Hugh Heward

15th Annual Hugh Heward Challenge

April 26th 2014

The Story

The Hugh Heward Challenge is an annual paddling event that retraces a part of the historical route of English explorer and fur trader Hugh Heward and his party of 7 Frenchman. On April 24th of 1790 Hugh and his team paddled down a 50 mile section of the Grand River in central lower Michigan while being hurried by a small group of feisty natives. This story was brought to the attention of Verlen by his good friend and river neighbor Jim Woodruff who is a Michigan Historian and Topologist. Jim has dug up a multitude of information on the old canoe routes that criss cross the state of Michigan and also the people that traveled them. This particular 50 mile run is but a small section of Hugh's original trip which took him from the village at Detroit, through Michigan's lower peninsula and over to the village of Chicago and beyond. Jim found it interesting that while traveling past his and Verlen's own backyards Hugh and his party supposedly paddled 50 miles in a single day. After studying the charts and extensively discussing Hugh's accomplishments with Verlen, Jim proposed that Verlen go out and prove it could be done. Verlen gathered his own group and set out the very next spring to show it could be done and since then hundreds and hundreds of modern day voyageurs have retraced the route.

The full 50 mile Challenge is a big day for even those that have expert water traveling skills. A few shorter routes have been set up for those wishing to have an easier day. The Half Hugh is about 25 miles and starts in the town of Grand Ledge, MI and the Quarter Hugh is about 13 miles and starts at Charlotte Hwy near the town of Portland, MI.

The Routes

The Full Hugh Heward Challenge will start at 6am, April 26th at Lions Park, 300 W. Jefferson St. Dimondale MI. The Grand River is wide and gently flowing, current is suitable for beginner paddlers. There are three easy portages, 2 going through the city of Lansing, MI and 1 at Grand Ledge, MI. Portage help is available at each spot to help keep you moving. Just outside of the city of Lansing, Challengers will pass by Verlen's final resting spot just upriver of his old home and canoe workshop. Jim Woodruff's home is just upriver of Verlen's on the opposite bank, stop in if you have time and enjoy a Silver Bullet with the old historian that made this adventure possible!

The Half Hugh will start at 10am, April 26th at Fitzgerald Park, Grand Ledge, MI.

The Quarter Hugh will start at Noon, April 26th at Charlotte Hwy Bridge just outside the town of Portland, MI.

All Routes finish at the site of the Verlen Kruger Memorial at Thomson Field in Portland, MI.

The Details

A donation of $10 can be made to the Verlen Kruger Memorial for participation in this event. All proceeds will go directly to fund projects and paddle events put on by the Verlen Kruger Memorial.

Certificates of completion will be awarded to all finishers who make it to Thompson Field, along with a delicious chili dinner.

The City of Dimondale, MI is again offering primitive camping at the starting line for Friday night. The Lions Park is located at 300 W. Jefferson St. Dimondale MI. The park offers a sheltered picnic area and running water bathrooms. Downtown Dimondale is only a few blocks away.


Pre-event Carspotting and post-event shuttle services available by Trailspotters.
Click the logo to go to the Trailspotter web page and register for their services:

Pictures / Trip Reports

2010 Hugh Heward 25