Thornapple River

The Thornapple River Watershed (TRW) is a major subbasin of the Grand River Watershed, which flows into Lake Michigan. The Grand River Watershed is the second largest drainage system in the State of Michigan and comprises 13% of the entire Lake Michigan drainage basin, with a drainage area of 5,572 square miles . The TRW plan area drains approximately 700 square miles of predominately agricultural lands in the five counties of Eaton, Barry, Kent, Ionia and Allegan. The main channel of the Thornapple is 78 miles long, originating in northeastern Eaton County. The river flows in a westerly direction to the village of Middleville in northwest Barry County, at which point it flows north to its confluence with the Grand River near the town of Ada in south-central Kent County.

The TRW’s surface waters are an important part of the recreational economy of the region. The TRW contains over 250 lakes totaling approximately 14,000 acres. Many of the larger lakes support seasonal residential communities and provide access for boating, water sports and fishing.

The Thornapple River itself is a critical feature of many TRW communities. The cities and villages that sprang up along the river in the early 1800’s still thrive in this region, and the river provides a scenic corridor for parks and recreation through each community. In addition to its real estate and recreational value, the river also provides hydroelectric power and industrial and agricultural water resources to local communities.

The hundreds of miles of tributaries in the TRW sustain the region’s agricultural economy and also provide an important fishery resource for the state. Both cold and warm-water fisheries are present in the TRW. Some of the major tributaries of the Thornapple are Butternut Creek, Little Thornapple River, Mud-Collier Creek, Quaker Brook, High Bank Creek, Cedar Creek, Fall Creek, Glass Creek and Duncan Creek.

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