Paddle the Flat River
Michigan › Whites Bridge Rd
Added by Rachell Leigh
This is a great water path that can be a short afternoon paddle or offer a full day of paddling. There is plenty of wildlife to view, including bald eagles and blue herons.
This adventure starts as any kayaking trip does: the great car-kayak shuffle. I’ll leave that planning to your group size, but I recommend a 2 car minimum, one left at the take out spot (Fallasburg Park or downtown Lowell behind the KDL Library) and the other parked at Whites Bridge Road. If you’re paddling with a larger group, I highly recommend shuttling as many people in one vehicle to the put-in spot as parking at Whites Bridge Road is limited. There is a parking lot on the opposite side of the river, but is quite a long drive since the actual bridge was burned down in 2013.
Starting point: Whites Bridge Road
Approx. Address: 1600 Whites Bridge Rd, Belding, MI
X/Y: 43.014345, -85.298037
Takeout Spot 1: Fallasburg Park Disc Golf Lot
Parking lot address: 14100 McPherson St NE, Lowell, MI 49331
X/Y: 42.9866591, -85.330065
Takeout Spot 2: Lowell KDL Library
Address: 200 N Monroe St, Lowell, MI 49331
X/Y: 42.935645, -85.338099
The paddle from the starting point to Fallasburg Park is relaxing and a short paddle: 5 river miles. Depending on the conditions, a float down the river can take 3 to 3.5 hours, but with aggressive paddling, it can take as little as 1.5 hours. There is a great island at the halfway point to eat lunch and use the ‘outdoor bathroom’. Please take all garbage with you and go to the bathroom far away from the river’s edge. This stretch is home to bald eagles and blue herons. Eagles can be spotted quite often. Also, if the sky is clear, fish can be seen swimming below (however, most are unfortunately carp).
Takeout will be on the east side of the river just after you go under McPherson St. I recommend checking it out during the car shuffle since there is a short walk to the parking lot. If you go under the covered bridge, you have gone too far.
If you’re planning on paddling through, this is still a great stopping point and has vault toilets for use as well as grills, picnic tables, etc.
The paddle from here to Lowell is more challenging and much longer. This stretch is approximately 7.5 river miles. Don’t let the distance fool you: the flow is much slower and there are shallow areas. I don’t recommend this stretch for beginner paddlers. It starts out going under the covered bridge, which is very beautiful. It meanders down to a ‘lake’. If it’s a windy day, paddling through the lake area can be quite exhausting. The river bends to the west here, so stick to the west/north side of the water for the shortest distance to the portage point at the dam.
This portage point is clearly marked. STAY AWAY FROM THE DAM. This portage is well maintained and kayaks can be dragged across a maintained mulch path to the other side.
Note: there is an additional passage way straight south from the river opening to the lake. I have not traveled this route, but there is a high intensity dam here. I do not recommend this route as 1. a portage point may not be available, and 2. very dangerous conditions. See the map in the photo for dam locations.
Once you have portaged over the dam, the water level drops. In September, I made it through with some difficultly, but stepping out of your kayak and walking a bit may be necessary. There are a lot of rocks here, so make sure to wear good, sturdy water shoes. The river then moves into a relaxing meander until widening to a slow flow/wetland area as you near Lowell.
Take out is on the east side of the river with a great EZ Dock ADA compliant take out spot.
Made it? Great! Now it's time to drink beer and relax.
Tip: There is a great dog-friendly brewery in Ada, MI called Gravel Bottom Brewery in case you want some brews and brought your dog along. It's a 'bring your own food' spot, but dogs are very welcome on the patio.
- Kayak/canoe/quiet water vessel
- Life vest
- Drinking water
- Safety whistle
- Dry bag
- Water shoes (waterproof if paddling in cold weather)
- Bug spray (the bugs have never been bad in the spot, but better safe than sorry)
- Sun screen
- Sun hat
- Hand Sanitizer
- Beer (please drink responsibly and in moderation, the parks are family friendly and you must consider safety first)
- Packed lunch
- Disc for course at Fallasburg
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Canoeing, Hiking, Kayaking
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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Nice Easy Paddle
My girlfriend and I paddled the flat in early July and it was absolutely beautiful. However, we planned a route that simplified the car-kayak conundrum. We put in at a launch that is near where the flat runs into the grand river. The launch is on very slow moving water an is right next the Lowell public library. There was plenty of room for parking as well. We only needed to take one vehicle because we paddled upriver for the first half which, as the name of the river suggests, was not especially challenging. This was a great idea for us because we only have one car that could transport our boats. We packed a lunch and water for the day and we decided to just paddle upstream until we got tired and then looked for a place to rest and eat. One rest place to turn around is about five miles upstream where there is a park you can beach the boats and hangout and eat. Following this we had a nice and easy downstream paddle back to the launch and this made for a good end to the route because the upstream section, however easy, took it out of both of us. On a side note, the launch by the library has a very user friendly kayak and canoe launch system that makes getting in and out of the water extremely easy and enjoyable for even the most inexperienced paddlers.
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