Grand River (Michigan)

Grand River
Grand river.png
A map of the Grand River
Physical characteristics
 • locationSomerset Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan
 • coordinates42°05′12″N 84°25′21″W / 42.0867°N 84.42245°W / 42.0867; -84.42245[1]
 • location
Grand Haven, Michigan
 • coordinates
43°03′30″N 86°15′03″W / 43.05835°N 86.25088°W / 43.05835; -86.25088Coordinates:43°03′30″N 86°15′03″W / 43.05835°N 86.25088°W / 43.05835; -86.25088
Length252 miles (406 km)
Basin size5,572sq.mi.
 • locationmouth
 • average5,048.87 cu ft/s (142.968 m3/s) (estimate)[2]

The Grand River (Ottawa: Owashtanong, "Far-Flowing Water")[3][4] is a river in the southwestern portion of the southern peninsula of Michigan, United States, that flows into Lake Michigan's southeastern shore. It is the longest river in Michigan, running 252 miles (406 km) from its headwaters in Hillsdale County on the southern border north to Lansing and west to its mouth on the Lake at Grand Haven.[5]

The so-named Grand Rapids, in what is today the namesake city, were a mile-long, 300-yard-wide and 10-to-15-foot-tall rapids for which the river was famous. These were submerged following the construction of numerous dams, starting in 1835, and flooding of areas behind the dams. The river has not had any rapids for nearly a century.


Island Park on the Grand River at Grand Ledge

The headwaters of the Grand River begin from natural springs in Somerset Township in Hillsdale County near the boundary with Liberty Township in Jackson County.[6] From there, the river flows through Jackson, Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Ionia, Kent, and Ottawa counties before emptying into Lake Michigan. The river runs through the cities of Jackson, Eaton Rapids, Lansing, Grand Ledge, Portland, Ionia, Lowell, Grand Rapids, and Grand Haven.


The Grand River is one of three major tributaries of Lake Michigan, including the Fox River (Green Bay tributary) on the western shore, and Kalamazoo River on the southeastern shore. It falls in elevation from 1260 ft. in the highlands of its headwaters to 577 ft. at its mouth on Lake Michigan. Its waters drain northward through the lake, then south and east through the Great Lakes waterways into the St. Lawrence River, which flows northeasterly into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the Atlantic Ocean. The Grand River discharges an estimated average 5,049 cubic feet per second (143.0 m3/s).[2]

Its watershed is the second-largest in the state, draining an area of 5,572 square miles (14,430 km2), including 18 counties and 158 townships. Much of the basin is flat, and it contains many swamps and lakes. The basin is composed of four sub-basins: Upper Grand, Lower Grand, Thornapple, and Maple, where the four major tributaries flow: the Flat, Rogue, Thornapple, and Maple rivers.

Tributaries of the river include (beginning near river source and travelling downstream): Portage River, Red Cedar River, Looking Glass River, Maple River, Prairie Creek, Bellamy Creek, Flat River, Thornapple River, Rogue River, Coldbrook Creek, Plaster Creek, Bass River, Buck Creek and Crockery Creek.


There are fourteen dams on the main branch of the Grand River. Some 218 dams were built on its tributaries; these have divided the ecosystem into a set of dysfunctional local streams. 228 of these dams are registered with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The main branch dams are:[7]


  • Grand River (6th Street)
  • Grand River


  • Lyons (removed in 2016)
  • Grand Ledge
  • Portland
  • North Lansing
  • Webber (hydroelectric)


  • State Street
  • Moore's Park (hydroelectric)
  • Sanitation
  • Smithville (hydroelectric)


  • Liberty Mills
  • Crystal Lake
  • Mirror Lake
  • Lake LeAnn North
  • Lake LeAnn South


It is estimated that 22% of the pesticide usage in the Lake Michigan watershed occurs in the Grand River drainage, which accounts for only 13% of the lake's total watershed. The river is a trout and salmon stream for much of its length.


As the glacial ice receded from what is the central Lower Peninsula of Michigan around 11,000 years ago, the Maple River and lower Grand River served as a drainage channel for the meltwater. The channel ran east to west, emptying into proglacial Lake Chicago, the ancestor of Lake Michigan.

About 2,000 years ago, the Hopewell Indians settled along the Grand River near present-day Grandville. Their presence is still seen in the preserved burial mounds.

By the late 17th century, the Grand River band of Ottawa had established villages on the banks of the Grand River at the sites of what would later become several towns and cities, including Grand Rapids, Forest Hills, Lowell, Lyons, and Portland.[8] For these peoples, as well as for later explorers, fur traders and settlers, the river served as an important navigational trade route and cultural hub.[3]

The river formed part of a major demarcation of land ceded by Native Americans enabling U.S. settlers to legally obtain title to land in the area. In the 1821 Treaty of Chicago, the Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi ceded to the United States all lands in Michigan Territory south of the Grand River, with the exception of several small reservations.

The Grand was important to the rapid development of West-Central Michigan during the 1850s to 1880s, as logs from Michigan's rich pine and oak forests floated down the Grand River for milling. After the Civil War, many soldiers found jobs as lumberjacks cutting logs and guiding them down the river with pike poles, peaveys, and cant hooks. The men wore bright red flannel, felt clothes, and spiked boots to hold them onto the floating logs; these boots chewed up the wooden sidewalks and flooring of the local bars, leading one hotel owner to supply carpet slippers to all river drivers who entered his hotel. The "jacks" earned $1 to $3 per day and all the "vittles" they could eat, which was usually a considerable amount.

In 1883, heavy rains during June and July brought water levels on the river to record highs. The flooding was bad enough, but the rising water overwhelmed lumbering booms—river enclosures used to sort and organize logs for transport to saw mills—in Lowell, Grand Rapids as well as Grand Haven and Robinson townships. As water rose, the logs escaped the enclosures, much like cattle fleeing stockyards. Soon, Kent and Ottawa counties had a 'stampede', as millions of logs flowed uncontrolled down the river and became trapped in bends or against bridges. The result was a logjam of incredible proportions that clogged the river for 47 miles (10 million Feet of logs trapped in Lowell, 95 million Feet of logs trapped in the "Big Bend" northeast of Grand Rapids, 80 million Feet of logs trapped in Ottawa County).[9]

Grand River Avenue (or Grand River Road) was built early in the settlement of Michigan and ran from the head of navigation on the Grand to downtown Detroit. It formed an important part of an early route between Chicago and Detroit, along with the Grand itself, from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven on Lake Michigan.

Restoration of the rapids

The city of Grand Rapids was built starting in 1826 on the site of a mile long rapids 40 miles upstream from the river's mouth, although these disappeared after the installation of a run-of-river dam in 1866 and five low-rise dams during a river beautification project in 1927. A fish ladder installed in 1974, nearly replaces the West Side Water Power Canal headgates removed in 1959/60. In recent years, Grand Rapids Whitewater, a private nonprofit organization, is working toward restoring the rapids to the river in Grand Rapids. The project, slated to begin in 2019, will remove five dams between Sixth street and Pearl street to restore an 18-foot drop in the Grand River's elevation.[10]

Points of interest

Two of Grand Valley State University's campuses are located on the banks of the Grand River. The main campus in Allendale and the Pew Grand Rapids campus in Grand Rapids both border the river in separate locations miles from each other. The Grand is home to GVSU's rowing team, and the crew boathouse sits parallel to the river on the Allendale campus's north side.[11]

Coast Guard Station Grand Haven is situated near the mouth of the river in Grand Haven. The station gives Grand Haven it's nickname Coast Guard City USA.[12]

Parks, docks and recreational facilities

  • Millennium Park (Grand Rapids), the largest park in western Michigan, larger than Central Park, NY


At least 80 bridges cross the river's 250-mile span, with most bridge structures clustered in metropolitan/municipal areas along the river. County road and state highway crossings can be found in less densely populated areas along the waterway:

List of Bridge Crossings
US 31US RouteGrand HavenOttawa43°4′30.98″N 86°13′4.74″W / 43.0752722°N 86.2179833°W / 43.0752722; -86.2179833
M-231Michigan Highway43°2′24.36″N 86°5′30.83″W / 43.0401000°N 86.0918972°W / 43.0401000; -86.0918972
68th AvenueCounty Road43°0′55.26″N 85°57′20.04″W / 43.0153500°N 85.9555667°W / 43.0153500; -85.9555667
I-96Michigan Highway42°58′19.60″N 85°52′36.22″W / 42.9721111°N 85.8767278°W / 42.9721111; -85.8767278
M-11 (Wilson Avenue SW)Michigan HighwayGrandvilleKent42°54′54.34″N 85°46′1.11″W / 42.9150944°N 85.7669750°W / 42.9150944; -85.7669750
Kent Trails Grand River Bridge TrailPedestrian BridgeWyoming
I-196Interstate Highway42°56′50.88″N 85°42′39.27″W / 42.9474667°N 85.7109083°W / 42.9474667; -85.7109083
Wealthy Street SWCity StreetGrand Rapids42°57′21.99″N 85°40′56.37″W / 42.9561083°N 85.6823250°W / 42.9561083; -85.6823250
US 131US Route42°57′42.29″N 85°40′39.34″W / 42.9617472°N 85.6775944°W / 42.9617472; -85.6775944
Fulton Street WestCity Steet
Pearl Street NWCity Street
Bridge Street NWCity Street
I-196Interstate Highway
6th Street NWCity Street
Leonard Street NWCity Street42°59′5.06″N 85°40′22.35″W / 42.9847389°N 85.6728750°W / 42.9847389; -85.6728750
Ann Street NWCity Street
I-96Interstate Highway
North Park Street NECity Street
Jupiter Avenue NECity Street
M-44 (Northland Drive NE)City Street
Knapp StreetCounty Road43°0′20.78″N 85°32′33.39″W / 43.0057722°N 85.5426083°W / 43.0057722; -85.5426083
M-21 (Fulton Street)Michigan Highway42°57′19.31″N 85°28′31.36″W / 42.9553639°N 85.4753778°W / 42.9553639; -85.4753778
Segwun AvenueCity StreetLowell42°55′30.67″N 85°20′34.47″W / 42.9251861°N 85.3429083°W / 42.9251861; -85.3429083
South Division StreetCity Street42°55′46.33″N 85°19′53.72″W / 42.9295361°N 85.3315889°W / 42.9295361; -85.3315889
North Bridge StreetCity StreetSaranacIonia42°55′58.50″N 85°12′48.13″W / 42.9329167°N 85.2133694°W / 42.9329167; -85.2133694
Fred Meijer Grand River Valley TrailPedestrian BridgeIonia
M-66Michigan Highway
Cleveland StreetCity Street
West Bridge StreetCity StreetLyons42°58′55.04″N 84°57′0.08″W / 42.9819556°N 84.9500222°W / 42.9819556; -84.9500222
David HwyCounty Road
West Grand River AvenueCity StreetPortland42°52′14.69″N 84°54′10.89″W / 42.8707472°N 84.9030250°W / 42.8707472; -84.9030250
West Bridge StreetCity Street42°52′11.03″N 84°54′14.71″W / 42.8697306°N 84.9040861°W / 42.8697306; -84.9040861
I-96Interstate Highway42°51′38.80″N 84°55′2.49″W / 42.8607778°N 84.9173583°W / 42.8607778; -84.9173583
Kent StreetCity Street42°51′24.59″N 84°54′43.95″W / 42.8568306°N 84.9122083°W / 42.8568306; -84.9122083
Charlotte HighwayCounty Road42°48′55.46″N 84°53′39.74″W / 42.8154056°N 84.8943722°W / 42.8154056; -84.8943722
Benton RoadCounty RoadClinton
West State RoadCounty Road
Bridge StCity StreetGrand LedgeEaton42°45′17.07″N 84°44′37.61″W / 42.7547417°N 84.7437806°W / 42.7547417; -84.7437806
I-96/ I-69Interstate Highway
Webster RoadCity Street
South Waverly RoadCity StreetLansingIngham
Martin Luther King Jr. BlvdCity Street
North Grand River AvenueCity Street
East Cesar E. Chavez AvenueCity Street
East Oakland AvenueCity Street42°44′36.2688″N 84°33′0.6078″W / 42.743408000°N 84.550168833°W / 42.743408000; -84.550168833
East Saginaw HighwayCity Street42°44′27.02″N 84°32′57.88″W / 42.7408389°N 84.5494111°W / 42.7408389; -84.5494111
Lansing Riverwalk Grand River Railroad BridgeCity Street
East Shiawassee StreetCity Street
East Michigan AvenueCity Street42°44′0.9024″N 84°32′59.0706″W / 42.733584000°N 84.549741833°W / 42.733584000; -84.549741833
East Kalamazoo StreetCity Street42°43′47.69″N 84°32′50.91″W / 42.7299139°N 84.5474750°W / 42.7299139; -84.5474750
I-496Interstate Highway42°43′32.38″N 84°32′44.84″W / 42.7256611°N 84.5457889°W / 42.7256611; -84.5457889
South Washington StreetCity Street
Lansing River TrailPedestrian Bridge
West Elm StreetCity Street
M-99 (Northbound)Michigan Highway42°43′11.69″N 84°34′2.36″W / 42.7199139°N 84.5673222°W / 42.7199139; -84.5673222
M-99 (Southbound)Michigan Highway
Island AvenueCity Street
Lansing River TrailPedestrian Bridge
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard NBCity Street42°43′11.75″N 84°34′2.42″W / 42.7199306°N 84.5673389°W / 42.7199306; -84.5673389
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard SBCity Street42°43′12.95″N 84°34′7.22″W / 42.7202639°N 84.5686722°W / 42.7202639; -84.5686722
South Waverly RoadCity StreetEaton42°42′33.50″N 84°36′11.01″W / 42.7093056°N 84.6030583°W / 42.7093056; -84.6030583
South Creyts RoadCity Street42°40′15.36″N 84°38′32.15″W / 42.6709333°N 84.6422639°W / 42.6709333; -84.6422639
I-96Interstate Highway
South Bridge StreetCity StreetDimondale42°38′41.02″N 84°39′0.96″W / 42.6447278°N 84.6502667°W / 42.6447278; -84.6502667
M-99 (Southbound)Michigan Highway42°37′52.19″N 84°37′22.96″W / 42.6311639°N 84.6230444°W / 42.6311639; -84.6230444
M-99 (Northbound)Michigan Highway
North Waverly RoadCounty Road
West Columbia RoadCounty Road42°34′55.79″N 84°36′4.85″W / 42.5821639°N 84.6013472°W / 42.5821639; -84.6013472
Bunker HighwayCounty Road42°33′10.88″N 84°37′19.05″W / 42.5530222°N 84.6219583°W / 42.5530222; -84.6219583
Petrieville HighwayCounty Road42°32′8.12″N 84°37′26.00″W / 42.5355889°N 84.6238889°W / 42.5355889; -84.6238889
East Knight StreetCity StreetEaton Rapids42°30′45.95″N 84°39′14.29″W / 42.5127639°N 84.6539694°W / 42.5127639; -84.6539694
State StreetCity Street42°30′33.45″N 84°39′17.94″W / 42.5092917°N 84.6549833°W / 42.5092917; -84.6549833
Smithville RoadCounty Road
South Waverly RoadCounty Road42°29′20.05″N 84°36′3.85″W / 42.4889028°N 84.6010694°W / 42.4889028; -84.6010694
Gale RoadCounty RoadIngham42°28′52.01″N 84°34′50.44″W / 42.4811139°N 84.5806778°W / 42.4811139; -84.5806778
Kinneville RoadCounty Road42°27′56.44″N 84°34′5.74″W / 42.4656778°N 84.5682611°W / 42.4656778; -84.5682611
South Onondaga RoadCounty Road42°26′42.76″N 84°33′37.77″W / 42.4452111°N 84.5604917°W / 42.4452111; -84.5604917
Old Plank RoadCounty RoadJackson42°26′31.08″N 84°33′27.59″W / 42.4419667°N 84.5576639°W / 42.4419667; -84.5576639
Tompkins RoadCounty Road42°23′27.41″N 84°32′29.81″W / 42.3909472°N 84.5416139°W / 42.3909472; -84.5416139
Rives Eaton RoadCounty Road42°24′13.57″N 84°29′8.82″W / 42.4037694°N 84.4857833°W / 42.4037694; -84.4857833
Jackson and Lansing RailroadRailroad42°24′15.43″N 84°26′57.62″W / 42.4042861°N 84.4493389°W / 42.4042861; -84.4493389
Churchill RoadCounty Road
US 127US Route42°24′8.7″N 84°25′45.17″W / 42.402417°N 84.4292139°W / 42.402417; -84.4292139
Lansing AvenueCounty Road42°23′45.24″N 84°24′49.63″W / 42.3959000°N 84.4137861°W / 42.3959000; -84.4137861
Berry RoadCounty Road
Maplegrove RoadCounty Road
Parnall AvenueCounty Road
I-94Interstate Highway42°16′18.09″N 84°24′31.36″W / 42.2716917°N 84.4087111°W / 42.2716917; -84.4087111
Monroe StreetCity StreetJackson
North StreetCity Street
Ganson StreetCity Street
Pearl StreetCity Street
Morrell StreetCity Street

See also

  • List of Michigan rivers


  1. ^ "Grand River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  2. ^ a b United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Watershed Report: Grand River". Archived from the original on 2021-07-02. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
  3. ^ a b Richmond, Rebecca L. (1906). "The Fur Traders of the Grand River Valley". Publications of the Historical Society of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids, MI: Historical Society of Grand Rapids. 1: 36. OCLC 13895154.
  4. ^ Siegel, Jane (1993). 'A Snug Little Place': Memories of Ada Michigan, 1821–1930. Ada, MI: Ada Historical Society. p. 18. OCLC 29485380.
  5. ^ "National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data". The National Map. U.S. Geological Survey. Archived from the original on March 29, 2012. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  6. ^ "Upper Grand River Water Trail Development Plan, May 2017". Jackson County Drain Commissioner. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  7. ^ State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Grand River Assessment, FR20 June, 2017, Hanshue and Harrington. Table 12
  8. ^ McClurken, James M. (2009). Our People, Our Journey: The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press. p. 12-13. ISBN 9780870138560.
  9. ^ Judd, Terry (July 12, 2008). "Grand Jam of 1883". Muskegon Chronicle. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  10. ^ Grand Rapids Whitewater
  11. ^ "Driving Directions, Maps, and Parking Information". Grand Valley State University. Retrieved September 16, 2010.
  12. ^ King, W. W. (1931). "Venereal Disease among Coast Guard Enlisted Personnel during the Fiscal Year 1930". Public Health Reports (1896-1970). 46 (23): 1360–1365. doi:10.2307/4580061. ISSN 0094-6214. JSTOR 4580061.

External links

Media files used on this page

Vector image of a Michigan state trunk line highway shield. Created in Inkscape 0.43 with the Roadgeek font set.
Grand River Watershed.gif
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: PD

A graphic showing the Grand River (Michigan) Watershed,

Vector image of a Michigan state trunk line highway shield. Created in Inkscape 0.43 with the Roadgeek font set.
Grand River, Grand Rapids.jpg
Author/Creator: Terry Johnston, Licence: CC BY 2.0
The Grand River with the Amway Hotel and Pearl Street Bridge in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Convergence of the Grand and Red Cedar Rivers (Lansing, Michigan).jpg

Criticalthinker (talk) (Uploads)

, Licence: Cc-by-sa-3.0

Convergence of the Red Cedar and Grand Rivers in central Lansing, Michigan.

Island Park Grand Ledge.jpg
Author/Creator: Daniel Toth, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Island Park in Grand Ledge, MI. View from W River St.
600 mm by 600 mm (24 in by 24 in) Interstate shield, made to the specifications of the 2004 edition of Standard Highway Signs (sign M1-1). Uses the Roadgeek 2005 fonts. (United States law does not permit the copyrighting of typeface designs, and the fonts are meant to be copies of a U.S. Government-produced work anyway.) Colors are from [1] (Pantone Red 187 and Blue 294), converted to RGB by [2]. The outside border has a width of 1 (1 mm) and a color of black so it shows up; in reality, signs have no outside border.
US 31.svg
600 mm × 600 mm (24 in × 24 in) U.S. Highway shield, made to the specifications of the 2004 edition of Standard Highway Signs. (Note that there is a missing "J" label on the left side of the diagram.) Uses the Roadgeek 2005 fonts. (United States law does not permit the copyrighting of typeface designs, and the fonts are meant to be copies of a U.S. Government-produced work anyway.)
M-231 rectangle.svg
M-231 highway marker
US 127.svg
750 mm × 600 mm (30 in × 24 in) U.S. Highway shield, made to the specifications of the 2004 edition of Standard Highway Signs. (Note that there is a missing "J" label on the left side of the diagram.) Uses the Roadgeek 2005 fonts. (United States law does not permit the copyrighting of typeface designs, and the fonts are meant to be copies of a U.S. Government-produced work anyway.)
North Lansing dam.jpg
North Lansing dam in the Grand River; Lansing, MI. Board of Water and Light is in the background.
Vector image of a Michigan state trunk line highway shield. Created in Inkscape 0.43 with the Roadgeek font set.
Vector image of a Michigan state trunk line highway shield. Created in Inkscape 0.43 with the Roadgeek font set.
Vector image of a Michigan state trunk line highway shield. Created in Inkscape 0.43 with the Roadgeek font set.
US 131.svg
750 mm × 600 mm (30 in × 24 in) U.S. Highway shield, made to the specifications of the 2004 edition of Standard Highway Signs. (Note that there is a missing "J" label on the left side of the diagram.) Uses the Roadgeek 2005 fonts. (United States law does not permit the copyrighting of typeface designs, and the fonts are meant to be copies of a U.S. Government-produced work anyway.)