Hugh Heward Challenge

Recreate history on the Grand River!

2020 Hugh Heward is canceled

2021 Hugh will be held April 24 on the Grand River, Mid-Michigan

As the organizing body of this event we feel that canceling is in the best interest of the participants and our community in light of rapidly changing guidelines from the State of Michigan and the Centers for Disease Control.


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The Hugh Heward is an annual paddling event on the Grand River and is open to all paddlers. The event includes three distances- experienced paddlers and racers may prefer the “Full Hugh,” a 50-mile route; recreational paddlers are strongly advised to choose the shorter routes: the 25-mile “Half Hugh” or the 13-mile “Quarter Hugh.”

All three routes finish at Thompson Field in Portland, Michigan, the site of the Verlen Kruger Memorial. The event includes great company with fellow paddlers and food.

The History of the Hugh Heward Challenge

This annual paddling event reenacts a one-day, 50-mile sprint down the Grand River in Mid-Michigan by British fur trader Hugh Heward and his French-Canadian crew in two birch-bark canoes on April 24, 1790.

In the run-up to Grand River Expedition 2000, topologist and historian Jim Woodruff challenged his friend and canoeing legend Verlen Kruger—and the entire mid-Michigan paddling community—to match Heward’s feat. Kruger accepted the challenge and invited others to join; the Hugh Heward Challenge was born.

Read the history of Hugh Heward and his entire journey in Jim Woodruff’s paper, Across Lower Michigan by Canoe, 1790.

Questions? Contact us!

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2020 MGROW | Middle Grand River Organization of Watersheds

MGROW is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Your donation helps us in our mission to protect and preserve the history and natural resources of the Middle Grand River Watershed.