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Water Trails

What is a Water Trail?

A water trail is any route along a river, lake, or bay that is specifically designed for the use of small boats such as kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, etc. Water trails have developed access and launch points that are accessible to the public. These trails encourage tourism and healthy activities, and assist in showcasing Michigan’s incredible water resources, local pride, and economic growth. A water trail, or blueway, is similar to a hiking trail, or greenway.

Grand River Water Trail

MGROW, in partnership with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, developed the Middle Grand River Water Trail Development Plan to guide the creation of a designated water trail on the Middle Grand River. In late 2018, it was selected by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as one of the first eight state-designated water trails in Michigan.  MGROW is working with partners in the Upper and Lower Grand River on an effort to designate all 262 miles of the Grand as a state and national water trail.  We're also working on integrating Middle Grand River tributaries into the water trail effort, in hopes of developing water trails on the Red Cedar, Looking Glass, and Maple Rivers. 

Goals of the Water Trail

  • Protect and enhance watershed values, including water quality

  • Provide public education about the historic, ecological, recreational, and economic values of the river and its tributaries

  • Develop individual and collective stewardship for watershed values

  • Promote recreational use and enhancement of public facilities, information, and safety

  • Coordinate all sub-watershed groups for the Grand River

Upper Grand River

Middle Grand River

Lower Grand River

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LGROW, an agency attached to the Grand Valley Metro Council (GVMC), began as a coalition of storm water regulation in the lower Grand River watershed. LGROW later expanded in 2009 to provide basin-wide oversight, implement watershed-wide initiatives and prioritize water quality concerns for the lower Grand River and tributaries. The lower Grand River runs through Kent and Ionia counties with its tributaries extending into Muskegon, Mecosta, Newaygo, Montcalm, Ottawa, Allegan, Barry, and Eaton counties. Learn more about LGROW here.



MGROW formed in 2011 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is associated with the portion of the Grand River from Eaton Rapids to Lyons and includes the Maple, Looking Glass, and Red Cedar river watersheds. MGROW’s mission is to protect and preserve the history and the natural resources of the Middle Grand River watershed by promoting education, conservation, restoration, and wise use of watershed resources.



Formed in 2003 and centered in Jackson, Michigan, this watershed alliance covers headwater area from northern Hillsdale County to Eaton Rapids. “In 2003, communities and nonprofit agencies, from across the watershed, came together and developed a Watershed Management Plan for the Upper Grand River. One of the recommendations in that Plan was the creation of an umbrella organization to address water quality and land use issues that cross political boundaries. The Upper Grand River Watershed Council was formed initially, under Michigan’s Local River Management Act. In 2008, the Watershed Council changed to a Watershed Alliance, under Michigan’s Watershed Alliance Act, providing non-profit status. The Alliance is a partnership of many different groups all working to one end: restoring the river to meet water quality standards and to provide quality habitat and recreation”. Learn more about UGRWA here.

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