Kalamazoo - Plainwell Swell (1.0 miles)

Kalamazoo, Michigan, US


Plainwell Swell (1.0 miles)

Usual Difficulty I-II (for normal flows)
Length 1 Miles

Plainwell Swell

Plainwell Swell
Photo by Shawn taken 03/25/07 @ High

River Description

Park at Gilkey Elementary School and take a hiking trail to the dam.

A decent hole for practicing surfs, spins, ferrys, squirts, and rolling.

See "Comments" for more information regarding best options to access this playspot.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-09-01 17:01:35

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.4Plainwell SwellIIPlayspot
2.0Alternative playspot?N/APlayspot
3.8Otsego 12th St. dam: possible play?N/A

Rapid Descriptions

Plainwell Swell (Class II, Mile 0.4)

Distance is what you'll paddle upstream in bypass channel to get to spillway.

Alternative playspot? (Class N/A, Mile 2.0)

'Distance' is total from listed put-in, paddling upstream to the playwave described, and then downstream to this feature/location.

Unknown how feasible play is here, or what levels may allow any/best play. Can anyone provide some info?

Otsego 12th St. dam: possible play? (Class N/A, Mile 3.8)

It appears (looking only at satellite photo, with no other first-hand awareness) that the dam spans one side of an island, and the river-left side may be free-flowing, and have a bit of a series of waves. At some flows, there may be some interest here.

Has anyone checked this out? Good? No good? Report!

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 16 2014 (1524 days ago)
harrell107 (157000)
This is really a fun little stretch of river. The "Swell" itself is very user friendly at most
levels but legitimately requires some basic whitewater skills (ie. a roll) or swims may be
expected. Highly recommend extending the run into downtown Plainwell. You should scout the drop
from your boat as wood sometimes accumulates the dam. Vid of me and my kids showing most of the
run: http://vimeo.com/106343767
October 11 2010 (3021 days ago)
dougwinch (152356)
Oct 10 2010, the river is reopen. I am looking for people to paddle with, call me at 269 349-7934
Doug or e-mail at douglaswinch@yahoo.com.
September 5 2009 (3422 days ago)
x (1)
Since August 2009, there is a 1 mile stretch of the river that is closed for dredging, and this dam
is within it. The river is closed from D avenue to the Bridge Street bridge until about October
2010. Also, it should be noted that the provided picture is of a different dam, located downtown,
easily found downstream of the Main Street bridge. The former Plainwell #2 dam is much wider, about
triple the length, with 2 chutes at river right and a large but shallow ledge the rest of the
April 16 2009 (3564 days ago)
x (1)
You can also put in at Darrow Park in Plainwell and paddle upstream to the spillway. Darrow Park is
on Hicks St. in Plainwell. To get there from M-89 (going east): Turn right on Hicks just prior to
crossing the Kalamazoo River. Go down about 1/4 mile. The park is on the left (just before Gilkey
Elementary). It's a pretty easy paddle upstream -- just one or two slight riffles in your way --
maybe 10 minutes of paddling tops (it beats hauling a boat up the Gilkey Nature trail). Noted a big
tree blocking the dam at the end of last summer, be careful. On May 24 09 the tree move to river
left and the wave is surfing better then ever.
August 8 2007 (4181 days ago)
x (1)
Interesting....There are acutally 2 good spots in plainwell here. the one that is by Gilkey
elementary (follow Joel's description to get there) or the easier one to find at the Old Allegan
Canoe rental parking lot. I personally perfer the one at Gilkey easier wave to surf. Both great
March 28 2007 (4314 days ago)
mckenneys (145037)
Never had a problem getting to this site. Park at the Old Allegan Canoe Rental Parking lot. There
is a boat dock just downstream of the old Plainwell Paper Mill. There are 3 great eddies for
surfing and 2 nice standing waves. Only problem is water quality. High PCB's and phophorous levels
from the old paper mill. Try not get to wet! Best WW spot I know of in the Grand Rapids area.
August 29 2005 (4890 days ago)
Grant PecorDetails
There has to be an easier way to get to this place. Does anyone know if there is a service road
along the power lines?

Anyway, from Gilkey, at the end of the trail and a tree has fallen over the old spillway, which
obstructs the waterflow. The upstream side of the tree/spillway is the put in. The play holes and
old dam are upstream a bit and not visible from the put-in. Once you get to the hole it is fun
(even in low water) but a bit of work to get there. Coming back take the main river back to the
side of the school parking lot and avoid a walk.
May 16 2005 (4995 days ago)
Joel GeerlingsDetails
To get to this spot from Gilkey Elementary, Hike down the nature trail (their are spurs to the
right and left, but stay on the center trail). After a good 1/4 mile the trail ends along the mill
race where some water falls over a small old dam into a channel back to the main river. Put in here
in the mill race and paddle upstream about 200 yards to the top of the old dam on the main river.
March 29 2005 (5043 days ago)
Joshua RuwetDetails
This is a little "hidden" gem in Southwest, MI. It's really more than just a hole. You
have a perfect green wave on river right for most levels. The rest of the river is a ledge which
forms 3 to 4 retentive holes, some more steep than others. You have 2 large eddies on either side
of the river with a couple of eddies midstream that are perfect for stern squirts, practicing
ferries, etc.