Bringing Back the Rapids

Today it seems there is no shortage of issues and news surrounding our Great Lakes and fresh water in general. Picking a topic to dive into, that’s another story. In the future we hope to collaborate with the community and discuss things that have some personal meaning or appeal. For now, we’ll do our best to give you a quick, educational read on something we find interesting.

So, let’s start. A few buzzwords floating around our region lately are Line 5, the Nestle debate, along with the rising water levels in Lake Huron and we will certainly get to those but this month, I want to turn our attention inland, however, still well within the Great Lakes watershed. There is a community in Michigan and specifically a couple of adventurers and Great Lakes lovers who have dreamt for years about seeing some whitewater back in their town…

“Back” would imply that were once there as would the name, Grand Rapids. Many people (myself included) never put the two together and the fact that the calm and beautiful Grand River was once a fast moving body of water with rapids and islands was a shock. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the rapids began to disappear due to logging and other industry moving to the city. As the bottom of the river was dredged, the islands removed, and the rapids lost, the river became known as a scenic spot for paddlers and fishing.  Not a terrible reputation but today, through years of dedication one of Michigan’s most beautiful cities might be getting its rapids back.

(IMAGE) An 1836 map of the city shows several large islands in the middle of the river, Michigan's longest running 232 miles from the center of the state west to Lake Michigan. But by the early 1900s, the bottom of the river had been scraped and flattened to allow for the logging industry to float timber downstream.


Chris Muller and Chip Richards wanted to see their city share a common denominator with towns like Bend, OR, Golden, CO, and Ashville, NC so they got to it and began what is today called Grand Rapids Whitewater (GRWW). Their goal, along with bringing back the rapids to Grand Rapids by adding boulders and rerouting water is to revitalizing the 2.5mile stretch of the Grand River running through downtown and make it even more of an attraction and focal point in the city.

These two men, their amazing team, the supporters, the city of Grand Rapids, and a community of water loving people are on the cusp of securing $45million in funding for the project and by 2025, the rapids are expected to be back in Grand Rapids; writing a new (old) story about our fresh water and Great Lakes watershed.

A project like this excites us as a community. When they succeed, not only will Chip and Chris give Grand Rapids an economic boost but they will have a significant part in making the Grand River even more celebrated as well. However, there are always two sides to a story and from what we can tell, GRWW is doing their due diligence and taking into account how new rapids could change a fragile eco system. For now, we celebrate those who celebrate our fresh water with us and the Great Lakes Proud Community looks forward to seeing GRWW accomplish its mission by doing things the right way and helping where we can, $1 at a time.

If you want to check out more (and I suggest you do) about, their mission, and how to get involved head to their website or dive into a few of the great articles we found! Here are a couple:


West Michigan FOX 17

SGB Media




Written by Great Lakes Proud Community contributor and Great Lakes Expert Austin Holsinger. Reach out to him with stories or ways you celebrate the Great Lakes or freshwater at


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