Exploring the Grand River

Exploring the Grand River

Did you know that if you drive from Jackson, MI to Grand Haven, MI, you will cross the Grand River five times? Michigan’s longest river snakes its way 250 miles through the southern lower peninsula from Hillsdale County all the way to the Lake Michigan shore-perfect for exploring!

Grand Rapids, Grand Ledge, Grand Haven and Grand Valley State University all take their name from the river they border. Grand River Ave, which runs from Muskegon to Detroit, used to be the most important highway in the lower peninsula before I-96 came to town.

Last week I decided to take my two oldest kids on a little adventure. We arrived at William H. Burchfield County Park south of Lansing on Thursday afternoon and rented a canoe (full disclosure: I serve on the Ingham County Parks Commission, which oversees Burchfield and the other Ingham County Parks). Burchfield offers three different canoe trips, ranging from 45 minutes to five hours.  We opted for the mid-range trip, lasting between two and three hours. After paying our rental fee, we were fitted for lifejackets, handed our paddles and loaded into a van that drove us six miles south to Bunker Landing where we disembarked for our float back north.

I chatted up the park staff a little, who indicated that weekends are by far the busiest time of the week for canoe and kayak trips. They even quipped that they hoped nobody was planning to “pop in” with out a reservation that Saturday because all of the available vessels had already been reserved.

My shipmates at work.
My shipmates at work.

We were the only people on the 3:00pm van, so we were the only people on the river! My girls weren’t sure what to make of the twists and turns that the river offered, which added to the adventurous feeling I was hoping to present to my daughters. “What’s around this corner, dad?” they would ask. “Well ladies,” I’d respond. “Let’s find out.”

This picture is deceiving. The water was strikingly clear.
This picture is deceiving. The water was strikingly clear.

We explored alone for about an hour and a half before we encountered a group still enjoying their leisurely float that began after being dropped off by the 1:00pm shuttle. They did not appear to be in any rush to get back.  And why would they? It is so incredibly peaceful out there.

Let that sink in. Now, imagine this view in mid-October.
Let that sink in. Now, imagine this view in mid-October.

All told, it took us two and a half hours to get back to Burchfield. Along the way, we floated and paddled around fallen trees, under bridges and past natural dams. As we walked back to our car, my six-year-old inventoried the animals we encountered. By her count, we saw five turtles, four fish, two herons, one frog and roughly one million minnows. If you’re looking for an adventure on Michigan’s longest river, take the day off work and enjoy a Burchfield Park canoe trip.

What are your experiences on the Grand River?

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I'm a transplant. I grew up in Indiana, went to college in Ohio and moved to Michigan to marry my beautiful bride and start a family. We live in Leslie (between Lansing and Jackson) where we're raising our four rambunctious Michiganders. While initially resistant to living in Michigan (I kinda hate winter), I have come to love our great state. We spend the spring, summer and fall exploring everything Michigan has to offer. Whether it's a trip to the Eastern Market or a weekend in Paradise, a Saturday on the Lake Michigan shore or camping Up North, I love Michigan. My focus here at the Awesome Mitten is Michigan sports and outdoor activities. Follow me on Twitter @DuffsBigChin