My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Kayaking the middle leg of the Little Muskegon

Mike sent me a text Saturday evening, wondering if I would like to paddle on Sunday, and of course the answer was of course. After some confusion caused because I missed a text from him, we were able to meet up on Sunday morning to decide where to paddle.

I suggested Coopers Creek from the Kent County Park down to where it meets the Flat River above Greenville, Michigan, then floating the Flat into Greenville and taking out at the dam in town. I scoped that out this spring when the water was high, and it would have worked then. But when we got to where I thought we could pull out by the Greenville Museum, it would have meant a long, wet, muddy carry through some pretty thick brush, so we decided against it.

My next suggestion was what I call the middle leg of the Little Muskegon River. There are enough access sites to the Little Muskegon that you can do anything from an hour or two paddle, or even a weekend/overnight trip if you stay at the private Mecosta Pines Campground just west of the town of Morley. I’ve never camped there, so I can’t tell you much about the campground, other than that it’s there. If you did want to do an overnight paddle, you could start in Altona, paddle to Morley, spend the night there, then proceed on the next day.

I’ve always broken the Little Muskegon into three day-paddle sections, from Altona to Morley, which we did a few weeks ago, from Morley to either Daggett Road or Newcosta Ave./W. County Line Road, and from one of those down to where the Little Muskegon joins the Muskegon River at Croton Pond. Each of the three stretches of the river take from 4 to 6 hours to kayak or canoe, depending on how fast you paddle.

Normally, I go from Morley to Newcosta/ W County Line, but since we were getting a late start, I suggested Daggett Road instead to cut an hour or so off from the time. I should explain the name for Newcosta/ W County Line, that road is on the boundry between Mecosta and Newaygo Counties. Newaygo County calls it Newcosta Avenue, while Mecosta County calls it West County Line Road. To make it more confusing, it is also known as CR 607, but you’ll be able to see it on the map I’ll include later in this post.

Anyway, we dropped my Explorer off at Daggett Rd and headed to the dam in Morley to put in. The dam is right in town, you can’t miss it, and there is a city park there. While Mike was getting his gear stowed, I took a few pictures.

Cedar waxwing

That shows you what a beautiful day it was! We shoved off, and before we had really gotten going, I saw a little blue heron fly across the river in front of me. I ended up seeing three or four of them during the course of the day, but wasn’t able to get pictures, darn. It did set the tone for the day though, as we spooked a number of deer from the river’s edge, along with great blue herons, kingfishers, an eagle, lots of turtles, ducks, and more. Then there were the wildflowers, I should have taken more pictures of them, but I was too busy trying to notice everything we were seeing to take pictures, but I dd get one good one.

Wild iris

The Little Muskegon is a smaller river, with many twists and turns along the way. It actually gets twistier the farther down you go, until just before Croton Pond when it slows and straightens out a bit. One of the best things about it is that it is seldom crowded. We had a beautiful day with temps around 80, but we only saw 5 other kayakers on the river all day. There was a couple who were fishing from their kayaks, then a family of three later on. Part of that is because the Little Muskegon isn’t well-known, and part of it is because it is a smaller river, and it gets tight in places.

We had one portage, well, one lift over a freshly fallen tree. But, there were a few places where there was only enough room on the edges of log jams for a kayak to squeeze through, and one or two more places where we had to duck down under logs just above the water. The river kept us on our toes! There’s no whitewater except for a few short stretches of barely class I rapids on the lower river, below Newcosta/ W County Line Rd, and since we didn’t go that far, we just had some fast riffle water and rocks to negotiate around, and the logjams. Even though all the rivers are receding since we haven’t had much rain the last two weeks, I never ran aground hard enough to have to get out and walk, which sometimes happens on the Little Muskegon during dry summers.

Back to the wildlife, Mike and I spent most of our time pointing out birds and animals to each other as we went along, here’s a picture of a mother merganser playing injured to lead us away from her young.


And here’s one of the back-end of a very large snapping turtle that was sunning itself on a log three feet above the river.

Snapping turtle

 This one was huge! About 24 inches in diameter, but of course it was facing the wrong way. I was working my way around the log he was on when he decided I was too close and slid off the log, making quite the splash!

The only downside to the entire day was minor, the lithium batteries for my GPS unit lasted a whopping 2 hours and 17 minutes. Part of that is my fault, I know battery life is terrible, but I forgot to set the display to a screen that would have extended the battery life. However, the best I have gotten out of any batteries, lithium or alkaline, has been around 5 hours tops. That’s not acceptable performance as far as I am concerned, and I’ve heard DeLorme is no longer going to support the PN-40 model that I have. Oh well, I can make nice maps like this one for every one who wants information about our kayak trips.

Middle leg of the Little Muskegon River

You can click on the map for a printable version. As you can see, it took us about 4 hours to cover the almost 13 miles of river today. We were moving right along most of the time, but not in any hurry, and we only took a very short break to stretch our legs. It was too nice of a day to rush, and we were busy watching the wildlife for most of the trip. Either that, or we were working our way through the tight squeezes in some of the logjams.

We didn’t take a lunch break today, so by the time we finished our trip, we were famished. That meant dinner at the Moe-Z-Inn in Morley again. It’s one of those small town dives with really good food, and the service was even pretty good today.


5 responses

  1. Anne

    Hey there. I came across your post when trying to find info about the Little Muskegon. We’re looking at staying at Mecosta Pines this summer and tubing from somewhere up river to the campground. Is the river alright for tubing you think or better for paddle sports? Also, any advice on where to put in? We usually like to go at least 3 hours. Thanks so much!

    March 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    • The Little Muskegon is fine for tubing, lots of people do it. However, the campground is just a very short distance downstream from the dam in Morley. It would take you half an hour or so to tube from the dam to the campground. I wouldn’t try putting in above the dam to try for a longer trip, the pond behind the dam isn’t very inviting for people in a tube. You would be better off starting at the campground and floating down to Long Road, that would be about three hours in a tube. You can park along the road at the bridge. Hope this helps, and have fun, the Little Muskegon is a great little river.

      March 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      • Anne

        Sounds great! Thanks for the help.

        March 12, 2012 at 6:36 am

  2. Do you ever see other turtles on the little muskegon? I paddle most of the central and northern michigan rivers hoping to photograph turtles out basking (woods, maps, blandings, etc). I was thinking of trying the little muskegon for the first time next week. It sounds like a great river.

    June 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    • Hi Jason. I’m sure that I’ve seen turtles on the Little Muskegon, but since I’m not an expert on turtles, I can’t say which species, and I can’t recall how many, sorry.

      June 8, 2013 at 8:01 pm