Hugh Heward Challenge

Recreate history on the Grand River!

Hugh Heward Challenge

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MGROW will not conduct a formally organized Hugh Heward Challenge in 2021. While social distancing on the water is possible, we don't want to facilitate the concentrated gatherings that go with this event.

If you choose to paddle the Middle Grand River on the last Saturday in April this year, we urge you to paddle safely.

Online map of the Middle Grand River Water Trail

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.”

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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!