A New Frontier: Kayaking down the Grand

By: Deidre Doezema-Burkholder


Nothing says summer in Michigan quite like enjoying an afternoon on the water. With the sun brightly shinning and the birds gliding through a gentle breeze over head, five friends and I made our way down the Grand River via kayaks.


Kayaking ListMonths leading up to our kayaking adventure, my husband and I had been talking about things we wanted to try that would get us outside and enjoying our surroundings. During the deliberation, kayaking came up. My husband had some friends who enjoyed it, his son included.


So, my research of local options began and luckily I came across GRPaddling.com and a bevy of options. Did I want to take a lake or a river? How about a moonlight trip? Or maybe something with a dinner or a picnic? The bountiful options left me spinning with glee!


While this was to be our first trip, I thought I would take it easy and keep it simple and close to home. After reviewing many of the available options, I found one on a launch site not far from my own home. Perfect! What could be better than finding something so close to home?


How about being driven to the site of the launch?


GR Paddling picks you up at a location of your choice whether it be home, work, or where ever works best for you. However, I still had reservations about the stability of the kayaks. This would be our first kayaking trip and we had a non-swimmer in our group as well. Jeff from GR Paddling responded quickly and professionally assuring me that everyone would be equipped with life jackets and that the kayaks were quite stable and unlikely to tip over on the Grand River. With that good news, the trip was booked!


The day of our trip, Jeff arrived with a van carrying the six kayaks for us to use that day. Once we were all loaded up, we were off to our launch point in Eastmanville.


DeidreUpon arrival, we were given the obligatory legal forms to sign while Jeff unloaded the kayaks and brought out drink options that we could bring on the river with us. We were also given the option of a waterproof case for our phones in case anyone wanted to bring their device along. Jeff explained the different kayaks and their styles. Different colors differentiated between different kayaks:


Blue – the most stable and also the slowest
Yellow – quicker than Blue on the water
Red – Sleek and nimble little number build for gliding quickly through the water


Once we figured out our kayak color, we were given some instructions and reviewed a map of the route.


We formed a train to carried the kayaks down to the launch point. This particular launch site had an assisted launch for canoes and kayaks which made it simpler and safer to launch into the water. Jeff gave a few last instructions on how to use the paddles and then one at a time we glided into the Grand River. Once in the water, we had a chance to get used to the balance and maneuvering of the kayaks. It didn’t take long until we were on our 7 mile trek downriver.


It was a beautiful day, a sunny blue sky lightly dotted with puffy white clouds and a head wind just strong enough to slow us down. As we made our way down river, we were able to enjoy the nature around us and the company we were with. For 2 hours and 45 minutes, no one sent a text message, checked Facebook, or answered an email. Instead, we spotted multiple turtles taking advantage of the sun, a blue heron come in for a landing, and a majestic bald eagle soaring above us.


KayakingWhen we reached our half way point, aka opt out point, Jeff was there with his camera snapping shots and making a point to ask each person in the party how we were doing and feeling so far. Our group all agreed to paddle on and Jeff gave us an update on how far we had yet to go. The last couple of miles were calmer as the wind was no longer slowing us down and we were feeling more confident in our ability. When we arrived at our end point, Jeff once again met us and was there to help guide our kayaks safely onto shore.


Snacks and drinks awaited us on land, which was incredibly nice due to the need for a boost in calories after the trip. Kayaking is a calorie killer! After the kayaks were packed up and we were loaded back into the van everyone discussed what area of their body hurt the most: Shoulders, arms, backs – you name it and someone was hurting there.


While we all had our aches and pains, every one of us wanted to go again. One member of the party said that the trip convinced her to purchase her own kayak. The trip was so enjoyable that we want to turn it into an annual event.


GR Paddling gives us plenty of options to try different areas of the Grand River and other rivers and lakes year after year.


Deidre owns and operates Organisum: Technology Services, a business serving the West Michigan area. In her free time she likes to hike & bike local trails with friends and family when she isn’t pinning, instagram’ing or Netflix’ing.