Paddle Under Two Covered Bridges on a Flat River Kayak Trip
As Michiganders looked for ways to still enjoy this summer while maintaining social distance, kayaking became even more popular than in previous years. We made it out more times than ever before, spending most of our time on the Flat River in nearby Lowell. While we did several different trips of various lengths on the Flat River, the one we did most often and the one everyone agreed was the favorite is the five-mile Flat River kayak trip from White’s Bridge to Fallasburg Park and the Fallasburg Covered Bridge.
The Flat River is 70 miles in length, beginning in Montcalm County and flowing through Six Lakes, Gowen, Greenville, and Belding before reaching the Lowell area and its two covered bridges. The river empties into the Grand River (Michigan’s longest river) in Lowell, and the Grand then flows west to Grand Haven where it empties into Lake Michigan.
There are five dams on the Flat River that require portaging. The route we cover today avoids them, in future posts we will share some longer trips that involve the Whites Bridge Dam and Burroughs Dam.
The five mile paddle from Whites Bridge to Fallasburg Park and the Fallasburg Park takes around two hours. The trip may go quicker in the spring and other times when the water levels are higher; you can also make this a longer more leisurely float with less paddling.
This is a great river for beginners, as the route covers a stretch of the Flat River that is wide and mostly free of obstructions. When water levels are low, some sections will have exposed rocks that require navigating around.
The Flat River is a great place to see wildlife. On our trips we have seen many herons, a few bald eagles, and lots of fish.
This kayak trip begins at Whites Bridge in Ionia County. The covered bridge here was once the oldest of its kind still standing in Michigan. Arson destroyed it in 2013. After years of fundraising efforts, the bridge was rebuilt in 2020 and once again opened to vehicle traffic. There is a large parking lot here and a launch platform for putting kayaks in. The bridge is 120 feet long and was built using the Brown truss system.
The trip ends at Fallasburg Park in Lowell. As you get close to the Fallasburg Covered Bridge you will pass the disc golf course, playground, and outdoor space that is popular for summer weddings. Fallasburg PArk is home to one of our favorite North Country Trail segments in the area. The river widens and is incredibly still near the bridge, making it an ideal place to take kayaks out (after a quick paddle under the bridge of course). The Fallasburg Covered Bridge dates back to the 1870s and was also built using the Brown truss system. It is 100 feet long and is one of five Michigan covered bridges open to vehicle traffic (Whites Bridge, Langley Covered Bridge, Holz Brucke in Frankenmuth, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive)
We like to stage a vehicle at each bridge to make things easier. While it is possible to paddle upstream and float back down, it is a much more fun trip to just follow the flow of the river from Whites Bridge to Fallasburg Park! When you start looking at kayak trips for 2021, be sure to keep this one in mind!