Paddling the Grand

Once each year Dahlem and GREAT (the Grand River Environmental Action Team) co-sponsor a  paddle.  This year it was on the Grand River, starting at Michigan Center and ending at Lincoln Park in the northern part of the City of Jackson.  It was Dahlem’s turn to provide the picnic lunch afterwards, and Mark was there with his grill, cooking up burgers and hotdogs, serving up salads and yummy desserts.

But the day did not start off auspiciously.  First off, it was (finally) raining.  It’s hard to begrudge the rain when we so desperately need it, but it was a bummer to have thunder and a deluge when a paddle is due to set out!

Never the less, several hardy souls stuck it out, and a short time after we were all on the river, the rain finally cleared and the sun came out.

The trip was supposed to start on 4th Street, but water levels were too low when the team scouted the route the day before.  The morning’s rain, combined with a water release for the carp-fishing day in Michigan Center, brought up the water levels a bit, so the trip was easier than it could’ve been.

For a mostly urban paddle, the river maintained a lot of rural character.

The rain had flattened the streamside grasses, leaving them beaded with water droplets – not really photographable from a canoe floating on a steady current.

The wild roses were in bloom, adding a nice splash of color to the wall of green.

So were the fragrant white water lilies.

Many trees along the river’s edge have toppled over.  The shallow root systems, while impressive, do not maintain a good grip on the earth.  Shallow roots help keep the tree from drowning in areas often innundated with water, but a good strong wind can topple them more easily than it can their deep-rooted cousins.

Fallen logs and branches make good nurseries for new life to being.

Soon we came to the first of MANY bridges.

And although we could hear all the sounds of traffic and the city, we remained in a lovely riparian scene.  Much of this river corridor passes through industrial sites, which explains why there are few, if any, houses built along here – an oddity in today’s world where waterfront property is highly desired.

Helen and I were the last two boats, so we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but the wildlife we did see came out to bask in the afternoon sun.  Again, it’s difficult to photograph sudden photo opportunities when one is cruising by and can’t stop to focus!

After a couple hours, we entered the city proper – where the Grand is visible to the folks of Jackson.

Like many rivers in this country, it was channeled and its sides encased in concrete in an attempt to control its seasonal fluctuations.

The Consumers Building is rather a landmark in these parts, and it is easily seen from the river.  They’ve done a nice job landscaping their stretch of waterfront.

These two half-dollar size turtles were out enjoying the sun.

Downtown Jackson.

At one point, the city actually covered the river, completely encasing it in concrete.  Out of sight, out of mind.  This was during the height of Jackson’s industrial might.  The river was the transport system for many chemicals – dump ’em in the water and they will go away.  As a result, it was a toxic brew and nastily aromatic.  Hard to blame them for wanting to cover it over.  Several years ago, though, the concrete was removed, opening the river to the open air once more.  And organizations like GREAT have worked hard to clean up the river.

Still, despite the dilapidated industry, pockets of “wild lands” can be seen…

…often cheek by jowl with factories.

It was 4:30 when Helen and I finally pulled in to the take-out.  We had been delayed because we had to help some novice paddlers, who we finally had to take off the river.  While GREAT encourages people of all skills to to participate in its paddle trips, it is best to know one’s paddling skills before taking on some of these trips.  While there was nothing truly dangerous on this stretch of river, steering skills were necessary.

If you enjoy paddling and would like to take in some of the trips that GREAT sponsors, visit their website and join them for a paddle or two.


About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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One Response to Paddling the Grand

  1. Steering skills, really? What a novel idea! Lol!

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