Kayaking the Rogue River, Rockford, MI

Saturday has become my go-to day for adventures. The timing is always right after a busy week at the office, and I am always looking for a way to clear my head, exercise, and get my adrenaline flowing. Coworker and fellow adventurist, Jeff Englishmen and I knew we wanted to kayak something challenging this week as the previous week we did a pretty easy paddle in the White River, North of Whitehall. Jeff had done sections of the Rogue in the past and knew it would be fast this early in the season. There were also sections that he hadn’t paddled yet so we decided to start at the dam in downtown Rockford, MI and paddle back to downtown Grand Rapids. It was about a 17 to 18 mile paddle and we estimated it would take 5 to 6 hours.
Saturday morning was only about 41 degrees when we set out for the river. We took back roads to follow the river up to Rockford, so we could check out a few fast spots that have proved to be a bit challenging in Jeff’s past experience. We weren’t disappointed! The water was high and the river was fast. We drove to downtown Rockford and prepped the boats to set out right below the dam. We both stared at the river for a second and laughed, because it was moving. Jeff asked if I was having second thoughts, which I quickly replied “Not at all!” We both laughed knowing that we were just telling ourselves that and had know idea what to expect. That is what adventure is all about. If there’s no risk, then what’s the reward?
We geared up and shoved off right into the action. There wasn’t much time to get used to the rocky bottom and twisting river, because we were right in the midst of it. The next 7 miles proved to be quite challenging as we traversed the river around rocks, down rapids, and around eager fishermen. Jeff and I both had our moments where we almost went in, but were able to recover and keep paddling. The most challenging section of the river split into two and we had really no idea which way was better. We knew from the drive up that if we went right, then we were in for a ride that would probably dump us out of our boats. We chose left and shot out of a side current right into a log jam. We were both able to beach the boats and get out to see what our options were. We used logs to cross a small flow of water next to us so we could see what we were dealing with on the other side. We portaged over and chose our path wisely. What a blast!
The last mile of the Rogue before we hit the Grand River was a little more tame, but still really fun. Once we hit the Grand River, it was more like a lake paddle with a fast current and we were able to get a really good paddling workout. As we paddled through you start to get a really great view of the city and the many parks and recreation trails that Grand Rapids offers. We did the entire paddle in 4.5 hours with a couple stops along the way. This paddle isn’t for the faint of heart as the upper sections of the Rogue, below the dam, demands some skill for sure. The lower section, south of Packer Drive, was a great section that would be good for any level of kayaker with a few challenging spots left. I will be back Rogue River! Thanks for the adventure!

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