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Muskegon River

Coordinates: 43°15′41″N 86°14′53″W / 43.26139°N 86.24806°W / 43.26139; -86.24806
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Muskegon River
Muskegon River near Newaygo, MI in September 2012
Map of the Muskegon River
CountryUnited States
CitiesEvart, Big Rapids, Croton, Newaygo, Muskegon
Physical characteristics
SourceHoughton Lake
 • locationRoscommon County, MI
 • coordinates44°23′58″N 84°47′27″W / 44.39944°N 84.79083°W / 44.39944; -84.79083
MouthMuskegon Lake
 • location
Muskegon, MI
 • coordinates
43°15′41″N 86°14′53″W / 43.26139°N 86.24806°W / 43.26139; -86.24806
Length216 mi (348 km)
Basin size2,350 sq mi (6,100 km2)
 • locationMuskegon, MI

The Muskegon River (/məˈskɡən/ mə-SKEE-gən) is a 216-mile-long (348 km)[1] river in the Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. From its source at Houghton Lake in Roscommon County, the river flows in a generally southwesterly direction to its mouth at Lake Michigan at the eponymous city of Muskegon. The river drains an area of 2,350 square miles (6,100 km2),[2] and collects a number of tributaries, including the Little Muskegon River, Hersey River, and Clam River.

In September 2002, an article in National Geographic raised concerns about a controversial deal made with Nestlé 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".[3]

Description of the watershed[edit]

The Muskegon River watershed drains 2,350 square miles (6,100 km2) from ten counties in north central Michigan: Muskegon, Newaygo, Mecosta, Clare, Osceola, and Roscommon. The watershed flows through the cities of Muskegon, Newaygo, Big Rapids, Evart, and Houghton Lake. The river follows a southwesterly route through north central Michigan from its headwaters at Houghton Lake to its mouth at Muskegon Lake, which ultimately empties into Lake Michigan.

There are three man-made reservoirs on the Muskegon River, the Rogers Dam Pond, Hardy Dam Pond, and the Croton Dam Pond. All three dams on the river are owned and operated by Consumers Power for power generation purposes. Rogers Dam is located in Mecosta County south of Big Rapids, with Hardy Dam and Croton Dam located in Newaygo County.


Like many of its neighboring streams, the Muskegon was one of the favored logging rivers during the boom years of the 1880s-1890s. Remnants of stray logs embedded on the river bottom, left over from the spring logging runs, can still be seen along the river. The river is significant to the Algonquian peoples for fishing and hunting.

Winfield Scott Gerrish established a seven-mile-long logging railroad from Lake George to the Muskegon River.[4] 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.[5]


There is abundant wildlife, including black bear, otters, waterfowl, white-tailed deer, and bald eagles and, despite increasing development, some areas 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.[6] 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.


Camping is another popular activity around the river, with several shoreline parks and campgrounds. 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 Osceola 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 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 44°8′19.66″N 84°53′53.59″W / 44.1387944°N 84.8982194°W / 44.1387944; -84.8982194
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.

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. This provides enough electricity to serve a community of nearly 23,000.[8] 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[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed November 21, 2011
  2. ^ O'Neal, Richard (July 1997), Muskegon River Watershed Assessment (PDF), Michigan Department of Natural Resources, retrieved 30 July 2011
  3. ^ Mitchell, John G. (September 2002). "Down the Drain: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes". National Geographic. pp. 34–51. Archived from the original on February 7, 2010.
  4. ^ The Forests of Michigan - page 143. University of Michigan Press, 2003. 2003. ISBN 0472068164. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  5. ^ Bajema, Carl Jay (April 1991). "The First Logging Railroads in the Great Lakes Region" (PDF). The First Logging Railroads in the Great Lakes Region. Oxford University Press on behalf of Forest History Society and American Society for Environmental History. Retrieved Sep 25, 2010.
  6. ^ "DNR - State Wildlife/Game Areas (list)". www.michigan.gov. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  7. ^ Hillstrom, Kevin, and Laurie Hillstrom. Paddling Michigan. Guilford: Falcon Publishing, 2001. 98-100.
  8. ^ "Muskegon River". Consumers Energy website. Retrieved July 30, 2011. {{cite web}}: External link in |work= (help)