Wonderful waterways provide Tri-City summer adventure, fun, and relaxation
By Kristy Noack The Tri-City communities of Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet, as well as the surrounding areas, are blessed with an abundance of waterways, from Van Auken and Paw Paw lakes to the Paw Paw River and Lake Michigan. This summer, spend some quality time outdoors with family and friends on the waters canoeing, kayaking, swimming, skiing, fishing, or tubing. Adventure is just a wave away!
Paw Paw River Water Trail The Paw Paw River Water Trail will provide a picture perfect opportunity to traverse a long, winding waterway at a person’s own pace. The trail marks 68 miles from Maple Lake in Paw Paw to its connection to the St. Joseph River in Benton Harbor. The trail crooks through Hartford, Watervliet, Coloma, and Riverside before meeting up with the St. Joseph River in Benton Harbor – just a half-mile from Lake Michigan. The water system makes for a terrific adventure down a wet throughway. For those that kayak or canoe, the opportunities to enjoy a lazy drift or a rigorous ride down the river are right in their backyard. Grab gear, and go! There are several put-in locations in the Tri-City Area. In Hartford, anyone can access the Paw Paw River at County Road 687, 59-1/2 Street, County Road (CR) 681, and 67-1/2 Street. County Line Road, Hays Park, and Paw Paw River County Park are public put-in points in Watervliet for the river as well. In Coloma, river riders can drop their favorite mode of transportation into the water at the city’s public works building or the access at Bundy Road. Hagar Township approved their budget for a new kayak site in Riverside near the I-196/Coloma Road interchange. The Paw Paw River Water Trail offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced rapids. Multiple groups of volunteers, including the Two River Coalition and Friends of the St. Joe River Association, continue to work clearing the river of debris, rotting logs, and fallen trees. Ideally, adventure seekers’ “sail” down the river will be smooth, but they need to be aware that there may be areas to portage. That is, areas they will need to get out of the water with their kayak or canoe and move around a blocked area. An adventure down the river can be as fast – or slow – as someone will want it to be. They can paddle or drift, paddle in one continuous effort or pull off and picnic. It’s completely up to them! The “advanced experience section” of the Paw Paw River Trail starts in Riverside and continues to the North Stevens Street site in Benton Harbor. These rapids will need a bit more experience, strength, and stamina to move through. Just be prepared! Whether water travelers choose a competitive adventure or a leisurely paddle, they need to be safe. Some recommendations include: always informing someone of their plan, where they will put into the river, and their expected return time. Take bug spray! At the height of summer the bugs are terrible! They need to be sure to take fresh water with them. And wear their life jacket, always! Carry a cell phone in a waterproof bag. Never engage in risky behavior. Make sure to review the weather, as conditions in the sky can rapidly change, which, in turn, make a difference in the water. Additionally, they need to be aware that the hazards in the river change from day to day, especially when the river level rises or drops. Hazards that aren’t seen from a kayak when the water level is high will be very apparent when the water is low. They may run into more obstacles not previously seen. Those obstacles can include stumps, downed trees, branches, trash, and changing currents. Paw Paw River Campgrounds and Canoes (PPRCC), located just north of Watervliet on M-140, offers two kayak/canoe trips in addition to offering the rental of equipment. The site is the only private launch access available on the river, to date. The PPRCC has two trips, a two- and seven-mile trip. The two-mile trip lasts one to three hours depending on paddling ability and competitive spirit, while the seven-mile trek lasts three to five hours. Single person kayaks and two- to three-person canoes are available for rent. Call them at (269) 999-6005 for information. They do not require equipment rental from them to be able to use their access. For a simple fee, which includes parking, a person can drop their kayak/canoe into the river. Sarett Nature Center is once again offering kayaking classes for both youth and adults. Check their website or contact them at (269) 927-4832 for additional information.
Living that Lake Life The Tri-City Area is surrounded by numerous fresh water lakes, ripe for tubing, sailing, relaxing, fishing, and having fun. From Little Paw Paw Lake and Paw Paw Lake in Coloma to Rush Lake and Van Auken Lake in Hartford, fun awaits! Paw Paw Lake encompasses 857 acres and is 90 feet deep in some spots. Little Paw Paw Lake is just 90 acres and offers a much quieter, slower paced lake life. Rush Lake is just a bit bigger than Little Paw Paw Lake; it offers 118 acres of recreation excitement. The deepest point of the lake registers at about 58 feet. Van Auken Lake, which is also in Van Buren County like Rush Lake, is 244 acres, with its deepest spot registering at around 46 feet. The lakes offer plenty of boating, fishing, tubing, water skiing, and fishing opportunities. For someone looking to drop a line, they can expect to find bass, bluegill, perch, and pike. For those that prefer boating or drifting in a pontoon or making waves on a wave runner, there are local marinas available to help them find their perfect rental or new purchase just in time for summer. Check for local marinas online. Boat owners need to make sure their boat is properly licensed and they have a current boating certificate! Be sure to make a (water)mark in Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet this summer!
Landlubbers unite! If water is not someone’s thing, they don’t need to despair! There are plenty of activities that take place on the soils of the Tri-City Area. Sarett Nature Center offers miles of hiking trails. There is a 1.1 mile free outdoor walking trail at Spectrum Health Lakeland Watervliet hospital that features different exercise pods. The trail also includes two quarter-mile loops that are handicap accessible. The trail is currently under construction but should be completed later this summer.
Looking to break out irons and woods? Order up a tee time at Paw Paw Lake Golf Course for either a round of nine- or eighteen-hole golf. PPLGC is located between Coloma and Watervliet on Paw Paw Avenue. The Van Buren Trail State Park offers a 14 mile trail that starts – or ends – at 57th Avenue and Prospect Street in Hartford. The trail ends – or begins – at Lovejoy Avenue in South Haven. Users might even see a mountain biker or horseback rider on the trail.
Another activity guaranteed to get someone’s heart pumping is the myriad 5k and 10k walk and runs offered around the Tri-City Area. From the Hartford Strawberry to Watervliet Cherry to Coloma Glad Peach events, participants can catch a walk/run just about every three weeks. By widening a search to Benton Harbor, Lawrence, and South Haven, exercise enthusiasts will be walking into fall! Be sure to share whatever activity that sparks fun, interest, and excitement with friends and family. This summer, create awesome, incredible moments with loved ones in an area you love. Welcome to the Tri-City Area!