Grand River

A prominent feature of Grand Rapids, the Grand River begins in Somerset Township near Jackson and is the longest river in the state of Michigan (approximately 260 miles). It is fed by numerous tributaries along its length, including the Flat, Thornapple, and Rogue Rivers.

Please note that none of our Grand River reaches include the section of the river that runs through downtown Grand Rapids. This is for two reasons. First of all the several low-head dams are considered to be hazardous to navigate and it is recommended by the Grand Rapids Fire Department that they be avoided. Secondly, our offerings are “nature-based” for scenic enjoyment, and quite frankly, the massive concrete flood walls that line the river in downtown GR do not tend to be very scenic. 🙁

Reach G1. Ionia to Saranac ~ Distance: 9 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: One (3.8 miles)
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 44 miles
  • Facilities: At the opt-out (outhouse) and at the destination (porta-jon)
  • G1 Reach Rate: $150 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G1 Trip

This 9 mile reach starts at the Ionia Fairgrounds. Along the middle third of this reach, the left bank of the river (facing downstream) borders north edge of the Ionia State Recreation Area. This is one of the more isolated and pristine sections of the Grand River. Few houses are seen along the entire reach. The river is a bit narrower and more shallow here, so the current runs a little faster. Large piles of dead trees are piled up at bends in the river, and the sandy walls of riverbank bluffs are pockmarked with bird nests.

Reach G2. Saranac to Lowell ~ Distance: 8 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: None
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 28 miles
  • Facilities: At the launch (porta-jon)
  • Reach G2 Rate: $140 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2½ to 3½ hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G2 Trip

Wildlife is abundant along this beautiful reach of the Grand River as you travel west from Saranac. The water is clear enough to see the bottom in 2-3 foot depths and numerous fish are seen darting out from under the canoe. An excursion along this reach in July 2012 resulted in an almost immediate spotting of a great blue heron standing on a fallen tree. This heron allowed the canoe to come unusually close before lifting off on majestic wings. For long stretches along this reach we were escorted by several great blue herons that would launch as we approached, only to settle on a log a few hundred feet downriver, as if waiting for us to catch up again. An hour into the trip, we were lucky enough to see a bald eagle flying straight toward us. Kingfishers darted back and forth across the river in front of us, while killdeer and green herons could be heard before they were seen. A couple of rare midday sightings of young deer drinking from the river attested to the warm summer day. Near the end of the reach, an old railroad bridge supports a probable eagle nest, but the residents were not home when we passed this time.

Reach G3. Lowell to Ada ~ Distance: 8 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: Two (1.5 miles and 6.5 miles)
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 22 miles
  • Facilities: At the first opt-out (public restrooms) and the destination (outhouse)
  • Reach G3 Rate: $130 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2½ to 3½ hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G3 Trip

This third reach of the Grand River starts out adjacent to the Lowell Fairgrounds making this launch unavailable during the annual mid-August Kent County Youth Fair. However during the rest of the season this is a great stretch of the Grand to paddle as it flows west following M-21 on right and Grand River Drive on the left. Shortly after launching, Grand River Park provides an optional launch site as well as an opt-out possibility and an ideal location to take a break and grab a snack. The rest of the reach is largely unpopulated except for abundant wildlife with the river running relatively straight, clear, and narrow. Just after passing the incredibly narrow mouth of the Thornapple River the reach comes to an end near the east end of the Amway World Headquarters.

Reach G4. Ada to the Knapp Street Bridge ~ Distance: 5.7 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: None
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 13 miles
  • Facilities: At both the launch (outhouse) and the destination (outhouse)
  • Reach G4 Rate: $120 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2 to 2½ hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G4 Trip

Here, the river widens a bit and has a few more bends and turns as it leaves its path along M-21 and veers north to follow Pettis Avenue on the right. Near the beginning of this reach along the back edge of Amway World Headquarters “miracle mile”, the river divides around an island, creating a bit of a strong current that is unusual for the Grand River. The river is starting to widen here with an average width of around 120 yards. Approaching the Knapp Street Bridge and destination, several houses begin to populate the shores of the river.

Reach G5. Knapp Street Bridge to the Northland Drive Bridge ~ Distance: 5.3 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: None
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 12 miles
  • Facilities: At the launch (outhouse) and at the destination (porta-jon)
  • Reach G5 Rate: $120 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2 to 2½ hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G5 Trip

This is a great reach option for a quick and enjoyable paddle for both kayaks and canoes. Relatively unpopulated with few turns, the river is fairly wide, averaging a width of about 150 yards or so. Both the launch and destination locations offer very good put-in/take-out conditions. A southeast-east wind makes this reach even that much more relaxing.

Reach G6. Northland Drive Bridge to Riverside Park (South) ~ Distance: 8 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: Two (1.6 miles and 6.3 miles)
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 13 miles
  • Facilities: At the launch (porta-jon), the 2nd opt-out (public restrooms) and the destination (porta-jon)
  • Reach G6 Rate: $120 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2½ to 3½ hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G6 Trip

Immediately after starting this reach the Rogue River enters the Grand from the north after which the Grand River becomes very wide at times, from 150 yards or so up to 250 yards often giving it more of a lake-like paddle. Nearing Grand Rapids several dwellings line both sides of the river. This reach takes the paddler along the White Pine Bike Trail and past Fifth-Third Ball Park, home of the Whitecaps, both on the right side of the river. Shortly after the half-way point, the river takes a southerly direction giving the paddler an awesome skyline view of Grand Rapids. The river is also quite straight here making it ideal for local crewing teams to practice and compete. Riverside Park makes its appearance shortly after passing under the I-96 bridges indicating the destination of this reach. Going farther downstream toward Grand Rapids would not be safe due to the presence of several dams in the downtown area of the river.

Reach G7. Johnson Park to Grand River Park ~ Distance: 8 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: Two (1.6 miles and 4.2 miles)
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 5 miles
  • Facilities: At the destination only (public restrooms)
  • Reach G7 Rate: $120 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2½ to 3½ hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G7 Trip

This reach is Reach 1 of the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation’s Grand River Heritage Water Trail taking the paddler near the city of Jenison and  several very significant historical sites. The river width averages around 150 yards. When entering what’s known as the Bend Area, it is likely that the Grand Lady riverboat may be spotted at its docked location, near the Boynton Farm. High bluffs along this reach approach heights of 100 feet above the river. Exiting your kayak or canoe after paddling this reach is made easier due to the installation of an EZ Launch® System at the take-out location. Ottawa County’s Grand River Park also provides for a wonderful destination, ideal for a relaxing picnic or family gathering.

Reach G8. Grand River Park to Eastmanville ~ Distance: 8 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: Two (2.6 miles and 6.9 miles)
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 17 miles
  • Facilities: At the launch (public restrooms), the 2nd opt-out (outhouse), and the destination (outhouse)
  • Reach G8 Rate: $130 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2½ to 3½ hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G8 Trip

Due to the installation of EZ Launch® Systems at both the launch and destination take-out, this reach is the perfect option for folks that may find it somewhat difficult to enter or exit a kayak or canoe. This reach also is Reach 2 of the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation’s Grand River Heritage Water Trail taking the paddler past even more historical sites. Several miles of the left shore are occupied by the campus of Grand Valley State University. Incredibly deep ravines make up a large area of the geography lending to the development of a new preserved park area that is easily accessed from the river. The GVSU crew teams use this mostly straight reach for practice and competition. As the river turns west the charming city of Lamont is seen on the north (right) side of the river. Further down the river, Eastmanville indicates the conclusion of the trip with a kayak/canoe launch that makes launching extremely easy and effortless. If you’d like to kayak or canoe on a river, but maybe didn’t think that you’d be able to easily get in or out of a boat, this may be this perfect choice for you. Not only that, but this reach is ideal for Grand Valley State University students that would like to explore and enjoy the river that flows right past the GVSU Allendale campus.

Here’s a link to a more detailed description of this experience from Ottawa County Parks: Grand River Park to Eastmanville

Reach G9. Eastmanville to Robinson Township ~ Distance: 7 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: No worries
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: One (4.6 miles)
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 25 miles
  • Facilities: At the launch (outhouse), the opt-out (outhouse), and the destination (outhouse)
  • Reach G8 Rate: $140 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G9 Trip

This reach begins with a very convenient kayak/canoe launch where you will find that entering your kayak or canoe is simplified due to the installation of an EZ Launch® System. This reach also is Reach 3 and part of Reach 4 of the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation’s Grand River Heritage Water Trail and provides for even more historical sights. Heading mostly straight in a westward direction, a west wind can make for a challenging paddle. The river widens significantly at times often nearing 200 yards or so in width. Several bayous can be accessed from the river giving relaxing reprieves from the river traffic, which unfortunately often becomes heavy as the river approaches Lake Michigan. A side trip to the north into the Crockery Creek Natural Area just before the destination most likely will yield an abundance of wildlife activity.

Reach G10. Crockery Creek Paddle ~ Distance: 5 miles

  • Difficulty Rating: Slightly difficult
  • Dam Portages: None
  • Opt-outs: None
  • Travel Distance from Grand Rapids: 25 miles
  • Facilities: At the launch (outhouse)
  • Reach G10 Rate: $140 for 1 to 3 paddlers ~ Additional paddlers $25 each ~ 8 paddlers maximum
  • Approximate Paddling Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Please enjoy a short video tour of this experience: Reach G10 Trip

This remote paddling option is off of Reach 4 of the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation’s Grand River Heritage Water Trail. It consists of an out-and-back paddling trip on Crockery Creek from the Grand River to Leonard Rd and into the Crockery Creek Natural Area providing an abundance of wildlife activity.

Here’s a link to a more detailed description of this experience from Ottawa County Parks: Exploring Crockery Creek

1-15-2016 6-59-11 AM

Combine G1 & G2 for a Paddle & Dine experience: Ionia to Lowell w/ lunch in Saranac

Combine G5 & G6 for a Paddle & Picnic experience: Grand River Paddle & Picnic