We started our trip in the early afternoon by putting in at the small park on the impounded portion of the river in the village of Barryton. The park is located on the east side of the lake off of Marion street right after you cross the bridge. There is a porta pottie there and parking for about 5-6 cars.
We quickly made it across the shallow impoundment to the right side of the dam. This is the best way to get around the dam as the left side is private property. The portage is easy and there is a trail along the fence. Below the dam starts the main branch of the Chippewa River. It is about 40-60 feet wide and about 1-2 feet deep with a sandy/pebble bottom. Except for a few deeper spots around bends, the bottom pretty much remains this way through the whole trip.
The first section from the dam to the first bridge at 20th avenue has little development and very few paddlers. There were no major obstructions along this section and it only took about a half hour while paddling at a modest rate.
The second section between 20th and 10th avenues is a little more populated but not much. There are a few houses along this section but it still remains very peaceful and secluded. You will be amused by the "Welcome to Ionia" sign along the riverbank (don't know the story behind that one). This section takes about 30-45 minutes to traverse. There is one place about half way through this section where a large tree has fallen requiring an easy "up and over" portage.
The third section is between 10th avenue and 19 Mile road. This section is very similar to the one before it. There were no obstructions and the section took about 45 minutes to move through.
The final section we did was from 19 Mile to 18 Mile roads. This portion gets a little rockier and you begin to pass through the Chippewa Vista, which is comprised of about 90 cottages along both sides off the river. Not as secluded but still a fun portion of the river to paddle. About 2/3 of the way through, the cottages end and the river becomes very secluded again to the end.
On a prevoius trip, we did attempt to go from 18 Mile road to the next bridge at W. Airline Rd. It was very secluded and the first 1/3 or so of the trip was relatively obstruction free. However, that soon changed when we got to the heavily forested portion of the river. We had to portage about 12-15 times to make it through. If we has our handsaws with us, we could have cleared about half of it up since most of it was just bad enough you had to go around. Our plan was actually take it all the way to N. Wyman Rd. but took out early at Airline because we were tired. If this section was cleaned up, I think you would have pretty good shot at making it all the way to Lake Isebella without too much trouble. The section below Wyman looked to be used and more clear. Could make an awesome all-day trip.
Gas station in town and at M66 and 20 Mile just north of town. Barryton Grocery is in town and has a good selection. Check out Williams Cafe in town or Northern Trails about 2 miles north of town for an awesome breakfast or lunch. Isabella Bank is located in town and has a drive up ATM.
No - but all the land along the river is privately owned so please be respectful.
From Grand Rapids, take US-131 north to exit 120 (M46 exit to Lakeview) and turn right. Take approximately 15 miles to M66 and turn left (north). Take M66 north approximately 20 miles until you reach the town of Barryton. Turn right on to Marion and take 1/2 mile to the river impoundment.
"Canoeing Michigan Rivers" is a must.