From Nichol De Mol, Trout Unlimited
Over 50 people participated in the Rogue River Expedition, a 3-day public paddling and land tour to discover and experience conditions and opportunities of Michigan’s Rogue River and its watershed, held in June. The Rogue River Expedition grew out of the 2010 Grand River Expedition, an event where hundreds of paddlers explored more than 250 river miles over 12 days. That expedition is held once a decade. Its organizers decided some of the large tributaries to the Grand River should be paddled on alternate years between Grand River Expeditions. The first expedition was held on the Thornapple River in 2012, with the Rogue River following in 2014.
To kick-off the event, an opening ceremony was held at Howard Christensen Nature Center, followed by a land tour in the headwaters of the Rogue River watershed in Newaygo County. Participants learned about the historic Rice Lake area in Grant Township and how it currently is a hub for growing and packaging muck crops (onions, carrots, and beets). The land tour also included the Fruit Ridge Area just west of Sparta—one of the prime fruit-growing regions in the world. Participants finished the first day with a nature tour and campout at the nature center.
Despite rainy conditions, paddlers gathered at Rogers Park in Sparta the second day to learn about local organizations doing environmental work in the area, with a Watershed Showcase organized by the Rogue River Watershed Partners. Later in the morning, paddlers launched in to Nash Creek and then traveled down the Rogue River finishing up at Camp Rockford, along the Rogue River off of Rector Road. That evening, expedition members were shuttled to downtown Rockford to enjoy food and drinks from local businesses. On the final day of the expedition, educational activities on birds, fish, and stream insects were presented to participants and the public at Camp Rockford. Paddlers continued their journey on the Rogue River and stopped for a lunch presentation in Rockford from the Rockford Area Historical Society. Participants then paddled all the way down to the Rogue River’s confluence to the Grand River, and finished the journey. Expedition participants received a certificate and signed the Rogue River Expedition banner.
The Rogue River Expedition planning committee feels that we accomplished our goal of providing community outreach and drawing attention to the wonderful resources the Rogue River watershed provides. An equally important goal that was reached was to bring attention to the river and the local communities that it flows through. Thank you to our sponsors: the City of Rockford, Rogue River Expedition Planning Committee, Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited, and Trout Unlimited. We’d also like to thank Friends of the Rogue River Expedition, volunteers, partners, and participants for making the Rogue River Expedition a success.