We put in at Irving Road, southeast of Middleville, MI. There's a small parking lot, with outhouse. The day was sunny and warm once we started paddling (about 1pm). The first 45 minutes or so were great (one or two houses); lots of flowering trees, turtles and birds. We never saw another person on the river.
After passing under the Paul Henry Trail (3.5 mile paved hiking/biking trail that parallels the river), we hit the first of 3 tree jams crossing the river. My husband got out of his kayak, straddled a large tree and guided my kayak by the bow on a zigzag course through the downed trees. He then lifted his kayak over these trees. The current wasn't bad here.
He made it through the next zigzag of trees with hard paddling and digging in his paddle. I wasn't strong enough and got caught in the current lengthwise against the largest tree. After five minutes of back paddling (and failing to shoot through); I "hand walked" my kayak backwards through another small opening and I was free. The water and current came within an inch of filling my cockpit and tipping me (but I made it!)
The third time I had to actually get out on the muddy bank and walk my kayak around, while Bruce straddled another tree and lifted his kayak over it.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, paddling closer to the trail and starting to see bikers and walkers. Close to the take-out, there is a small area with lots of nesting swans and geese (they're not usually friendly).
We took out the kayaks at the Canoe Portage sign on the west side, just before the Middleville Dam. We treated ourselves to Oberon on the deck of Champs Bar, but there are also ice cream shops and pizzerias.
If you wanted to, you could lock a bike up here and bike the 3.5 miles back to the starting point (near McCann Road and Irving Road) to pick up your vehicle.
I rated this Easy, but the "portaging" over trees made it more difficult. The Thornapple Trail organization helps clean the river, but maybe these trees are too large this year. My husband kayaked this stretch last Fall, and there were no obstructions.
In all, a very nice paddle, with a great little town at the end.
Middleville is about 20 miles southeast of Grand Rapids. Take M-37 South to Middleville. Turn left on Main Street (traffic light). Follow over to Irving Road. Turn right. Follow Irving; once you cross over the river, the parking lot is to your left. If you get to McCann Road, you're too far.
- Trip Duration: Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)