Romancing the river

By Randy Johnston
Special to the Osceola Edition

MARION — On Saturday morning, a group of river enthusiasts left Leota to begin a daylong adventure paddling down the scenic Muskegon River. Hours later, tired and hungry, they pulled their canoes and kayaks ashore at the Old Log Resort on M-115 near Marion for a well-earned rest. The trip from Leota was just one segment of a demanding 10-day trek that began on June 8 and will take 13 rugged individuals the full length of the river from the headwaters in Houghton Lake, southwest through Osceola County, to Muskegon where it empties into Muskegon Lake. The journey along the 217-mile river is a special event, named “Voyage of Discovery” by its sponsor, the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly. The kickoff ceremony was held at Reedsburg Dam near Houghton Lake and the finale celebration will take place on June 18 at Fisherman’s Landing in Muskegon. As the participants enjoy the river’s natural beauty and wildlife sightings, they also pursue the goals of the organization, a nonprofit group dedicated to the protection, restoration and sustainable use of the Muskegon River. They will collect and test water samples, document signs of shore erosion, pinpoint problems for recreational canoeists and kayakers such as fallen trees and submerged logs and carry out other initiatives to assist in preservation of the river. Traveling with the group is a professional photographer who will capture the unique beauty of the river and the wildlife it supports. The organization plans to publish a pictorial journal of the voyage available for sale to the public. With more than 2,000 members at present, the assembly was founded 12 years ago by volunteers to assess the health of the Muskegon River and implement strategies to preserve it for the enjoyment of future generations of outdoor lovers. The group’s administrative offices are located at Ferris State University in Big Rapids. “Voyage of Discovery is the first event of this type that we have sponsored,” said Wayne Groesbeck, chairman of the assembly. “We hope to gain a lot of knowledge from the trip that we can use in making recommendations about what needs to be done to keep improving the river and the surrounding areas.” Local support for the goals and activities of the assembly came from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6015 of Marion. The VFW Ladies Auxiliary responded to a request to prepare an evening meal for the canoeists, kayakers and other assembly members who were on hand at the Old Log Resort. “We were glad to provide a meal for everyone,” said Donna Geyer of the Ladies Auxiliary. “Our Middle Branch River in Marion is a tributary of the Muskegon, and the condition of all the rivers is important to our community. We need more groups and people working on preservation and environmental issues.” A father and son team from Marion were among those who enjoyed the hot meal. Jason Keeler, science teacher at Marion High School, and his son Joshua are participating in Voyage of Discovery together. “It was a long day today, but fun too,” said Joshua, who will be a senior at Marion High School next year. “The trip is a great way to promote awareness of the need to take care of the river and make younger people think about preservation.” “We all appreciate a hot meal,” said Craig Simons from North Muskegon. “We want to thank everyone at the Marion auxiliary for the fabulous food.” The full itinerary of Voyage of Discovery is posted on the assembly website ( ). The progress of the team is tracked day by day with photos and highlights of each part of the trip. The website also features further details about the assembly, a membership application and information on future activities.