We put in at Ingles Road near Belding, MI and took out at the Covered Bridge in Fallsburg Park, near Lowell, MI. Be cautious of the fact that there used to be a bridge for Ingles Road that went over the river, but it has been removed. Some older maps/online tools/GPS's might attempt to take you over the bridge. We put in on the East side where there is ample parking and a well maintained put-in.
The trip took approximately four hours, with moderately heavy paddling near the dam that marks the half-way point. We put in around 12:00. We had four kayaks and four canoes on this trip. The weather was exceptionally pleasant for early spring.
If you are looking for a challenging river that requires you to maneuver around obstacles and to ferry your boat around bends, this is not your river. Like one of our members said: "There's a reason they call it the Flat River." However, evaluating the river based on the put-in at Ingles road will give you a different impression. When I first walked down to the river, I thought that my initial assessment based on Google Maps might be incorrect. See, at Ingles road the river chokes a little and begins flowing quite rapidly. In addition, there are numerous rocks and logs at this particular spot on the river, some of which are very large. After a short time, though, the river widens and begins flowing at a moderately slow pace.
Once we put in and everyone was comfortable in their boat, we set on down the river. Like I said, at first the river flowed quite fast and we had to look out for a rock or two, but about twenty minutes later the river slowed down and widened and there were no obstacles in sight. It wasn't long before we lazily grouped together and took advantage of the slow pace. This is a great river to tie boats together and just enjoy each others company.
When a couple hours had elapsed, we realized that our boats no longer drifted at a pace that would get us to our destination. In fact, the river got so wide, slow, and shallow that one could walk down the river faster than we were floating down the river. We were stuck in the back water from the nearby dam. Consequently, we decided to grab our paddles again and move along. Since I rode solo in my canoe, this quickly became laborious work.
When we reached the dam, we had a choice of portaging on either the left or the right. There were big signs in place at each location, but they were hardly readable from our vantage point (whether this be old age or not is debatable). We decided to try the right, since there was nice dock. However, once we got closer we finally saw the "Private Property: NO TRESSPASSING" signs. So, we quickly scooted over to the left side of the dam and saw the "PORTAGE HERE" sign.
After we portaged and joined some of the other members of our group who decided to paddle ahead, we got back in the river and were moving along once more. Take note, though, that while you are supposed to portage on the left side of the dam, you are not allowed to loiter. The portage has a nice take-out and put-in that will get you around the dam, but it is private property nonetheless. In fact, the members of our group that paddle ahead were confronted by the owner of the property and were told to get of their property and back in the river, even though they were merely waiting for the rest of us to catch up.
The river began flowing at a moderate pace again after the dam. We stopped for lunch about 30 minutes past the dam. A couple members of our group prepared a hot lunch consisting of a spicy pasta and chicken dish and sliced prime rib. Both of which were delicious, filling, and much needed after the heavy paddling before the dam.
After lunch, the river slowed down once more. We again took the opportunity to tie our boats together and simply enjoy being on the river with ones brothers.
The take out at covered bridge is right near the parking lot that we dropped our vehicles off at. In fact, the parking lot is a mere twenty feet from the river.
We loaded up our cars up and proceeded to have refreshments at a local brewpub in Grand Rapids. The brew pub is located near I-96 and Plainfield and is called The Hideout.
Hotels near Lowell.
Take M-21 to Hawley Hwy just east of Lowell. Go North to Ingalls Rd and turn West. Follow Ingalls Rd to the river.
Google Maps has a nice view of the river