A partly cloudy 75-degree day provided the perfect opportunity for a midweek afternoon getaway to this section I've wanted to do for a couple years - the Little Muskegon River from Morley Dam to Dagget Road. Having greatly enjoyed paddling this river both above Morley and from Dagget to Croton Dam, I was excited about the possibilities.
This gorgeous stretch proved to be a magical ride. Few signs of civilization poked through the dense forests and lush shores. Deep quiet pervaded much of the ride as trees full of birds sang. I spotted a river otter, two beavers, and a muskrat (the river mammal trifecta?) along with spooking many deer that had come to the river for a drink. Along with those delights, I wash shocked to see only one turtle and no fish in a four-hour, 12-mile trip in clear water. However, I did see more crayfish than I ever have on a kayak trip.
This is not a trip for rookies. It is a mildly exciting ride that included six or eight portages around or over/under downed trees and a few exciting twists and turns. This despite a relatively low flow rate of 250 cubic feet per second against a mean of 301 and a median of 343 (a year ago I rode this river at 477). I did give in to the bug spray due to portages, so you might want to have that on hand.
When I had finished, I had no idea that I had been on the river for four hours. It was that captivating. The whole of the Little Muskegon from Altoona to Croton is a delightful gem, just 45 minutes north of Grand Rapids.
For a shorter and equally beautiful ride, I would recommend going from the Long Road bridge past the Dagget Road bridge to the bridge at West County Line Road (aka Newcosta Avenue).
There is a port-a-jon at the park in Morley.
To go to the Dagget Road Bridge, get off US-131 at highway 82 and head towards Newaygo (west) for 1 mile. Turn north on Dagget and go three miles to the bridge. Some parking is available there. There is a little Memorial Park on the south side of Morley on Federal Road where you can put in below the dam. Morley is just east of US-131.
"Paddling Michigan" book