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Muskegon River
Muskegon River near Newaygo, MI in September 2012
Map of the Muskegon River
Country United States
State Michigan
Cities Evart, Big Rapids, Croton, Newaygo, Muskegon
Physical characteristics
Main source Houghton Lake
44°23′58″N 84°47′27″W / 44.39944°N 84.79083°W / 44.39944; -84.79083
River mouth Muskegon Lake
Muskegon, MI
43°15′41″N 86°14′53″W / 43.26139°N 86.24806°W / 43.26139; -86.24806
Length 216 mi (348 km)
Basin features
Basin size 2,350 sq mi (6,100 km2)

Muskegon River is a river in the western portion of the lower peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. The river source is located at Houghton Lake in Roscommon County, flowing out of the North Bay into neighboring Missaukee County. The river passes through Clare County, Osceola County, Mecosta County, Newaygo County, and Muskegon County, and generally flows southwesterly to its mouth at Muskegon, Michigan, where it empties into Muskegon Lake. Muskegon Lake is connected to Lake Michigan via a mile-long channel. The river has several major branches, such as the Hersey River, Cedar Creek and Little Muskegon River. The primary river channel is 216 miles (348 km) long and drains an area of 2,350 square miles (6,100 km2). In September 2002 an often cited article, National Geographic raised concerns about a controversial deal made with Nestle Waters North America giving them permission "to bottle up to 210 million gallons (about 800 million liters) a year from an aquifer north of Grand Rapids, Michigan that recharges the Muskegon River".


Like many of its neighboring streams, the Muskegon was one of the favored logging rivers during the boom years of the 1880s-1890s, and a keen eye can still pick out remnants of stray logs left over from the spring logging runs which are embedded on the river bottom.

Winfield Scott Gerrish is credited with revolutionizing lumbering in Michigan by building a seven-mile-long logging railroad from Lake George to the Muskegon River. However, there were several Michigan logging railroads in operation in the 1850s including the seven-mile-long Blendon Lumber Company railroad in Ottawa County which was the first in the state to employ a steam locomotive in May 1857.


The Muskegon River originates at the north bay of Houghton Lake, and flows in a northwesterly direction under US Route 127, meandering through marshlands located northwest of the main body of Houghton Lake. The river continues south where it forms the Dead Stream Flooding State Wildlife Management Area, and continues south towards Michigan Route (M-55) near the Ben D. Jeffs River Park. The river continues meandering southwesterly towards

At Evart, the river passes under US Route 10, and proceeds westerly near downtown Evart, skirting past the Evart Airport. The river overbank areas downstream of Evart become more densely populated with riverfront homes at this point, as the river continues to widen. near Hersey, Michigan. Residential development along the river becomes commonplace as the river curves south and west, taking a southerly course through Mecosta County.

Once the river nears US Route 131, it passes through Big Rapids, Michigan. The riverbanks in this area are more urbanized, with two bridge crossings located within the city. The river continues southerly to the Rogers Dam Pond formed by Rogers Dam, immediately upstream of the US Route 131 dual bridge crossing over the river.

After crossing under Michigan Route 20, the river begins to expand into the reservoir formed by Hardy Dam, with Croton Dam located downstream in Newaygo County. These two dams are hydroelectric dams owned and operated by Consumers Energy. At this point, the river becomes popular recreational area, known for river tubing, kayaking, and canoeing.

At Newaygo, the river passes under Michigan Route 37, and continues southwest once again through southern Newaygo county through less developed wooded areas adjacent agricultural lands. The river passes into Muskegon County shortly afterwards.

Once in Muskegon County, the river channel flattens out and widens, comprising the Muskegon State Game Area northeast of Muskegon, Michigan. Within this area, deer, geese, duck, and native waterfowl are present. The marshland upstream of the US Route 31 causeway is a popular fishing area for anglers.

After passing under the Michigan Route 120 bridges, the river empties into Muskegon Lake, which is a natural inlet area to Lake Michigan.


There is abundant wildlife, including otters, waterfowl, white-tailed deer, and eagles and, although development has been creeping in, the upper reaches are still fairly remote and natural with much of the surrounding land composed of state-owned tracts.

The Muskegon State Game Area is an 8,411 acre section of land which overlays the Muskegon River on the section between Maple Island Road and US Route 31. This state game area is accessible for licensed hunters. Permits can be obtained for whitetail deer hunting and waterfowl hunting. The Muskegon State Game Area spans both Muskegon County and Newaygo County.


  • In recent years, the river has gained a certain measure of fame as a recreational fishery, boasting large migratory steelhead, brown trout and planted Chinook Salmon.
  • People have also taken quite a liking to paddling down the river. It is Michigan's second largest river only to the Grand River. It is surprisingly quite slow, making it perfect for beginners learning in either a kayak or canoe.
  • Being such a peaceful river, it promises ample opportunities for viewing wildlife. This factor attracts tourists from across the state, and the world.

Camping is another popular activity around the river with there being several shoreline parks, and campgrounds. There are also various inns and cabins down the river that can provide a night, week's or a month's accommodations. Hunting is popular in the forests near by on public hunting land.


List of Bridge Crossings
Route Type City County Location
M-120 State Highway Muskegon Muskegon 43°15′16.53″N 86°14′10″W / 43.2545917°N 86.23611°W / 43.2545917; -86.23611
US-31 US Route 43°15′46.22″N 86°12′12.82″W / 43.2628389°N 86.2035611°W / 43.2628389; -86.2035611
Maple Island Road County Highway 43°19′5.34″N 86°2′20.11″W / 43.3181500°N 86.0389194°W / 43.3181500; -86.0389194
Warner Avenue County Highway Newaygo 43°20′50.16″N 85°56′23.23″W / 43.3472667°N 85.9397861°W / 43.3472667; -85.9397861
Bridge Street City Street Newaygo 43°25′1.02″N 85°48′29.51″W / 43.4169500°N 85.8081972°W / 43.4169500; -85.8081972
M-37 State Highway 43°25′22.36″N 85°47′53.80″W / 43.4228778°N 85.7982778°W / 43.4228778; -85.7982778
Croton Dam Pond Road County Road 43°26′6.003″N 85°39′54.41″W / 43.43500083°N 85.6651139°W / 43.43500083; -85.6651139
Hardy Dam Pond Road County Road 43°29′13.099″N 85°37′45.57″W / 43.48697194°N 85.6293250°W / 43.48697194; -85.6293250
M-20 State Highway Mecosta 43°35′2.19″N 85°31′34.85″W / 43.5839417°N 85.5263472°W / 43.5839417; -85.5263472
US-131 US Route 43°36′29.87″N 85°29′36.08″W / 43.6082972°N 85.4933556°W / 43.6082972; -85.4933556
South State Street County Road Big Rapids 43°36′27.53″N 85°28′50.43″W / 43.6076472°N 85.4806750°W / 43.6076472; -85.4806750
Maple Street City Street 43°41′55.32″N 85°28′35.14″W / 43.6987000°N 85.4764278°W / 43.6987000; -85.4764278
Riverwalk Pedestrian Bridge
Baldwin Street City Street 43°42′31.90″N 85°28′53.45″W / 43.7088611°N 85.4815139°W / 43.7088611; -85.4815139
White Pine Trail Non-Motorized Path 43°43′44.36″N 85°29′15.44″W / 43.7289889°N 85.4876222°W / 43.7289889; -85.4876222
Hoover Road County Road 43°46′43.68″N 85°30′0.83″W / 43.7788000°N 85.5002306°W / 43.7788000; -85.5002306
Hersey Road County Road 43°50′50.46″N 85°25′56.10″W / 43.8473500°N 85.4322500°W / 43.8473500; -85.4322500
Carlson Road County Road 43°52′21.52″N 85°21′26.33″W / 43.8726444°N 85.3573139°W / 43.8726444; -85.3573139
South Main Street City Street Evart 43°53′42.37″N 85°15′33.95″W / 43.8951028°N 85.2594306°W / 43.8951028; -85.2594306
US-10 US Route 43°54′3.46″N 85°15′17.06″W / 43.9009611°N 85.2547389°W / 43.9009611; -85.2547389
Pere Marquette Trail Non-Motorized Path 43°54′2.51″N 85°15′16.11″W / 43.9006972°N 85.2544750°W / 43.9006972; -85.2544750
50th Avenue County Road 43°56′2.87″N 85°11′17.98″W / 43.9341306°N 85.1883278°W / 43.9341306; -85.1883278
M-66 Michigan Highway Osceola 43°52′21.52″N 85°21′26.33″W / 43.8726444°N 85.3573139°W / 43.8726444; -85.3573139
M-115 Michigan Highway 43°59′10.23″N 85°5′24.82″W / 43.9861750°N 85.0902278°W / 43.9861750; -85.0902278
Railroad Railroad Clare 44°1′51.24″N 85°5′24.82″W / 44.0309000°N 85.0902278°W / 44.0309000; -85.0902278
M-61 Michigan Highway 44°2′14.42″N 85°2′0.99″W / 44.0373389°N 85.0336083°W / 44.0373389; -85.0336083
Leota Road County Road Missaukee
Cadillac Road County Road 44°14′55.15″N 84°53′47.35″W / 44.2486528°N 84.8964861°W / 44.2486528; -84.8964861
M-55 Michigan Highway 44°20′6.29″N 84°53′22.74″W / 44.3350806°N 84.8896500°W / 44.3350806; -84.8896500
US-127 US Route Roscommon 44°24′32.27″N 84°47′42.47″W / 44.4089639°N 84.7951306°W / 44.4089639; -84.7951306
Harrison Road County Road 44°24′14.87″N 84°47′27.53″W / 44.4041306°N 84.7909806°W / 44.4041306; -84.7909806

There are approximately 31 bridge crossings over the Muskegon River waterway. These bridge crossing include motorized vehicle crossings, railroads, and several pedestrian/bicycle trail crossings. The majority of the bicycle and pedestrian trail crossings are former railroad bridges which have been converted to non-motorized traffic.

Croton Dam Muskegon River DSCN1104
Boater on Croton Dam Pond


The three major dams of the Muskegon River (Rogers, Hardy and Croton) generate about 45,600 kilowatts, with about 30,000 of that from Hardy Dam. That is enough electricity to serve a community of nearly 23,000. The smaller Reedsburg Dam is near the source of the Muskegon River.

Name Height Purpose(s) Capacity (MW) Year Owner name Reservoir name Coordinates Comments
Croton 40 ft (12.2 m) Hydroelectric 8.85 1907 Consumers Energy Croton Dam Pond 43°26′14″N 85°39′50″W / 43.43714°N 85.66382°W / 43.43714; -85.66382 (Croton Dam)
Hardy 106 ft (32.3 m) Hydroelectric 30 1931 Consumers Energy Hardy Dam Pond 43°29′12″N 85°37′47″W / 43.48656°N 85.6296°W / 43.48656; -85.6296 (Hardy Dam)
Reedsburg N/A Flood control N/A 1940 Michigan DNR Dead Stream Flooding 44°21′22″N 84°51′33″W / 44.35612°N 84.8593°W / 44.35612; -84.8593 (Reedsburg Dam)
Rogers 43 ft (13.1 m) Hydroelectric 6.75 1906 Consumers Energy Rogers Dam Pond 43°36′48″N 85°28′44″W / 43.61320°N 85.47894°W / 43.61320; -85.47894 (Rogers Dam)
Total 45.6

Cities and towns along the river

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