiana home for a new job in Detroit, it took the long way there, passing around Florida, Maine, and Nova Scotia until it chugged through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. All this was just the beginning of the boat's journey—the next step was a thorough transformation from a scrapped gambling vessel into an opulent cruise ship. The staff gussied up its interior, installed several kitchens, and gave it a new royal title: the Detroit Princess Riverboat.
Today, the Detroit Princess is a coveted venue for high-energy celebrations and relaxing cruises alike. Its five tiers of outdoor decks afford dual skyline views of Detroit and Windsor and up-close glimpses of the Ambassador Bridge, the crucial link that keeps Canada from floating away. Inside each of the boat's four stories, passengers can visit a full bar and socialize inside heated and air-conditioned rooms. The biggest of these boast dining areas anchored by prime-rib buffets and sprawling dance floors where DJs or live Motown groups prompt guests to boogie down. Holiday parties, late-night excursions, and private charters take the nightclub vibe to the water, and floating wedding ceremonies and receptions let even the merfolk branch of the family be a part of the fun.
After buying their first canoe in 1942, Chester and Stella Heavner were hooked. So were their friends. After constantly loaning out their red-canvas Old Town canoe, the pair invested in two more and started charging a nominal rental fee. In 1953, they made it official with a patch of riverfront property, eight canoes, and a trailer.
Today, Heavner Canoe & Kayak Rental is run by Chester and Stella’s eldest son, Alan. He and his staff manage an inventory of more than 200 canoes and kayaks, which they rent at three locations along the Huron River.
Perched on the banks of Gun Lake amid several hiking trails and picnic sites, Gun Lake Rentals provides visitors with entertainment selections from its flotilla of boats and personal watercraft. The rental company carries a variety of aquatic options for satisfying thrill seekers and leisurely paddlers alike. The fleet includes jet skis and pontoon boats, as well as paddleboards and kayaks. After a full day of staying afloat on the oversized puddle, guests can seek out attractions in nearby Shelbyville, such as golf courses, miniature golf courses, horse ranches, and miniature horse ranches.
For more than three decades, AAA Canoe has rented canoes, kayaks, and tube floats to explorers bound for the scenic, tranquil Rogue River. The rental center accommodates both individuals and group outings, outfitting each trip with paddles and life jackets or flotation cushions before chauffeuring boaters and their vessels to their trip’s starting point. Each trip ends at the Rockford Dam in downtown Rockford, where passengers can explore the city sights and regain their land legs from unscrupulous alleyway leg merchants.
Ride the Wave fills its 6,750-square-foot water-sports wonderland with swimwear, boating accessories, towable gear, wakeboards, and all manner of accessories. Frolicking fashionistas can grace sun-soaked, wave-lapped shores attired in Billabong, Oakley, or Quiksilver brands. Slip on a pair of O’Neill Alameda boardshorts ($48) or Fox flip-flops ($16) before taking a sultry speedboat spin around the public pool’s deep end. Boating mavens can upgrade their flotation devices from sandwich bags filled with air to safe, stylish nylon foam core O’Brien life vests ($39.95) that withstands the intense wind resistance of being towed at top speed in an HO Sports Hornet 54-inch tube ($54.95). For more adrenaline-soaked activities, peruse Ride the Wave’s ski loft and wakeboard room, which boast buoyant conveyances from brands such as Connelly, Radar Skis, Hyperlite, Liquid Force, Ronix, and CWB.
As a pair of kayaks rounds a bend in in the Chippewa River, the paddlers spy a blue kingfisher diving into the water to grab a fish before flying away with its catch. Nature continues its daily course as people gently float down the river's gentle currents on tubes or propel themselves along in kayaks or canoes. Chippewa River Outfitters helps renters make their own river-bound memories with trips that last from 1.5 hours to overnight. With a paddle or tube in hand, explorers get to take advantage of the river's cool waters and nature's free shows regardless of age or propensity for boat-tipping.