A Grand 4th of July on the Grand

Tom writes…

Fourth of July, 2020
Ada to North Grand Rapids

The logistics of canoe-ing are monstrous. You already know our boat, the Billie V, lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, far from our current paddling area in West Michigan. Well, we got her over here, and put her in the lovely brown, calm Grand River, yesterday.

Fourth of July! And, one of the first things we saw was a soaring Bald Eagle, emblem of the USA. Fantastic! Back when Joe and I were kids, we had zero eagles in this part of the country. Eagles, we thought then, only survived in remote desolate places in western mountains. But, No, now! Environmental action has brought them back. Hallelujah!

And, birds we never have seen before on this trip: Kingfishers, lots of them. Belted Kingfishers, overall gray-blue, with white necks, with crests and pointed beaks.

We had sort of a self-imposed disaster hallway through the day: We wanted to stop for lunch. We paddled to what looked like a nice sandy beach area on the right bank. But, it turned out to be a nasty, stinky, sucking mud bank. Both of us got stuck in the awful mud, and I fell into the water twice. Oy.

We got away, and ate our lunch (great sandwich buns from the Schnitz Bakery in GR) on the float. No more attempts to land for lunch.

Tom continues . . . 

July 5
North Grand Rapids to Riverside Park

As I said, canoe-ing logistics are a monster. We paddled about 20 miles July 4 and July 5, but I had to drive 80 miles for that adventure. We have to drive to our destinations, and leave a car, and then drive back to the start points. And later, drive back to the start points, to pick up the other car. Then, back to the destinations, to pick up the boat!

Brother Joe had to drive about 320 miles, because he lives on the other side of the state. So.. We had 20 miles of paddling, plus a total of 400 driving miles. Yikes!

Now, we have paddled as far as we can go, before the un-paddle-able Grand Rapids dams. Grand Rapids, Michigan, no longer has river rapids, but it has six dams. We have pulled the boat out, but we will need to haul it ten miles or so downriver, to the southwest side of GR, when we start paddling again, in August.

I give some credit to the canoe-ing population of Grand Rapids: A group is working on restoring the rapids, to create a nifty, exciting paddle route. But, now, there is no viable portage option. The Sixth Street Bridge has a sign warning paddlers of the Sixth Street Dam, but GR has no place to pull out before the dam.

And after that, there is a boat ramp after (downstream from) the first dam, but no way to avoid the next five dams. What the heck? It is much easier to paddle through Lansing, Jackson, Eaton Rapids, and other dam sites, than to get through Grand Rapids.

Cheers to the people who are working on restoring the Grand Rapids rapids. We will put in again, at Johnson Park, SW GR, in August. I hope we will see you out on the river.

Note from Joe: I’ll get some photos of our two-day paddle up soon.


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