|Dates:||May 16-18, 2014
Variable Distances (20-55 mi. per day)
America's Best Value Inn is offering a special discounted rate of $62.50 for all Pedal and Paddle participants.
Camping Available at Klines Resort - $25 per person for the weekend. (Register for camping along with your tour registration. Please do not contact Klines directly to pay for camping. )
$141 Adult LMB Member
|Kayak Upgrade:||Upgrade from Canoe to Kayak: $20 (for both days)
For more information about the Three Rivers area visit our hosts:
Route Overview PDF
(Note: Final routes may vary!)
- 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!
Tour Over, join us in 2015!
The Rider Information Booklet contains answers to most of your questions, please review carefully.
Itinerary (click on Rider Information button above for more information)
9:00 - 12:00 pm
Breakfast on your own!
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, May 16th
Our home base today is Klines Resort. Meet at the clubhouse for check-in, lunch, and orientation.
Biking Routes: Today we have a choice of twenty or thirty mile routes. Each takes you through flat to gently rolling farm country. Watch for multiple river crossings; these streams converge as tributaries feeding Portage Lake.
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.
We will follow county roads around Indian Lake. 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
Portage River Paddle: When you return to Klines Resort, park your bikes and don your vest for today's paddle on the Portage River. The river outlet is in the SE corner of the lake. If you are uncomfortable on open water (it's up to 35 ft. deep) you can hug the shoreline to reach the mouth of the river.
This is the start of a designated Michigan Heritage Water Trail. According to the web site: "Just upstream from here the river flows through the heart of the Nottawasepi Reservation of 1827, and by this water route the Native Americans of the region could access two large river systems: the St. Joseph and the Kalamazoo. Two Native villages are recorded in this area in pioneer accounts. Both were located a short distance from ...(the mouth of the river)... There was no doubt a busy commerce on the lake and on the river to and from these Potawatomi villages. Passing to the south of these settlements was the road connecting the Factoryville/Leonidas area with Flowerfield and the Kalamazoo settlements, now Michigan Avenue. The earthen approach to an earlier bridge is visible on the left a few minutes downstream."
After paddling under the Michigan Ave. and Silver Street bridges, you enter 3 miles of floodplain, formerly flooded by the Parkville Dam. The floodplain is now home to abundant wildlife and natural vegetation. As you approach Parkville, keep left at the fork of the old mill stream. Then align your canoe to float through the opening in the remnants of the Parkville Dam (built 1850-51, destroyed early 1930's). If you are unsure of the fast moving current, a portage is clearly visible just beside the dam.
Rounding the next corner, look right for a beaver lodge. Next you'll see the foundations of the original 1853 grist mill. The Dentler Mill produced up to15,000 bushels of wheat a year, much of which was carried by barge upriver to a railroad stop at the north end of Portage Lake. In its heyday, Parkville was also home to a sawmill, woolen mill, horse track, stables, churches, stores and a tavern. Only one noteworthy structure remains: the Dentler home lies just north of the river along Parkville Road.
Local kayaker Terri Loomis describes a recent trip: "Last week 6 of us paddled the Portage River from Portage Lake down to N. Fisher Lake Road which took us approximately 2 hours. It was a beautiful night with lots of things to see! Besides the beautiful landscape that mirrored on the river we saw at least 5 deer, great blue herons, king fishers, a giant snapping turtle lying on the bottom of the river, and lots of fish because the water was so clear. We got to the dam and two of us were going to portage around it, but Merritt led the way and we all shot through."
Our take out point is just beyond the old grist mill, at the base of the Parkville Road bridge. You will be shuttled back the resort for dinner.
DAY 2: Saturday, May 17th
Start your day with breakfast at one of our great hometown diners, a gourmet coffee shop, or at your hotel's breakfast bar.
Our Saturday base is in the City of Three Rivers, in the west parking lot behind the historic downtown. Look for a large tent between the railroad tracks and the river. Please park near the tent, and check in with the volunteers so we know you are on the road. After today's pedal we will return here to take a bus to the start of the Rocky River paddle. The Rocky returns us to Memory Isle Park.
BIKE ROUTES: All three routes start out together. 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 a choice of routes.
Red Route: (27 miles total) From the courthouse, head north past the Denton Mill (est. 1872), once the manufacturer of the Dr. Denton footed sleeper. Angle north-east and over the St. Joe River on Angevine Rd., then circle back over the Langely Covered Bridge and immediately right on Schweitzer Rd. to our LUNCH STOP at Covered Bridge Park.
Blue & Green Routes: Two longer routes head east on M-86 through Centreville. You'll find a variety of snack options, cafes, an Amish Market and even McDonald's as you continue east and pass the County Fairgrounds. 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. Nottawa Fruit Farm is our 2nd SAG stop (at M-86). Asparagus should be in season; there's also a bakery, jams and honey! You can leave your purchases with our SAG volunteers to bring back to Three Rivers. Continuing north, watch for the Amish schoolhouse along the route, and many Amish farms easily identified by their black buggies and laundry on the line. Several Amish businesses are also along our route and worth a stop.
At Prairie Corners is your next route option: The Green Route turns east toward Leonidas, or head west on the Blue Route and save 14 miles.
Green Route: (Leonidas Loop – 55 miles total) Heading east on Prairie Corners Road, pass Laird Cemetery and cross M-66. This Nottawa Prairie land was once part of the Nottawasepi Indian Reservation, a tribe of the Huron Band of the Potawatomi who now own Firekeepers Casino. Stay on Jacksonburg Road angling left past Leidy Lake. At the St. Joe River, the Bennett Road Bridge marks the crossing of the Washtenaw Trail and was the home site of the township's earliest settler in 1832.
Next we visit Leonidas – be sure to see its lovely fieldstone schoolhouse - and ride west to Rawson's King Mill Park (SAG stop). The story of this unique park was described in the 2012 obit 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.
Returning through Mendon, a short detour takes you past more historic structures: the Heritage Schoolhouse (1906), St. Edwards Catholic Church (1905), Wakeman House stagecoach inn (1843), and the Carnegie Public Library (1905). Leaving Mendon, head south across the St. Joe River again, where we rejoin the Blue Route.
Blue Route (41 miles total): From Prairie Corners, we ride west along the St. Joe River and rejoin the short route at Angevine Rd.
Turn south toward the causeway approaching the 1887 Langely 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. An historic marker stands at the south end, and tiny Gardner School (1845) stands nearby.
At Covered Bridge Park, it's time to rest and enjoy our boxed lunch from Yoder's Amish Market. (All three routes stop at Covered Bridge Park for lunch.) 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.
Only 8 miles to go! Below the dam, the St. Joe is wooded and lovely in springtime. 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.
Returning to our starting point, it's time to lock up your bikes, grab a water bottle and load the bus for our afternoon paddle.
ROCKY RIVER PADDLE: The Rocky River is the smallest and arguably most scenic of our "3" rivers. Upstream it offers brown trout habitat that is stocked annually by the 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."
So can kayaks; it's a Class 2 rapids! But check for conditions with our outfitter before trying it.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: At Memory Isle, grab your belongings and head for your car. The Rocky River rapids are just downstream and can be safely viewed from the pedestrian bridge that connects Memory Isle to the parking lot. If you walk across M-60 into Skidmore Park you can see where the Rocky joins the St. Joseph River at the stone lighthouse. Skidmore Park's Petting Zoo is also fun this time of year with all the newborn critters.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. Then again, you may want to rest up for tomorrow!
DAY 3: Saturday, May 18th
Today we pedal west into a region of rolling moraines left behind by the last ice age. Many small lakes occupy pits in the outwash and basins of the moraine. These lakes - and the hills surrounding them - reward us with beautiful springtime 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.
Our ride begins at Meyer Broadway Park, two miles west of Three Rivers on Broadway St. With 149 acres of woods and natural areas, you can return here later to explore the park's trails or play disc golf. Follow the drive north to the picnic pavilion.
We'll assemble under the pavilion for today's instructions, and where you don't want to miss a great breakfast prepared by Matt & Mike's. From here, we'll bike north pass the Coon Hollow Preserve. Watch the ducklings and search for tadpoles from the marsh edge trail. Next our route takes us near the grass bridge on the Rocky River. Stop to snap a photo from atop this rickety bridge over the Rocky River.
Route Options: You have two choices today. Both lead to our first SAG stop at Rouch Outdoor Equipment. Be sure to stock up on water here if you are taking the long route.
Now the routes turn south and wind around the narrow lakes that populate this area. The crystal clear waters and high banks on the shore indicate these are spring fed kettle lakes. Eventually the routes converge on hilly Corey Lake Road to our next SAG Stop at Corey Lake Orchard. While here, check out their fresh baked goods, purchase fruit and vegetables in season, or sample their home distilled brandies and Pole Cat wines. Ask the staff to set your packages aside; it's a short drive back to pick them up later.Turn left at the old country schoolhouse, then immediately right past the grapevines on delightful Van Selous Rd. At Krull Rd. you can either take the shortcut left toward Meyer Broadway Park, or follow the long route for some extra mileage in farm country.
Stop back at the volunteer tent at Meyer Broadway Park to end your tour and check out. We hope you have enjoyed discovering a few of the hidden treasures in River Country!
- All roads are paved
- Canoe/kayak Rocky and Portage Rivers
- Easy terrain
- Marked Routes w/ Maps
- Lunch and Dinner on Friday, Lunch on Saturday and Breakfast on Sunday
- SAG Services