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The Grand River Valley: scenes from a river

Updated on November 29, 2017

A river has many moods

The Grand River valley in Lansing, Michigan is a good reflection of its community and culture. Like all rivers, it is used by people for navigation, hydroelectricity and recreation. Unlike some rivers, it is seldom dangerous or unmanageable. Perhaps most surprisingly, it offers striking contrasts within a fairly compact habitat and ecosystem.

Frances Park: a splash of old Europe in young Lansing

Frances Park is one of the most beautiful parks in mid-Michigan. It is situated on a bluff overlooking the Grand River, and has typical recreational facilities such as basketball, soccer and playground equipment and hiking trails. But what makes it so special is its formal gardens, lovingly maintained throughout the year. Featuring many award winning varieties of roses, it offers a seeming escape from the pleasant but usually rural character of this area. Especially attractive in spring with many trees and bushes in full blossom, it is a natural for wedding receptions and photographers, a true taste of heaven on earth!

"Michigan Princess" riverboat: a floating excursion into the past

Moored along the Grand River is a unique concept in river entertainment. The "Michigan Princess" riverboat harks back to an earlier day when life was often lived out on America's rivers. Instead of carrying cotton or gamblers, however, this boat takes excursions up and down the river valley, offering a variety of thematic cruises. In autumn, fall foliage cruises are popular, while at other times murder mystery voyages are the featured attraction. Obviously, parties and wedding receptions are regular attractions , with a special ambience that is hard to rival. With its tall stacks and rear paddlewheels, this vessel recaptures a hint of Mark Twain's Mississippi atmosphere.

Moore's Park area: a curious juxtaposition of recreation and industrialism

Further down the valley, there is a strange mixture of industrial-utilitarianism and recreation. On one side of the river , there is Moore's Park, a nice oasis of green with lawns and trees. On the other, a large municipal power plant operated by the Lansing Board of Water and Light offers a real throwback to the days of coal and steam. Nearby, there is also a General Motors plant which reinforces the image of strong industrialism. There are a few places in America like this--notably, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area adjacent--but this complex must still be regarded as unique. A dam with fishing and occasional waterskiiers adds to the surprising mixture.


The different reflections of this river valley clearly show its moods and contrasts over time. With so many uses and unusual contrasts, it possesses both heart and soul. It can only be hoped that future policies and development along its corridor will respect the diversity of interests that are inevitably found in any urban setting.

Frances Park overlooking the Grand River

Photo courtesy of Lansing Parks & Recreation
Photo courtesy of Lansing Parks & Recreation | Source

View looking toward the rose gardens

Photo courtesy of Lansing Parks $ Recreation
Photo courtesy of Lansing Parks $ Recreation | Source

View looking toward the overlook arbor

Courtesy of Lansing Parks & Recreation
Courtesy of Lansing Parks & Recreation | Source

"Michigan Princess" on the Grand River

Photo Courtesy of J&K Steamboat, Grand Ledge
Photo Courtesy of J&K Steamboat, Grand Ledge | Source

Moore's Park Dam further down the river

Moore's Park Dam as seen from downstream
Moore's Park Dam as seen from downstream | Source


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