18th Annual Hugh Heward Canoe Challenge April 29, 2017

Registration is open to all paddlers for the annual distance challenge

Registration is open for this year’s Hugh Heward Canoe Challenge on the Grand River: Saturday, April 29, 2017. The local paddling community and paddlers from around the region will launch canoes and kayaks on the Grand River and challenge themselves to complete distances of 50, 25, or 13 miles in one day. The event is sponsored by MGROW.

The event recreates a fascinating bit of Michigan history. In 1790, while looking for a navigable water route across lower Michigan, British fur trader Hugh Heward and his French-Canadian crew paddled over 50 miles on the Grand River in a single day, believing themselves to be pursued by unfriendly locals. Each year on the last Saturday in April, this event challenges modern paddlers to achieve the same distance—or, if they prefer, to take a more recreational approach and paddle half or quarter that distance.

“The Hugh Heward Challenge is a not-to-be-missed event among local paddlers,” said MGROW board president Loretta Crum. “We hope that others will join them and discover for themselves the history and beauty of our middle Grand River. “

Paddlers are invited to launch from Dimondale in the early morning, Grand Ledge mid-morning, or the Charlotte Highway Bridge in Portland around noon. The event ends at the Verlen Kruger Memorial at Thompson Field in Portland. Full details and online registration can be found at http://mgrow.org/hhc.

Heward’s sprint down the river was quite an adventure, according to Michigan historian and topologist Jim Woodruff. Using Heward’s original journals as a resource, Woodruff learned about Heward’s journey and wrote extensively on the subject. About Heward’s haste that day, he tells us:

“Paddling down the Grand at about Onondaga, Heward and his seven French-Canadian engages came across about a dozen Indians spearing sturgeon—an ‘ill looking band’ his journal says—with more coming through the woods,” Woodruff explained. “Concerned, they quickly traded some tobacco for a sturgeon and took off downstream, shooting the rapids at what is now Eaton Rapids and not stopping until dark, probably at today’s Burchfield Park. At dawn the next day—April 24, 1790—they hurried down the river through what is now Dimondale, Lansing, and Grand Ledge, camping that night on an island in the Portland State Game Area, a distance of approximately 50 river miles.”

In 2000, in the run-up to Grand River Expedition 2000, Woodruff challenged friend and canoeing legend Verlen Kruger to match Heward’s 50-mile feat. Kruger accepted the challenge and invited others to join; the Hugh Heward Challenge was born.

To register or get the latest news about the 18th Annual Hugh Heward Challenge, “like” the Hugh Heward Challenge’s Facebook page. You may register online now through Wednesday, April 26, by clicking this link: Hugh Heward Challenge 2017