ASK ELi: Places to Canoe and Kayak?

You are on, ELi's old domain, which is now an archive of news (as of early April, 2020). If you are looking for the latest news, go to and update your bookmarks accordingly!


Friday, May 29, 2015, 12:15 am
Michael Townley

Image: The author’s children on the Grand River near Grand Ledge

This week’s reader question: Where are good places around here to canoe or kayak?

There are many river options in the area.

Red Cedar River:

These options are all doable with a return by bike or car:

  • Start at the Red Cedar Roadside Park (at the Meridian Road and Grand River Avenue intersection) and head to Ferguson Park (at the Okemos Road crossing of the Red Cedar River). There are many snags along this route to haul the boat over, making it a challenging workout and possibly impassable until arriving at the Red Cedar Preserve. In spite of the challenges of this trip, the reward is that there is usually no one else on the river and a quiet trip is almost certain. The stream is more open without snags downstream of Dobie Road.
  • Ferguson Park (at the Okemos Road crossing of the Red Cedar River) to MSU Bessey Hall Parking Lot (just downstream of the Farm Lane crossing of the Red Cedar River). This is a more urban trip, with homes along the river and other open areas. An open pond at Heron Creek makes for a nice place to float restfully.
  • MSU Library Parking Lot (downstream from the rapids behind the MSU Administrative Building) to Potter Park Zoo. This offers a great return bike trip on the river trail trough the bottomland hardwoods back to MSU. There are at times snags in the river to contend with.


Here is a round trip option on the Red Cedar River:

  • MSU Bessey Hall Parking Lot (just downstream of the Farm Lane crossing of the Red Cedar River) upstream to Hagadorn Road crossing and back to Bessey Hall. This is a trip all within the City of East Lansing and along a mature beach maple forest on the south bank that has been preserved by MSU.


And a children’s birthday party option:

  • Load the kids into boats behind the MSU Administration and paddle just to Brody Hall for dinner.


Looking Glass River:

You can do a one-way trip with return by bike or car by going from the Wood Road crossing of the Looking Glass to River Side Park of Dewitt (Bridge Street crossing of the Looking Glass River). This is a narrow river with snags and it may not be passable if the water levels are low. (You could reward yourself at Sweetie Delicious for Pie after the trip.)

You can also easily do a round trip on the Looking Glass River because, as its name implies, it is usually very calm. Put in at the Babcock Road crossing of the Looking Glass River. There is a parking area sound east of the bridge to unload and leave your vehicle while paddling. You can go upstream (turn away from the bridge) toward Upton Road and back to Babcock Road. You can also go the other direction and back for a more marshy experience. There is more wildlife here than most trips in the Lansing area. Muskrat and beaver swimming, sandhill cranes and swallows overhead, and great blue herons wading are common sights. The water is still and very productive in places. It can be hard to paddle for the thick water weeds. Large wetlands on the edges make landing on solid ground limited on this trip.


Grand River:

You can take a one-way trip with return by bike from the McNamara Landing (at the Columbia Road crossing of the Grand River) to Burchfield Park. There are some nice places in the park to get out and enjoy the view or to have a picnic on a bank. With a mountain bike, one can return by trails within the park to the McNamara landing. This is a wider river with natural settings along both banks. Old mature trees are a grand part of this park and trails. It is an all-around work out, and a unique experience to have a chance to mountain bike and paddle in the same trip.

You can also do a round trip from Jaycee Park, off East River Street in Grand Ledge, to Fizgerald Park and back. This is a fun trip to take during Grand Ledge's Color Cruise days to enjoy the festival on the island. Bring some money and buy an elephant ear or try some kettle corn cooked over an open fire. Then paddle on past the ledges in town, seeing the weekend climbers. Next, float under the huge historic railroad river bridge to the lower ledges and trails in Fitzgerald Park. Getting out to hike along the river trails on the banks or at the various ledges can be fun. In autumn, this wide stretch of river reflects the blue sky and brilliant crimson, orange, and yellow leaves. (See photo above.) © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info