An overcast Sunday morning took me to downtown Eaton Rapids, a place I hadn't been to in over twenty years. This wasn't a social call, though - instead, I had some kayaking to do.
I had read a blog that pointed me to McArthur River Park as a spot to put in a kayak. However, while crossing the bridge on State Street, I noticed a rather large problem - there was a dam between the park and northern section of the river where I had intended to go. A brief look at Google Maps pointed me instead to Mill Pointe Park (fancy because an 'E' on the end of 'Point'). This was a great entry spot, as there were no life-threatening dams from which to plummet, and it was just past the rapids. It was about a hundred and thirty feet from the parking lot to the spot in the river to put in the kayak.
It had been a rather dry summer, but the current still moved at a nice pace. I was still surprised at how shallow the Grand River was at this point. It was never deep enough that I couldn't see the bottom, and I scraped the bottom many times. At spots, I had to do rock dodging to prevent a Titanic moment, though I didn't see any icebergs. There were plenty of water fowl on the river in the form of ducks, geese and blue herons.
For much of the five-mile stretch north of Eaton Rapids, houses border the river with several areas of marshy land or forests breaking up signs of civilization. I was on the river early enough that it was still quiet. M99 and other roads run relatively close to the river, so there is that constant hum of cars, but I didn't find that distracting.
The most exciting part of the trip took place just north of Petrieville Highway. There is a fairly tame rapids about forty feet long just before the bridge. My river kayaking experience to this point has been smooth water, so I approached the area slowly and determined the right-center section of the river was the best, and it was a brief but fun run through the currents. I would have gone through again had I been able to make it upstream.
My run came to an end at the Bunker Road canoe landing. When kayaking rivers, I first drop off my bike at the take-out spot, and then ride back to my put-in spot, get the car, and return for the kayak. The Bunker Road landing was a more difficult spot to pull out the kayak because of the steepness of the bank between the river and the parking lot - I would estimate it was about a six-foot height differential. So if you are going to pull out your kayak at this landing, take that into account.
The five-mile course took me an hour and fifteen minutes paddling at a moderate pace. The river wasn't challenging, and easy for beginners - the Petrieville section may look intimidating to new kayakers, but it was easy to handle.