Hugh Heward Challenge

Recreate history on the Grand River!

The Hugh Heward Challenge

on the Grand River in Mid-Michigan

Thank you to everyone who supported the 2022 Hugh Heward. 74 paddlers and over a dozen volunteers made April 30 a successful day.

Watch this site for updates about 2023.

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. Memorial.

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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