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Little Muskegon River in Michigan

Trip Overview

I left home in Grand Rapids not knowing which stretch of the Little Muskegon River I would do - above Morley or below Morley. The water was running about twice its normal rate according the USGS charts online. I had never paddled either stretch, only the lower portion from Daggett Road to Croton Dam.

About 45 minutes north of Grand Rapid, I arrived at the Morley Dam, which offers a nice parking area and launch. I talked to a man waiting there with several kayaks about which stretch of river to take. The determining factor for me was that he was putting in there with 18 people from a meet-up group. One of the main reasons I kayak is the peace and quiet, so I chose to do the upper portion of the Little Muskegon from Altona to Morley. Most books and reports recommend not doing this stretch because of shallow water and tree fall. I also chose to do this portion today since I knew shallow water wouldn't be an issue, despite the allure of fast water on the section below Morley to Daggett Road.

I left my bike where Jefferson Road crosses the river after Morley Pond. I had a little challenge putting in at Altona because they are rebuilding the bridge across the river there. But that shouldn't be an issue for long. Just know that the launch there at Altona Riverside Park (not really a park) is on the west side of the river. Go past the Detour signs on 5 Mile Road to get there.

I hate to let the cat out of the bag, but this is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and serene stretches of river this close to Grand Rapids. Absolutely gorgeous, with few sights or sounds of civilization. I startled five deer in separate places who had come to the river for a drink -- just within the first hour. As usual in Michigan, lots of turtles and birds of all kinds and jumping fish.

An easy portage around the right side of Rustford Dam offers a nice green area for rest or lunch. Above the dam, there were definitely some tricky spots to squeeze around downed trees, but I never had to portage. Below the 155th Avenue bridge, I did have two portages around fallen trees, one of which made for a challenging put-in because of steep banks.

The trip took me four hours, which was longer than I expected. I would recommend taking out at Rustford Dam (though I'm not sure there is actually a take-out place there), the 130th Ave. bridge (just below Rustford Dam) or the 155th Ave. bridge. It is pretty slow going before the Jefferson bridge due to the Morley Dam. I would guess Altona to 130th would be 1.5-2 hours, while to 155th would be 2.5-3 hours.




Exit 125 on US-131 and east to Morley. Turn north on Cass, which becomes Northland Drive, to 5 Mile Road. Go right, or east, on 5 Mile to Altona Riverside Park.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip