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From Mild To Wild Headline

Restore the Rapids

Bringing the rapids back to the Grand River in a safe and environmentally-responsible way requires careful planning and execution. Working closely with community partners, government agencies and river development experts, we looked at how we could remove the dams, revitalize the water flow and reimagine the river.

Ditch the Dams 01

We’ll remove five aging dams, including the Sixth Street Dam, thereby revealing the regionally rare bedrock rapids in the upper reach of the project area.

Let's Rock & Roll - 02

We’ll restore the lower rapids and reestablish a more natural river flow by installing boulders and substrate.

Protect the Watershed - 03

We’ll construct a new operable structure at the upstream end of the project (north of Leonard Street Bridge) to provide increased public safety and flood control, prevent non-native sea lamprey from spawning upstream, allow fish passage and provide recreational benefits.

Improve Creature Comforts - 04

We’ll improve habitat for fish and other aquatic species by restoring historic spawning areas of the threatened lake sturgeon, increasing opportunities for fish passage and connectivity, and improving the quality of habitat for federally endangered mussels.


According to a study by the Anderson Economic Group, restoring the rapids to the Grand River and expanding recreational use would result in a number of economic benefits.


visitors per year


annual economic impact

new jobs


in capital investments


The River

The Grand River is older than the glaciers. During the last Ice Age, as the large blocks of ice thawed, the river served as a drainage channel for the meltwater. Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Ottawa people established villages in and around what is now Grand Rapids. They believed the mist from the rapids to be the earth releasing its spirit and named the river Owashtanong, which means “Far away water”, because of its length. Its echo could be heard for miles as it rebounded off the neighboring trees. The river served as both a cultural and economic source for centuries. Bringing back the rapids won’t just restore its echo, it would return the spirit of the river back to the region.

History of the Grand River
History of the Grand River 3


Grand Rapids WhiteWater (GRWW) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, formed as an outgrowth of the Green Grand Rapids initiative to champion the restoration of the rapids on the Grand River. 

Started by Chip Richards and Chris Muller, the organization is led by Steve Heacock and Matt Chapman, and backed by an active board of directors. 

In 2013, the Grand River restoration initiative was designated an Urban Waters Federal Partnership project.

Working with numerous community partners, including design experts from the River Restoration Org., GRWW has led the planning, fundraising and permitting process.

This Grand is My Grand.

I support putting the rapids back in the Grand River. Please keep me informed on Grand Rapids WhiteWater’s progress so I can be part of this once-in-a-generation project.

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