Michigan Kayak Trips: A Relaxing Afternoon Paddle on the Flat River (Fallasburg Park to Lowell)
The Flat River is quite possibly the best river in West Michigan for beginner paddlers to test their kayak skills. We were able to kayak somewhere between 80-100 miles on the Flat last year, and while our favorite stretch of the river was the one featuring two covered bridges we also did longer paddles like Belding to Fallasburg Park and Fallasburg Park to Lowell. Today we focus on the latter, a seven mile trip that is relaxing and scenic. We will share some pictures from this route, a map, and other helpful information. This route features more than a mile of wide open backwater (requiring some harder paddling depending on conditions) that more closely resembles a lake than a river, and there is one dam portage. Here’s a look at a great summer afternoon paddle on the Flat River, from Fallasburg Park to Lowell.
You have a couple of options when it comes to where to put in for this trip. Both times we did it this summer we staged a vehicle in Lowell by the boat ramp, and launched once from near the disc golf course and once from the picnic area by the covered bridge (both at Fallasburg Park). Each of these options gives you the chance to paddle under the 150 year old Fallasburg Covered Bridge as you begin your trip. The parking area by the covered bridge can get real busy in the summer, and if that’s the case the disc golf parking lot is much bigger and probably a better option.
After passing under the bridge, it is a very easy paddle for the first mile. The river flows at a decent pace as it makes a few bends, passing a handful of houses along the way. Keep an eye out for turtles, herons, eagles, and more on this stretch.
Two miles into this trip the river widens and you will have to do more paddling. This is the backwaters of the Burroughs Dam, and will feel more like paddling across a lake. The dam has a well-marked portage on the right. This is a great spot for a break to stretch, eat, and drink as you might be a little tired after paddling the last mile.
At the dam you will have to carry your kayaks for a few hundred feet back down to the river. There isn’t a great launch spot here, but as long as the water levels are normal you should have no issues. Our trip through here in late May of last year found the dam letting a bit more water out, which led to some issues as the current pulled a few of the members in our group over to the right bank and into some trees. If the water levels seem high here, consider putting in a bit further downstream.
The remaining four miles of this paddle are easy and can be taken at a relaxed pace. There are some shallower spots to watch out for, but for the most part the river remains scenic and calm. Three miles after the dam you will start to see more houses and eventually the Lowell skyline will come into view.
The Lowell boat ramp will be on the left side of the river, just upriver from the showboat. This a great place for taking out and we’ve also used it as a starting point for quick trips up and down the river.