Lansing to Grand Ledge

Tom writes . . .

Lansing, Michigan to the Nifty Town of Grand Ledge, Michigan, October 18, 2016

We put the boat in the water just below Lansing’s substantial dam. Foamy water with some sort of sewer smell. Lansing is our Michigan state capital, so that sewer smell might have been politics, rather than actual sewage.

The river is wide and swift in Lansing. About fifty to seventy-five yards wide today, much wider than before, too wide for a single downed tree to block it. A better situation than earlier legs of this trip, when downed trees often blocked the whole river. (In case you think in meters rather than yards, a yard is almost exactly equal to a meter.)


Finally,  a river down which Huck and Jim could float.  Contrast with pics in previous posts of a creek-like Grand near the river’s source in Jackson County.


We had a swift current taking us in our desired direction, but we had a stiff wind in our faces all day. We worked pretty hard paddling against that wind.

This time of year (autumn/fall), colorful tree leaves are a major topic in our home state of Michigan. Today, in southern central Michigan, in mid-October, the leaves along the Grand River had turned about 30 percent, from green to red, orange, and gold. Lovely. But, in a couple weeks, they will be magnificent.

We had mostly cloudy weather today, so the changing leaves were not as magnificent as they would be in bright sunlight. Still, we had lovely scenery.

We passed under approximately nine bridges today. We saw about eight people out on the river, only one in a boat (kayak). Spoke with a fisherman who was seeking bass. Many nice homes along this stretch. Some houses seemed too low, too close to the river level. Do they get flooded every year?

Do you know that Great Blue Herons like to fly ahead of boats heading down rivers? A certain Heron flew ahead of us for an hour or so. It would take off just as we reached it, and then settle on the river bank, and wait. Then, it would take off again, and lead us downstream. Herons are common along our river. Joe says they look like Pterodactyls.

Other birds: We saw a large flock of wild turkeys moving through the woods, when we stopped for lunch. (Lunch was delicious roast beef and salami sandwiches with Swiss cheese on fresh bagels. Joe brought them.) Maybe, I saw one hawk. Hawks were more common on earlier legs of this trip. We saw an eagle early in the day, not far from downtown Lansing . Large flock of Mallard Ducks, medium flock of Canada Geese, flock of other whitish geese at our destination pull-out place at Grand Ledge. Not clear whether these were migrating birds or birds that stay over.  I guess that the ducks and the white geese will migrate, and the Canada Geese will stay over the winter.

I used to be the family rope/knot guy, but my knots actually have failed holding the canoe onto Joe’s truck. Joe has invented a new knot, and it works, stays tight. Now, when we tie the boat onto the truck, Joe has a polite way of keeping me from tying knots. He steers me away. And does it himself. In a future post, I will teach you Joe’s new knot.

Music between Lansing and Grand Ledge

We sang while we paddled. We concentrated on 45 rpm singles we used to own. Great soulful tunes that were not actual Motown records:

  • Spyder Turner’s version of Stand by Me.
  • Love Makes the World Go Round by Deon Jackson. Deon was from one of our home towns, Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Joe and I have several hometowns, because our family moved around when we were kids.)
  • Dead End Street by Lou Rawls.
  • Barefootin’  by Robert Parker.

And others!

Joe adds . . . 

Tom pretty well summed up yesterday’s journey on the Grand River.  The only thing it occurs to me to add is simply the observation that the river – and most rivers, I suspect – is a great place to gain some solitude, if solitude’s something you’re looking for.  Within just a few minutes of setting off from downtown Lansing we were in a peaceful, quiet place and things pretty much remained like that throughout our 3.5+ hours on the river.

Here’s a few pictures from our trip.


My view from the pilot’s seat in the stern.  I insisted Tom wear a life jacket, now that the water underneath the Billie V has some depth.  As the captain- at least for this leg of our journey –  it is my prerogative to issue such orders.


We pulled in at someone’s river camp to eat lunch, about 90 minutes of downstream-paddling from Lansing.


The door was broken at our lunch spot, but otherwise the cabin was in good shape. I guess Huck Finn was on my mind; I thought of the cabin where Pap stashed Huck away for awhile.


These mushrooms – they are mushrooms, right? – were found near our lunch spot. My eyes were first drawn here by a flock of wild turkeys parading through the woods.

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Grandma Verschoor’s Chili Sauce (a slice of life along the Grand River circa 1935)

(Weather, work, and travel – in short, life – have kept us off the river for a month now.  We hope to get out on the Grand at least once more before the snow flies and will renew our quest to canoe the entire length of the Grand River next spring.  Meanwhile, please enjoy this piece by our mother, Catherine Verschoor McNabb, who grew up just a couple of blocks from the river in Grand Rapids’ North End.  She is pictured below 4 or 5 years before the events described in this story.)


Ten or 11 years old, I skipped eagerly into my grandmother’s house.  Large pots of tomatoes, green peppers and onions simmered on her stove.  The air was perfumed with warm clouds of brown sugar, vinegar, and cloves.  The year was 1935 or 1936.  My family, our neighbors in Grand Rapids and the nation yearned for relief from the GreatDepression.  World War II was not yet visible on the horizon for most Americans.



Luella (Billie) Small Verschoor. Our canoe, the Billie V, is named for her.

Harvest season had arrived and the Verschoor women were making chili sauce.  Our chili sauce was not the ketchup-with-a-kick variety available in the condiment aisle of any grocery store today, but rather a simmered blend of the season’s bounty which sprang from our Dutch heritage.  My mother, Luella Small Verschoor, had Irish-Protestant roots but married into a West Michigan Dutch family after her husband was discharged from the Army and returned from France following World War I.

In the kitchen Grandmother Nel Verschoor, my Aunt Clara and my mother were gathered around the stove.  Grandma Verschoor was the connoisseur taster, the ultimate authority as to when a batch of chili sauce was ready.  Aunt Clara was the designated stirrer while my mother, as I recall, did a bit of everything.

Chili sauce takes a long time to produce with much cutting, chopping, peeling and measuring.  Certain ingredients must be processed first, with the remaining ingredients incorporated in the proper sequence.  The spices, brown sugar and vinegar have to be just right; not just any old Dutch lady could manage it all.  I would one day become an apprentice taster and considered that advancement a significant rite-of-passage.

Once completed, jars of chili sauce were passed out to special friends, relatives and neighbors.  Believe me, these were treasured gifts.  No pot roast was worth its salt without a scoop of chili sauce, 1000 Island Dressing was incomplete without it, and no hamburger ever tasted quite so good as when dressed with chili sauce, mayonnaise and a slice of fresh tomato.

Sunday afternoon dinners nearly always included chili sauce when our extended family gathered after church.  I remember those family gatherings fondly.  It was at one such gathering, probably during the summer of 1943, that I proudly informed my family about my new job in a factory.  Like many women at that time, I would be filling in for the boys and men who were overseas.  My Uncle Stan shocked the Sabbath gathering by suggesting I would need “tin pants” when I started my new job.  At another Sunday gathering my mother silenced the room by referring to the Apostle Paul as “an old fool” because of his teachings on women in the church.

The Dutch of West Michigan were perceived to be pious, frugal and stern although in my family such attributes were balanced by love and kindness.  My dad, Leonard Verschoor, bought ice cream cones for me and my cousin Jimmie DeBoer at the beach on Sunday afternoons.  That indulgence on the Sabbath may have been viewed by some as almost sinful but Dad, a respected elder in the Dutch Reformed Church, said God wanted people – especially kids – to have good times and nice memories.

Years later my second husband and I decided to attempt a batch of chili sauce.  He had fond memories of something similar but did not have his family recipe.  He was a civil engineer and made sure we were meticulous and precise in our measurements and planning.  We bought the fresh ingredients at the local farmers’ market and chopped the proper amounts of peppers, onion and celery, then sealed everything in separate plastic bags and put the bags into our freezer.  Peeling a half-bushel of tomatoes was the next chore and they, too, were frozen ahead.  When all was in order and the moon was in the right phase we were able to pull it all together in jig time; none of this slap-dash last-minute stuff for him!  I will admit it did go a lot faster when it came to the final cooking.

We lived in a high-rise retirement community in Holland, MI and the aroma drifted into the hallway, seeming to summon neighbors to our door, curious about what we were cooking.  We had fun and the chili sauce was tasty enough, but something was missing.  I decided I missed the convivial aspects of doing it all at once and making a big mess.  My own copy of the recipe is written on a card in my mom’s own hand.  I treasure it.

Verschoor Chili Sauce Recipe

½ bushel peeled tomatoes, 6 stalks celery, 6 sweet green peppers, 2 quarts onions, ½ cup salt, 2 quarts vinegar, 4 pounds brown sugar, (in a spice bag) 4 sticks cinnamon, 2 T dry mustard, 2 T ground cloves

Chop first four ingredients, cook 15 minutes.  Remove about half the juice – save for soup. Add other ingredients.  Cook 1½ hours, stir often.  Put up in glass canning jars, process in water bath.  Makes about 8 quarts.

Last year Catherine Verschoor Neely McNabb returned to her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan following the death of her husband.  Sweethearts at Grand Rapids Central High School before being separated by World War II and by life in general, she and Bill McNabb married late in life.  They prayed for five good years together and were blessed with 17.  Her memoir, “Around the Next Corner: The Writings of Catherine McNabb,” is available as a Kindle e-book from  This piece is excerpted from her writings, and was previously published in the magazine of the Dutch International Society .  Catherine McNabb celebrated her 91st birthday in August of 2016.

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RADIATOR ROASTING: Another Bubble Burst

Joe Writes . . . 

When I was a kid my parents often joked about cooking a pot roast under the hood of our station wagon – on the engine block – while driving from our home in Cleveland, OH, to our cottage in west Michigan.  The trip took 5 or 6 hours and they speculated that would be the perfect amount of time for a pot roast, but they weren’t serious and never actually tried it.  My siblings and I shared our parents’ assumption that cooking on an engine block would yield food that tasted of motor oil and smelled of carbon monoxide.  Now, 50 years after those 300-mile shores-of-Lake Erie to shores-of-Lake Michigan trips I’ve decided to test that assumption.

My wife and I are setting off on a 300-mile journey of our own this weekend, with country-style pork ribs cooking away under the hood along nearly the entire length of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  The idea is not without its critics: my son in Arkansas thinks it proof I have finally flipped my lid, while his Arkansas in-laws wonder if I am trying to “out-redneck my redneck relatives;” i.e., them.  I suspect my biggest critics may be our two dogs – food whores, both – who will be forced to endure the entire journey with fragrant roast pork and potato fumes being recirculated by the air conditioning into the cab of my truck.  For five hours.  Poor dogs.

Prepping for the trip, I searched under the hood and found a flat spot on the engine.  I used zip ties to secure a disposable aluminum tray to a plastic hose –  the purpose of which I cannot even begin to guess – so that the tray sat on top of the flat spot.  I put the ribs, some sauerkraut to provide basting liquid and a few small potatoes in an aluminum pie pan, then wrapped the pie pan in aluminum foil.  The pie pan fit easily into the larger pan, then the whole kit-and-caboodle was covered in even more aluminum foil.  Everything was finally strapped down with duct tape – of course it was – before I closed the hood and set off on our journey.

The trip itself was uneventful.  I waited for the engine indicator gauges to tell me something had gone horribly wrong under the hood, or for the smell of melting zip ties to confirm my suspicion that the engine compartment would be too hot for my purposes.  Nothing.  Most telling, in hindsight, was what the dogs did not do: no constant whining or begging, no copious salivating with noses pressed longingly against the air conditioning vents.  The trip’s most exciting food event for them was the TimBit they were given when we stopped for the obligatory iced cappuccino supreme at Tim Horton’s in Fenton, just south of Flint.

As soon as we arrived at the cottage I ran inside to grab a couple of pot holders, certain the entire dish would be piping hot.  I popped the hood and removed the duct tape, puzzling a bit at the incongruity of not hearing the sauerkraut juice bubble or the fat on the ribs splatter.  The duct tape wasn’t hot at all, and the aluminum foil was no warmer than it would have been had I left it in my truck with the windows closed on a sunny day.  I didn’t need the pot holders as I carried the whole thing in to the kitchen.  I peeled back the aluminum foil to discover that the ribs were still pink and barely warm.  After we unpacked our belongings I put the ribs – still in the covered pie pan – into a low oven for several hours while we made our first trip to a restaurant called Moosejaw Junction.  We had a good meal there and the next day re-heated the ribs for dinner.

I’m no engineer but it’s likely that advances in engine technology account for the fact that the ribs didn’t cook.  Engine blocks are covered in hard plastic these days, and plastic doesn’t conduct and transfer heat the way an older, bare metal engine block would have.  Furthermore, increased efficiency ensures that engines generate less heat than was formerly the case, so engine compartments no longer reach the temperature required to bake a meal.  These technological advances save millions of gallons of gasoline annually and drastically reduce the volume of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.  I’ll let you decide if the trade-off is worthwhile.

So another cherished notion from my youth is examined and discarded, but, truth be told, I’m not devastated by the development.   I’ve also accepted that I’ll never get to China by digging a really deep hole in the backyard, but life goes on.

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Sept 8: The Grand in Lansing

Joe Writes . . . 

I recently observed that Jackson, MI, had not taken advantage of the river flowing through its heart.  Today I scouted the Grand in downtown Lansing, in preparation for an upcoming paddle, and it appears that Lansing might be making the most of the river.

There were no fish swimming up the ladder located at the big dam in downtown Lansing today, although I expect that will happen soon as salmon make their way from Lake Michigan to the west to Lansing in the center of the state.  There’s a public parking lot here at the point where Turner terminates at East Grand River in the Old Town area of downtown Lansing.  Leave your vehicle in the lot to check out the fish ladder and the dam, or to access the river with a canoe or kayak.

Here’s a view of the Grand from the top of the dam and then looking back at the dam.  If you’re looked at any of our previous entries you can see that the river is an entirely different animal here.  Back in Jackson County we were frequently stymied by shallow water and deadfalls blocking our progress.  Here in our state’s capital city the river is wide and runs fast.  I’m looking forward to the change of pace, as we have worked hard thus far.  It will be nice if the river just takes us downstream a bit.  Simply having enough water under the Billie V’s* bottom will be a blessing.

Often we are scrambling to figure out where and how to put the Billie V into the river; here in Lansing there’s a sign announcing the location of the put-in and steps leading into the river.  We’ll have to work hard in order to avoid becoming spoiled.


This is the river we’ll set off into from the steps pictured above.  Again, a vast difference from what we have become accustomed to.  From this point in Lansing our plan is to paddle 5 +/- hours to Grand Ledge.  It may be a while before we get out again, as Tom is working every weekday for a few weeks and I’m busy on weekends.  That’s OK.  There’s no time clock to punch on this journey.

*We named our canoe the Billie V in honor of our grandmother, Luella (Billie) Verschoor.

We would love to hear from any who may stumble across this blog: Tom Neely can be reached at; Joe Neely can be reached at   It’s likely our trip from Lansing to Grand Ledge will be during the last week of September.  If you have a kayak or canoe we would love to have you join us for the day, or for some trip in the future.

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Sept 5: How Way Leads On To Way

Joe Writes . . .

I will remember the summer of 2016 as the summer of the canoe.  It’s sort of funny how this whole thing started, this idea to canoe the length of the Grand.  It’s funny, too, how way leads on to way (Robert Frost from ‘The Road Not Taken,’ if that sounds vaguely familiar) and we end up doing things we never expected as a result of the decisions we make.  Here’s the short version.

My wife and her daughter were considering a trip to Italy next year and looking into the particulars.  The off-season rates were good and it seemed like the whole thing might work out for them.  I got feeling sort of left out – acting like a big baby, probably – and raised the idea that maybe Italy should be a trip for the two of us, as a couple.  She wasn’t opposed to that idea, but pointed out that a trip to Italy almost requires time spent in the vineyards and I no longer drink alcohol.

Damn-it-all, I knew she was right because I occasionally catch myself debating whether I might be able to enjoy a few glasses of wine again someday if I were to travel to Italy or France.  Could I drink a normal amount of wine under those circumstances without then going on a quest to sample every vodka available for sale on the continent of Europe?  This issue is probably not worth investigating – pretty sure I already know the answer – but I digress.  I stopped sulking fairly quickly and told my wife, “Fine, you can go to Italy but I’m going to canoe the entire length of the Grand River!”  So there!  She thought that was a swell idea and here we are, way leading on to way.

The fact that I gave up drinking four years ago, and sulked about it when wife was considering a trip to Italy, led to my buying a used canoe on Craigslist.  That led to selling my car and buying a used pick-up truck for transporting the canoe, which has led thus far to four outings exploring the Grand in Jackson County, the realization that there’s a lot more going on in the city of Jackson than I ever would have guessed, and a day spent canoeing and swimming in Crooked Lake near Columbia City, Indiana.

(That last one – Crooked Lake – stems from the fact that my wife spent youthful summers at a family home on that lake and it has always held a special place in her heart.  Having a canoe and a pick-up truck allowed us to visit for a day recently, and I’ve become a huge fan, too.  Clean water, superb swimming, no-wake so no noisy Jet Skis . . . simply put, it’s a great place.  We paddled around the entire lake and explored connected Little Crooked Lake as well – Linda says it used to be called Penny Lake.  Maybe we’ll buy a place there one day, when our ship comes in.)

Why the Grand?  Why not the storied Au Sable, perhaps?  Because the Au Sable – nor any other river except the Grand – is not storied to us, to brothers Tom and Joe Neely.  We spent our summers on the shore of Lake Michigan in Grand Haven, walking a mile south to the pier most days to watch the Grand empty into the Big Lake.  We watched huge lake freighters head up the river to load sand, then head back downriver and out into the lake, all the while dreaming that one day we would travel the lakes like this.  We heard the fog horn (AH-EEWWWW-GA!) guiding boats into the river’s mouth until one year that horn gave way to an electronic ping; safer for shipping, no doubt, but nearly as romantic to young boys dreaming of adventure on the Great Lakes.  We hiked through the dunes to Dewey Hill, below which someone had affixed a rope to a tree on the Grand’s shore.  Out, out, out we swang, then let go at just the right point and dropped into a hole so deep we could never touch the river’s bottom just 20 feet from shore.

So, you see, it was the Grand or nothing for us. What or where is your Grand River?  Might you get back to it still?  Or is the Grand River of your past leading you somewhere entirely new in the future?

Happy paddling!


The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost, 1915)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Tom Writes . . . 

My brother and Captain Joseph has waxed literary! He challenges me to a poetry contest in our conquest of the Mighty Grand. El Rio Grande. Flumen Grandissimus Michiganensis.

Publius Vergilius Maro wrote about the mighty helmsman Palinurus, in noble hexameters, in Book V of the Aeneid. Joe actually reminds me a lot of Palinurus.

Father Neptune yoked his wild horses with gold, set the bits
in their foaming mouths, and, with both hands, gave them free rein.
He sped lightly over the ocean in his sea-green chariot,
the waves subsided and the expanse of swollen waters
grew calm under the thunderous axle:
the storm-clouds vanished from the open sky.
Then came his multi-formed followers, great whales

But, then, Palinurus fell asleep and fell overboard.
Behold, despite his caution, the god shook a branch,
wet with Lethe’s dew, soporific with Styx’s power,
over his brow, and set free his swimming eyes.
The first sudden drowse had barely relaxed his limbs,
when Sleep leant above him and threw him headlong
into the clear waters, tearing away the tiller
and part of the stern, he calling to his friends often, in vain:
while the god raised his wings in flight into the empty air.
The fleet sailed on its way over the sea, as safely as before,
gliding on, unaware, as father Neptune had promised.

ecce deus ramum Lethaeo rore madentem
vique soporatum Stygia super utraque quassat 855
tempora, cunctantique natantia lumina solvit.
vix primos inopina quies laxaverat artus,
et super incumbens cum puppis parte revulsa
cumque gubernaclo liquidas proiecit in undas
praecipitem ac socios nequiquam saepe vocantem; 860
ipse volans tenuis se sustulit ales ad auras.
currit iter tutum non setius aequore classis
promissisque patris Neptuni interrita fertur.

I actually prefer the Latin. Don’t you?

We would love to hear from any who may stumble across this blog: Tom Neely can be reached at; Joe Neely can be reached at If you have a kayak or canoe we would love to have your join us for a day. We have been basing our trips on the routes laid out by the Grand River Environmental Action Team, which can be see here: Our plan is to complete all these Jackson-area trips before the onset of cold weather.

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A Brief Photo Essay: the source and the terminus

The Grand near its source in Liberty Township, Jackson County.  With firm footing, a good high school long jumper could clear its width . . . 


The Grand a few miles downstream from the headwaters, little more than a stream here.


Lots of shallow water, we get out and pull a lot in Jackson County.

. . . contrast with the Grand at its mouth, where it empties into Lake Michigan at Grand Haven.


Looking across the Grand towards Dewey Hill in Grand Haven; as kids we hiked there and played on a rope swing which dropped us into the Grand.


Looking down the last stretch of the Grand, to where it empties into Lake Michigan. Great Lakes freighters travel this part of the river, so it’s deep and wide.


You’ll not find pretty girls like this lining the banks of the Grand near its source. Granddaughter Natalie is amazed at the size and number of boats on the river.

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August 26: Sharp Park to Downtown Jackson

Joe Writes . . . 

Pain in the rump.

Class-A Deadfall outside of Jackson: no getting over this one.

We canoed for 5 hours yesterday and never saw another soul out on the water, at least not until we woke a homeless guy sleeping under a bridge as we approached downtown Jackson.  I’m pretty sure I know why we had the river to ourselves: this trip was damn hard work!  I’m glad I’ve gotten in better shape during the past year or so – I dropped 40 pounds and started exercising 2 or 3 times per week – because otherwise I might have been reluctant to attempt the journey we made from Ella Sharp Park to downtown Jackson.

The difficulties we encountered consisted of deadfall – trees fallen across the river – and shallow water where we bottomed out and had to exit the canoe.  We approach deadfalls slowly; more often than not a tortured pathway through reveals itself and we are able to make our way through the obstacle without exiting the canoe.  These are your average ‘Class C’ deadfalls (I am making this classification system up on the fly).  Class B deadfalls require that we get into the river and pull the canoe up and over the obstruction, and there were several of these yesterday, too.

Most daunting of all are Class A deadfalls, requiring us to pull the Billie V (‘V’ is an initial, not a Roman numeral) out of the river and carry (portage) her and all her contents around the obstacle.  We ran into two of these yesterday.  After we got around the first I swamped the canoe while getting back in, sending both of us and all our gear into the river.  It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose.  Canoes are, by their very nature, unstable and it’s not as if we were able to search out flat easy river bank for taking out or getting back in.  You take what the river gives you; there’s no debating with her*.

The second Class A deadfall was just as we approached downtown Jackson.  This area presented a rather difficult portage in a somewhat desolate setting, and made me think how nice it would be if the river were largely clear so that residents could more easily enjoy its charms.  In fact, what if our rivers were treated like parks and maintained for the betterment of the river, the enjoyment of the citizenry and the overall health of the planet?

Downtown Jackson was very nice and appeared to have a lot of positive things going on: we saw a small but bountiful Farmers Market that operates three days per week through early November; had lunch at the Grand River Brewery, a spot we both liked a lot and where I discovered Brix Soda Company’s delicious root beer  We would have stopped to look at the gorgeously-restored cars on display had we not been so tired, late and dirty

The Grand is a resource Jackson could certainly display and exploit to better advantage.  In downtown Jackson the Grand runs through a spillway and the only vegetation on the banks are weeds fighting their way up through the cracks in rough-poured concrete river banks.  Imagine a river walk in Jackson and a hip retail environment built around a restored river running through the center of town.  It’s a blank canvas right now with limitless possibilities, an exciting time to be in Jackson.

Jackson is by no means the only city which has yet to take advantage of the opportunities presented by a river; Ann Arbor has been talking about opening up river views and access in the North Main Street area for decades, and Detroit has only recently begun to capitalize its riverfront.  Two cities which come to mind as having taken advantage of their riverfront assets are Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Grand Haven here in Michigan.  I’m looking forward to testing the river in Eaton Rapids next year and it will be fun to see what other cities along the Grand have done as well:

*Tom and I discussed whether the Grand is male or female.  Brief research shows that rivers can be either and that the Grand’s gender is not firmly established.  This is a topic for another time, but for now I have decided the river is feminine.

Tom Writes . . . 


Untying the ‘Jesus Knot’ which holds the canoe to Joe’s truck, preparing to put in on Aug 26th.

Next Leg along the Grand River


Our put-in at Ella Sharp Park, just downstream from the Probert Rd bridge.

We put the Billie V. in where we left off last time. That is at the park, right at the Jackson city limit. But, the river is crooked, and we had to paddle east, away from Jackson, away from our ultimate northwest goal. Then back west, to make up for the darn river’s actual course.

Today, we had a long paddle, about five or six hours, when everybody had told us it would take three hours. Oy!

We ended our trip at the Grand River Brewery in Jackson. GRB is a nifty saloon with good food. They also distill their own booze. And they have close affiliation with a couple Michigan wineries, and, as I said, good food. House-made sausages, soft pretzels, Mediterranean pizza, good beer and root beer for us. They took us as customers despite the river mud all over our legs and posteriors.

Joe and I have been somewhat arrogant.  We believed we already had paddled past the shallow parts of the river, and the river blockages. Wrong! Today, we encountered two total blockages, where we had to pull out the boat and drag it around on land. And, we had at least half a dozen instances of low water to the point where we got out of the canoe and towed it to deeper water.

Info for the people who clear out the Grand River: There is a giant tree just upstream of the Probert Bridge, and a huge log jam just downstream from the Jackson Lions Park Bridge. Joe and I will help you clear these, but they are too much for a couple amateurs. We cannot do it on our own.

The Jackson Parks Department or the State of Mich. maybe should take care of these things. These things would be great summer jobs for American high school guys.

And!  Joe and I had our first canoe tip-over today! Details are sort of hilarious. Will explain later.

We would love to hear from any who may stumble across this blog: Tom Neely can be reached at; Joe Neely can be reached at If you have a kayak or canoe we would love to have your join us for a day. We have been basing our trips on the routes laid out by the Grand River Environmental Action Team, which can be see here: Our plan is to complete all these Jackson-area trips before the onset of cold weather.



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