The Boardman River flows in a southwesterly direction for 40 miles. Turning north for nine miles, it empties into Grand Traverse Bay at Traverse City. The Boardman’s upper tributaries rise near Kalkaska, Michigan, and its watershed drains an area of 295 sq. miles through 130 miles of river and tributaries. The Boardman River is considered one of the top ten trout streams in Michigan. Before entering the Grand Traverse Bay, it becomes Boardman Lake, which is really just a wide, deep stretch of the river about 2 miles long and a half mile wide.
After flowing through Boardman Lake, the river descends through downtown Traverse City, following a hairpin-shaped course to Grand Traverse Bay. This Traverse City section of the Boardman River is accessible by motorboat from the lakeshore up to a weir about a quarter-mile upstream from the lakeshore a short distance upstream from the weir is a small decommissioned hydroelectric dam located between Cass and Union Streets.