BY MATT DEYOUNG
My favorite book as a kid was Wilson Rawls’ classic, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”
In that story, young Billy dreams of owning a hunting hound. His desperate desire for a dog nearly drives him mad.
I had the same affliction as a boy, but it wasn’t a dog I craved. It was a boat.
Billy grew up in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, where ‘coon hunting ruled.
I grew up on the shore of Millhouse Bayou, a small lake that branches off the Grand River in Grand Haven Township, and in my world, there was nothing more important than a boat.
You see, Grand Haven and Spring Lake are a paradise for boaters.
The Grand River is a special place. Michigan’s longest river has quite a bit to offer along its entire length, but from Grand Rapids downstream to Lake Michigan, it’s a wide, gently-flowing river that’s perfect for canoe paddlers and kayakers as well as power boaters. The Grand isn’t deep — it’s less than 10 feet deep in most places and only 5 feet deep or less in many spots. But unlike the small, winding rivers in the northern part of the state, the Grand is open enough, and deep enough, to accommodate fishing boats, speed boats and pontoon boats.
Several bayous branch off the Grand River, as does Spring Lake, a truly special place that’s a hot bed for pleasure cruisers and water sports lovers alike.
Follow the Grand River downstream past the big marinas, under the bascule bridge and around the power plant, and you’ll arrive downtown.
Here boaters can moor along the breakaway and peruse downtown Grand Haven or continue on through the pier heads into Lake Michigan.
Navigating Lake Michigan takes a bit of know-how when it comes to handling the waves that come at you relentlessly, but on calm days, Lake Michigan is a boaters’ paradise — a wide-open expanse of pristine water stretching as far as the eye can see.
Those who want to experience this truly world-class waterway can find several access points, starting just a short ride from Lake Michigan and continuing for miles down the Grand River.
The most popular launch is located on Harbor Island, just west of U.S. 31, south of the drawbridge. A pass is required to launch your boat; daily passes are available at the launch ramp. The launch gets quite busy during the summer months. This launch offers you the easiest access to the channel and Lake Michigan.
Other boat launches include:
- Petty’s Bayou in Spring Lake
- Mill Point Park, School and Exchange streets, Spring Lake
- River Haven Marina, 15006 120th Ave., Grand Haven
- Odawa/Battle Point Launch, 14091 144th Ave., Grand Haven
- East Grand River Park, east end of Beechtree St. in Grand Haven
- Bruce’s Bayou East, end of 132nd Ave., Spring Lake