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Hugh Heward Challenge

Recreate history on the Grand River!

The Hugh Heward Challenge

on the Grand River in Mid-Michigan

Saturday, April 29, 2023


Click here to pre-register

The Hugh Heward Challenge 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.


Pre-registration is $15 online - walk-up the day of the event is $20 cash only

Your financial support for the Hugh covers insurance and other event expenses, with remaining funds supporting MGROW's work to promote the Water Trail and other improvements on the Middle Grand River.

Want to stay up-to-date with the Hugh Heward? Like the event on Facebook!

Online map of the Middle Grand River Water Trail

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 birchbark 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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