Registration is now open!
September 16-18, 2016
Variable Distances (20-55 miles per day)
Riders must secure their own lodging. Limited camping is available at Klines Resort for $30 per person for Friday and Saturday. (Register for camping along with your tour registration. Please do not contact Klines directly to pay for camping.)
$155 Adult LMB Member
NEW Saturday Only Option!
Upgrade from Canoe to Kayak:
- Helmets are required!
- Riders must carry spare tubes and be able to change a flat.
- Riders must have at least one water bottle on their bicycle.
- Riders must have a positive attitude at all times!
Description (Subject to change)
Breakfast on your own!
8:00 - 9:00 am
7:30 - 8:30 am
Welcome to "River Country," the name given the area's scenic farmland, meandering roads and rivers. Dotted with historic towns, Native American names, and Amish farms, River Country has more navigable waterways than any other county in Michigan thanks to its hundreds of small lakes, rivers and streams. Our three day tour will immerse you in the diverse geography, history, flora and fauna of this beautiful corner of Michigan.
DAY 1: Friday, September 16 (Subject to Change)
Our home base today is Klines Resort. Meet at the big tent outside for check-in.
If you have registered for tent camping, the Klines will be here to assign your lakefront site and help you get oriented. We’re taking over the lakefront for our temporary tent village, so be sure to thank the locals for accommodating us this weekend!
Non-campers should use the lower clubhouse parking lot. Stage your bikes here for an optional afternoon ride.
OPTIONAL BIKE ROUTES: If you arrive early, you have the option of riding one of two routes on your own before things get underway officially. Each takes you through flat to gently rolling farm country. Watch for multiple river crossings; these streams converge as tributaries feeding Portage Lake. Just be sure you're back to Kline's in time for dinner!
Both routes take us north into Kalamazoo County, where the Village of Vicksburg holds a Farmer's Market each Friday at the Community Pavilion in the Historic Village. SAG stop and restrooms will be found here, and you can see the original Union Depot, Strong Schoolhouse, and Vicksburg Commercial print shop. Click here for the interesting story of the timber frame construction for the new Community Pavilion.
Green Route (32 miles total): Opposite the Historic Village, follow the paved rail trail leading north 1.8 miles to the Vicksburg Recreation Park. At trail’s end, we follow county roads around Indian Lake where you’ll find the next SAG stop. Turning south, we merge with the Red route after crossing “W” Ave on 27th Street.
Red Route (21 miles total*): Follow the “Dan Henry markings” back through the village. Heading east on “W” Ave, watch for the turn on 27th St. south. We’ll cross 2 branches of the Portage River and Bear Creek as we continue to meander around Portage Lake. Watch for the last bridge on Michigan Avenue; you’ll be paddling under this bridge shortly! (*If you want to experience the rail trail, it’s only an extra 3.6 miles to follow the Green route to the end of the rail trail and then back to the historic village.)
The day caps off -- and the tour kicks off -- with dinner at 7:00 pm, followed by a riders' meeting. It'll be a great opportunity to meet your fellow bicycle travelers, and all the tour staff and volunteers. More details coming soon.
DAY 2: Saturday, September 17 (Subject to change)
Start your day with breakfast at one of our great hometown diners, a gourmet coffee shop, or at your hotel’s breakfast bar. Those camping at Klines Resort are invited to coffee hour at the clubhouse, where you can sample our local favorite, Sweetwater doughnuts.
Our Saturday base is in the City of Three Rivers under the pavilion at Memory Isle Park. Take Constantine St. north at Pizza Hut to the Memory Isle parking lot, and check in with the volunteers so we know you are on the road. If you missed the Friday rider’s meeting, please arrive at the pavilion by 7:30 for orientation.
BIKE ROUTES: Get out your maps and let's get started! Today’s routes offer diverse biking. They begin and end here at the pavilion, so you can gauge your time if unsure how many loops to take. Because of our SAG stop times, you must take the Covered Bridge route first and return here for lunch. Then you can decide among the remaining options after lunch depending on your interests and the time. Everyone needs to be back before the last canoe shuttle bus leaves later this afternoon.
Morning Red Route (27 miles): Follow the Red route south of Three Rivers into the Michigan-Indiana Prairie. This fertile soil drew settlers to the region and continues to serve the nation's breadbasket. After crossing the St. Joseph River, you will enjoy great views of this broad, fertile farmland. The area specializes in producing hybrid seed corn; looking south you can see a seed corn processing plant. Center pivot irrigation systems dot the landscape; our abundant surface and ground water gives St. Joseph County the most irrigated farmland east of the Mississippi.
Arriving in the county seat of Centreville, courthouse square is the site of our first SAG stop. The 1900 county courthouse has been lovingly restored and remains in use. From here, you have an option to extend your ride west on the GREEN route, or continue back to Three Rivers on the Red route. (See GREEN Route below)
From the courthouse, the red route heads north past the Denton Mill (est. 1872), once the manufacturer of the Dr. Denton footed sleeper. Angle north-east on Angling Road, then north and over the St. Joe River on Angevine Rd. (GREEN route rejoins here).
Turn left on Leland and continue to Culbertson Cemetery - the "cemetery in the middle of the road" – where you turn south on Covered Bridge Rd. and the causeway approaching the 1887 Langley Covered Bridge. You may want to walk your bike through the bridge to enjoy the view and protect your tires on the uneven wood planks. At 282 feet, it's the longest of Michigan's few remaining covered bridges. Don’t miss the historic marker standing at the south end, and tiny Gardner School (1845) nearby.
Turn immediately right on Schweitzer Rd. It’s nearly a mile to Covered Bridge Park, our next SAG stop. A short hike leads to the Sturgis Dam, whose construction in 1910 forced the addition of the causeway and the bridge to be raised 8 feet. Electricity generated here supplies the City of Sturgis 14 miles to the southeast, one of the few cities its size to own a power company.
Don’t rest too long; only 8 miles to go, and lunch is waiting just ahead! Below the dam, the St. Joe is wooded and showing some early fall colors. Winding our way back to town, we pass Lockport Township Hall and Noah Lake - a favorite fishing spot. The river widens as we approach the next hydroelectric dam in Three Rivers, the former site of a WWII munitions factory.
Morning GREEN Route Option: To add an interesting 14 miles to your morning route, follow the GREEN markers to head east on the wide shoulder of Main St (M-86) out of Centerville. You'll find a variety of snack options, cafes, an Amish Market and even McDonald's. Consider a detour thru the Fairgrounds. The St. Joseph County Fair begins tomorrow, so there should be lots of action!
We turn south, passing top-ranked Island Hills Golf Course, before winding through our lovely Glen Oaks Community College campus. As you leave campus, watch for the 1887 Nora Hagan Farmhouse. Soon you are pedaling around Lake Templene, one of the few man-made lakes in the region.
Watch out for buggies (and their roadside evidence) as you head north into Amish country. Check out Nottawa Fruit Farm on your way by; apples will be in season; there's also a bakery, jams and honey! Continuing north, watch for the Amish schoolhouse. Amish farms are easily identified by their black buggies and laundry on the line. Several Amish businesses are also along our route and worth a stop.
From Prairie Corners, we ride west along the St. Joe River and rejoin the RED route at Angevine Rd. Watch the “John Henry’s” for the little jog north and continue west to Culbertson Cemetery (see Red Route for details on trip back to Three Rivers).
Returning to Three Rivers, it's time to enjoy lunch, recover and decide which route to take this afternoon. If you have time, check out the Skidmore Park Farmers Market just across M-60 from LA Café.
Afternoon Routes (15, 25, or 30 miles):
This afternoon the terrain shifts from farmland to a region of rolling moraines left behind by the last ice age. Narrow spring fed kettle lakes occupy pits in the outwash and basins of the moraine, and are popular for their crystal clear waters and high banks. These lakes - and the hills surrounding them - reward us with beautiful fall views and surprises around every corner. They have attracted visitors since the late 1800's, and are the site of many summer homes, camps and retreats.
GREEN Route (25 or 30 miles): Heading west out of town on Hoffman, for the long route follow the GREEN route north on Pulver and east on Mohney Lake to Cowling. Here you’ll find our first photo op, a preview of the Rocky River grass bridge. Stop for a picture or walk across this long abandoned structure. You’ll be paddling under this bridge later today! If you’re running short on time, take the BLUE shortcut to save 5 miles by backtracking west and following Mohney Lake Road (it takes a little jog north at Ruggles). Or follow the route north. Either way takes you to our first SAG stop at Rouch Outdoor Equipment. From there, follow the route south along Long Lake and Corey Lake. Turn left on hilly Corey Lake Road and watch for our next SAG Stop at Corey Lake Orchard.
RED Route (15 miles): For an even shorter route, follow the RED route the entire way. From Hoffman turn south on Kerr Creek Road for half a mile, then right for 3 miles on Coon Hollow. This winding road rejoins the long route at Shafer Brothers Rd., and south to Corey Lake Rd.
ALL ROUTES: At Corey Lake Orchard, check out their fresh baked goods, purchase seasonal fruit and vegetables, or sample their home distilled brandies and Pole Cat wines. Ask the staff to set your packages aside; we’ll have them waiting for you at Memory Isle later.
Leaving the orchards, turn left at the old country schoolhouse, then immediately right past the grapevines on delightful Van Selous Rd. Watch the road markings carefully since we follow a different return route into town, up the hill on Roberts Rd. and then past Walmart on Millard Rd. Take care crossing 131 as you follow Millard into Three Rivers.
When you arrive back at Memory Isle, lock up your bikes, refill your water bottle and load the bus for our afternoon paddle. Accessible restrooms are available at our registration tent for changing clothes and other necessities. We’ll be loading the first bus at 3 pm. Last bus leaves at 3:20 pm.
ROCKY RIVER PADDLE: The Rocky River is the smallest and arguably most scenic of our "three" rivers. Upstream it offers brown trout habitat that is stocked annually by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Downstream, some 19 species of fish have been found, including rock bass, northern pike, crappie, smallmouth and largemouth bass. For more information on the fishery, follow this link.
According to the DNR, "Flowing through a patchwork of active and fallow farmland, swamps, and small blocks of forests, the Rocky River watershed is large, encompassing more than 100,000 acres. There are 13 tributaries... and it is estimated to be 25 miles long... Development along the river is limited to farms... Only one dam exists on the main stream, located at the confluence with the St. Joseph River (just past the end of today's paddle). In high water times, fish can navigate this low structure."
The Rocky allows for either a lazy float or a more aggressive paddle – it's up to you! With a steady current and fewer obstacles than yesterday, allow under 2 hours if paddling hard; or up to 3 hours if you are drifting or stopping along the way. Watch for the picturesque abandoned bridge near Cowling Road. Yes, it's safe to paddle under!
After floating under US 131, watch on the left for the dock at Brewsters Restaurant. If you have time, stop in for a snack or beverage. It's a short paddle from here to our landing at Memory Isle Park.
Après Tour: Don’t leave without seeing the Rocky River rapids just downstream from your take out at the park. For best views use the pedestrian bridge that connects Memory Isle to the city parking lot. From here, cross M-60 into Skidmore Park to see where the Rocky joins the St. Joseph River at the stone lighthouse.
You're on your own for the evening; check your packet for some of our local dining options, from pizza and American diner food to Chinese or Mexican. After dinner, shop the historic downtown and stop in for a drink or a show at the beautifully restored Riviera Theater (50 N Main). You could head east on M-60 for some country line dancing at Cowboy Up, or enjoy dinner at the clubhouse at Island Hills or Fisher Lake Inn. Then again, you may want to relax and rest up for tomorrow!
DAY 3: Sunday, September 18 (Subject to Change)
Klines Resort is our base again today! We’ll assemble in the dining hall for today’s instructions, and to enjoy a not-to-miss breakfast prepared by Matt & Mike’s.
If you registered for the optional paddle today, meet your guide at the marina boat ramp just south of the clubhouse. Note: You must bring your own canoe or kayak or have one reserved in advance.
The upper Portage Creek passes through a huge wetland area where wildlife is abundant. Watch for muskrat, beaver, turtle and snakes, a variety of water fowl, and even an eagle’s nest as you pass through this important wetland resource. Your paddle brings you back to the resort, where you can either call it a day, explore more on your own, or hop on your bike for a final spin. (If you bike, just be aware that the SAG stop may be closed before you arrive so stock up on water and snacks.)
Ride Options (19, 22, or 29 miles):
Red Route (29 miles): Today we’ll be touring more of St. Joe County’s agricultural base, including parts of Nottawa Prairie land once belonging to the Nottawasepi Indian Reservation, a tribe of the Huron Band of the Potawatomi who now own Firekeepers Casino in Battle Creek. We’re riding just north of the St. Joe River, and will pass close to the crossing of the Washtenaw Trail, site of the township's earliest settler in 1832.
First we head to Parkville, one of the earliest settled communities in the state. There’s not much left today of this once bustling mill town. According to Wikipedia, “a mill pond and races on the Portage River provided power for a woolen factory built in 1851, a saw mill, and a grist mill built in 1853. In 1877 it had the mills and factory, three churches, two blacksmiths, a tavern, and a school.”
From the Portage River Bridge, look east to see the remains of the flour mill which was in operation until the early 1930’s. The Portage River dam allowed barges to carry flour upstream from here to a railroad crossing at the north end of Portage Lake.
Next we zig-zag into the Village of Mendon. Head into town to see historic structures: the Heritage Schoolhouse (1906), St. Edwards Catholic Church (1905), Wakeman House stagecoach inn (1843), and the Carnegie Public Library (1905). If you need a bathroom or beverage, both the Shell and Marathon stations are open on Sunday.
From Mendon head east to Rawson's King Mill Park (SAG stop). The mill once cut lumber which was floated from here all the way to Lake Michigan! Later it was converted to a grist mill. The story of how it became a county park is relayed in the 2012 obituary for its donor, Eston Rawson:
In 1967, Eston and Lydia Rawson purchased the King Flour Mill, in Leonidas, and spent the rest of their lives restoring the Mill and sharing the property with the residents of St. Joseph County. After retiring… in 1975, Eston and Lydia worked together to restore the Mill to its former beauty, and added rock walls and gardens which embraced the islands and grounds. Eston also adapted the water powered mill to generate electricity which provided their electric power. In 1991, Eston and Lydia gifted the Mill and 4 acre garden property with two islands to St .Joseph County as Rawson King Mill Park so that all could enjoy the beauty they had created.
Nottawa Creek is also a great river to paddle, if only we had time…
It’s a short trip from here to Leonidas. The rocky soil in these fields provided material for many stone structures, including a beautiful church and school you can see by taking a short detour south across M-60 into the village. Now head north to Michigan Ave. and enjoy the beautiful ride due west back to the Resort.
Blue Shortcut Options: To shorten this route, simply head north at any point to Michigan Avenue and rejoin the long route. If you turn north at Nottawa Rd., you trim 10 miles off the route. If you head north on Riddle, you trim 7 miles. You will miss the SAG stop, but you still pass through Mendon where there are plenty of choices for food and drink.
Après Tour: When you return to Klines Resort, stop by the tent for a light lunch before heading home. Now that you are acquainted with some of River Country’s biking and paddling routes, we hope you’ll return for more! The county is actively working to improve access on our many waterways. Visit www.rivercountry.com for more ideas, bike route maps, outfitters, and more.
- All roads are paved
- Canoe/kayak Rocky and Portage Rivers
- Easy terrain
- Marked Routes w/ maps
- Friday hors d' oeuvres reception
- Saturday and Sunday lunch, Sunday breakfast
- SAG Services