Grand River

The Grand river begins south of the capital city of Lansing, MI and flows first north, then west through the agricultural towns of Portland, Ionia and Lowell before coming to Grand Rapids and ultimately entering lake Michigan through the port town of Grand Haven.  Our largest river in Michigan, it spans over 250 miles in all.  The Grand river is home to various warmwater species, including bass, pike, walleye, various panfish and more, but also gets a migratory run of fall Chinook and Coho salmon, fall lake run Brown Trout, fall Steelhead, spring Steelhead and summer run Skamania Steelhead, that search out cold tributaries to the Grand river spawn in.   Many fishing techniques, both fly fishing and spin tackle, can be affectively applied when fishing the Grand river due to the diverse species of fish that call it home and general makeup of such a big river.  Tributaries to the Grand include the Red Cedar River, Looking Glass River, Maple River, Flat River, Thornapple River, and the Rogue River.

Water flow data for Grand River – Grand Rapids, MI

Water flow data for Grand River – Ionia, MI

Map of Grand River Watershed


Grand Rapids History

The Grand Rapids area was first settled by Europeans near the start of the 19th century by missionaries and fur traders , who generally lived in reasonable peace alongside the Ottawa tribespeople, trading their European metal and textile goods for the fur pelts. Joseph and Madeleine La Framboise established the first Indian/European trading post in West Michigan and in present Grand Rapids, on the banks of the Grand River near what is now Ada . After the death of her husband in 1806, Madeleine La Framboise carried on, expanding fur trading posts to the west and north. La Framboise, a mix of French and Indian descent, later merged her successful operations with the American Fur Company and retired, at age 41, to Mackinac Island . The first permanent white settler in the Grand Rapids area was a Baptist minister named Isaac McCoy who arrived in 1825.

In 1826 Detroit-born Louis Campau , the official founder of Grand Rapids, built his cabin, trading post, and blackmith shop on the east bank of the Grand River near the rapids. Campau returned to Detroit and came back a year later with his wife and $5,000 of trade goods to trade with the native tribes. In 1831 the federal survey of the Northwest Territory reached the Grand River and set the boundaries for Kent County, named after prominent New York jurist James Kent . Campau became perhaps the most important settler when, in 1831, he bought 72 acres (291,000 m²) of what is now the entire downtown business district of Grand Rapids from the federal government for $90 and named his tract Grand Rapids. Rival Lucius Lyon , who purchased the rest of the prime land, called his the Village of Kent. Yankee immigrants and others began immigrating from New York and New England in the 1830s.

In 1836 John Ball , representing a group of New York land speculators, bypassed Detroit for a better deal in Grand Rapids. Ball declared the Grand River valley “the promised land, or at least the most promising one for my operations.”

By 1838 the settlement had incorporated as a village encompassing an area of approximately three-quarters of a mile (1 km) . The first formal census occurred in 1845 which announced a population of 1,510 and recorded an area of four square miles. The city of Grand Rapids was officially created on May 1 , 1850 , when the village of Grand Rapids voted to accept the proposed city charter. The population at the time was 2,686. By 1857, the city of Grand Rapids’ boundary totaled 10.5 square miles (27 km²).

 Furniture City

During the second half of the 19th century the city became a major lumbering center and the premier furniture manufacturing city of the United States . For this reason it was nicknamed “Furniture City”. After an international exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Grand Rapids became recognized worldwide as a leader in the production of fine furniture. National home furnishing markets were held in Grand Rapids for about 75 years, concluding in the 1960s. Today, Grand Rapids is considered a world leader in the production of office furniture.

The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad began passenger and freight service to Cedar Springs, Michigan on December 25 , 1867 . This railroad expanded service from Grand Rapids to Muskegon, northern Michigan and into Indiana and Ohio over the next few decades.

In 1880, the country’s first hydro-electric generator was put to use on the city’s west side[2] . With the new century, the people of Grand Rapids numbered 82,565. In 1916 the citizens of Grand Rapids voted to adopt a home rule charter that abolished the old aldermanic systems and replaced it with a commission-manager form of government, one of the first in the country. That 1916 Charter, although amended several times, is still in effect.

Grand Rapids was a home to the first regularly scheduled passenger airline in the United States when Stout Air Services began flights from Grand Rapids to Detroit (actually Ford Airport in Dearborn, Michigan ) on July 31 , 1926 .

In 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water.

Downtown Grand Rapids used to host four department stores: Herpolsheimer’s (Lazarus in 1987), Jacobson’s , Steketee’s (founded in 1862), and Wurzburg’s . Like most downtown regional department stores, they suffered the same fate of falling sales, caused largely by the flight to the suburbs, and consolidation in the 1980s and 1990s.

Today Grand Rapids boasts a metro population of nearly 800,000 people and with major industries including bio-science, aviation, education and furniture.

Weather Information

Grand Rapids, MI

Guide Services – Grand Rapids, MI