What is a Water Trail?

A water trail is any route along a river, lake, or bay that is specifically designed for the use of small boats such as kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, etc. Water trails have developed access and launch points that are accessible to the public. These trails encourage tourism and healthy activities, and assist in showcasing Michigan's incredible water resources, local pride, and economic growth. A water trail, or blueway, is similar to a hiking trail, or greenway.

Water Trail Goals

  • Protect and enhance watershed values, including water quality
  • Provide public education about the historic, ecological, recreational, and economic values of the river and its tributaries
  • Develop individual and collective stewardship for watershed values
  • Promote recreational use and enhancement of public facilities, information, and safety
  • Coordinate all sub-watershed groups for the Grand River

The Grand River Water Trail

The Grand River is the longest river in Michigan, spanning 262 miles long. The Grand River water trail is split into three sections, the Upper, Middle, and Lower Grand River. Each section has its own committee, or alliance who has taken responsibility in the future development and oversight of these areas. Each one of the three sections is working together to develop a sustainable, enjoyable, and safe water trail for residents and tourists alike. With the help from citizens, access and launch points will be established, potential water way hazards will be reported, and heritage sites will be identified.


Lower Grand River

The Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds (LGROW)

LGROW, an agency attached to the Grand Valley Metro Council (GVMC), began as a coalition of storm water regulation in the lower Grand River watershed. LGROW later expanded in 2009 to provide basin-wide oversight, implement watershed-wide initiatives and prioritize water quality concerns for the lower Grand River and tributaries. The lower Grand River runs through Kent and Ionia counties with its tributaries extending into Muskegon, Mecosta, Newaygo, Montcalm, Ottawa, Allegan, Barry, and Eaton counties. 

Middle Grand River

The Middle Grand River Organization of Watersheds (MGROW)

MGROW was formed in 2011 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is associated with the portion of the Grand River from Eaton Rapids to Lyons and includes the Maple, Looking Glass, and Red Cedar river watersheds. Its mission is to "protect and preserve the history and the natural resources of the Middle Grand River watershed by promoting education, conservation, restoration, and wise use of watershed resources".

Upper Grand River

The Upper Grand River Watershed Alliance (UGRWA)

Formed in 2003 and centered in Jackson, Michigan, this watershed alliance covers headwater area from northern Hillsdale County to Eaton Rapids. "In 2003, communities and nonprofit agencies, from across the watershed, came together and developed a Watershed Management Plan for the Upper Grand River. One of the recommendations in that Plan was the creation of an umbrella organization to address water quality and land use issues that cross political boundaries. The Upper Grand River Watershed Council was formed initially, under Michigan's Local River Management Act. In 2008, the Watershed Council changed to a Watershed Alliance, under Michigan's Watershed Alliance Act, providing non-profit status. The Alliance is a partnership of many different groups all working to one end: restoring the river to meet water quality standards and to provide quality habitat and recreation".