Kayaking Grand River – Mason’s Landing to Grand River Landing

Saturday June 28 Scott and I kayaked the Grand River from Mason’s Landing to Grand River Landing through Painesville, Ohio.  There are three distinct personalities to the river through Painesville.   The first section from Mason’s Landing to Helen Hazen Wyman park has a remote wilderness feel with shale bluffs towering over the river,  little development and no road crossings.  The second section through the route 2 bridge has a more urban feel with bridges, houses and general urban noise.  And the third section is a slow moving through flat fields as it widens and slows in its final approach to Lake Erie.

Several days of storms passed through the area earlier in the week and the water level was at 3.6 feet at the route 84 water gauge for this trip.  At this level the Grand River flowed pretty much bank to bank and resulted in a few areas with good rapids.  In my opinion they are probably class 2 rapids at this level but I’m not an expert at grading rivers.  This first set of rapids being about a minute or two after launching.  There were a couple sets around Helen Hazen Wyman Park, along with the Madison Avenue and route 20 bridges.  There are many other smaller rapids throughout the trip but no portaging was required at this water level.  The water is typically discolored after rains as seem in the photos below.  At lower water levels the water runs clear but typically requires some exitting the boat to navigate the riffles.

There are actually four access points along this stretch of the river.  The two easiest are the two we used, Mason’s Landing and Grand River Landing.  Both have an established boat launch with Grand River Landing’s being an actual ramp for trailered power boats.  It took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes to paddle between the two.

You could also pull out at Helen Hazen Wyman park.  Landing here would require a portage up Big Creek to reach the parking area.  Maybe a quarter mile or so walk total.

Kiwanis Recreation Park in downtown Painesville is also an option to pull out.  At the 3.5 foot water level there was not much of an area to land.  At lower water levels it is much easier.  The landing is on the right side just passed the Madison Avenue bridge but the main stream channel is on the left side of the river.  There were considerable rapids under this bridge at the time.

By far the best and most scenic section of the river for this paddle is from Mason’s Landing to Helen Hazen Wyman park.  This section feels remote and is very scenic with wooded flood plains, sandstone cliffs, a Bald Eagle nest and if conditions are right, a water fall or two.

With water levels at 3.6 feet I would recommend  experienced beginner paddlers or better.  You well need to have the skills to maneuver your boat through rapids and be able to read the water to determine the best route.  At lower levels the river is appropriate for first time paddlers.

Overall it was a great trip and I would highly recommend it.

-Jeff

Vrooman Road bridge taken from our launch point at Mason' Landing.
Vrooman Road bridge taken from our launch point at Mason’ Landing.
Taking a break at Kiwanis Recreation Park in Painesville.
Taking a break at Kiwanis Recreation Park in Painesville.
Future Beach Fusion 124 Kayak
Future Beach Fusion 124 Kayak

Grand River 1

Shale Bluffs
Shale Bluffs
Shale Bluffs
Shale Bluffs
Shale Bluffs
Shale Bluffs
Just after launching the kayaks.
Just after launching the kayaks.
Grand River North of state route 2.
Grand River North of state route 2.
Grand River North of state route 2.
Grand River North of state route 2.

13 thoughts on “Kayaking Grand River – Mason’s Landing to Grand River Landing”

  1. Thanks for the excellent information! I’m a bit of a coward when paddling unknown stretches and this was truly helpful!

    1. Thank you for compliments Em and for being the first person to comment on this blog. Oh, a person who respects the power of nature and prepares prior to a trip is not a coward but is intelligent and lives for additional adventures.

      -Jeff

  2. Thanks for the awesome article!
    My family and I have gone from the Fobe’s road area (Grand River Canoe Livery) down to Mason’s Landing. We’ve all been wondering what to expect, and your story shed some light.

    1. Thank you for the feedback. It has been several years since I’ve paddled the upper Grand River. I am familiar with the livery on Fobes Road. Do you know what other points above Harpersfield are good for launching/landing a canoe or kayak?

      Thanks,
      Jeff

  3. Hey Jeff, thank you so much for this article! I cannot find a single article that describes that section of the Grand anywhere else!

    My group and I have done the section you’re talking about here in the blog a few times now and utilized your post as a “heads up” as to what to look for. We’ve been up and down the Grand now, from Fobes Rd (Grand River Canoe Livery) to Mechanicsville Rd (take out on left after covered bridge). My whole group would not recommend the part of the trip above the dam simply because there is no moving water at all during the entire trip. You will paddle the entire time. As you get closer to Mechanicsville Rd the river is lined with private boat launches and many boats. The water is more like a lake at this point (backed up from Harpersfield). We also hit a small portion of the water that smelled of sewage. The water quality is poor. If that is your cup of tea then you will like the trip, but I personally don’t recommend it.

    We’ve also done the entire section from the dam in Harpersfield to Recreation Park in Painesville. We enjoy more moving water than non-moving water. Like I said earlier, we utilized your blog as a heads up before our maiden voyage. Our trip from Vrooman to Rec Park took approximately 2.5hrs the first time (the water level was around 500CFS on the weir). The first time we went we hustled due to running out of daylight. Being on the water in the complete dark going through the rapids at Rec Park will be something I never forget! I’ve never been so scared in a boat in my life. LOL

    The second time we went we stopped a few times and messed around and the trip took approximately 4 hours.

    The trip from Vrooman Rd to Recreation Park was filled with lots of surprises! Like you said, there are rapids right after the first turn (left) and if you are not expecting them, you could wind up sitting on top of some large rocks in rushing water or worse. Once you clear the first set of rapids, there are some riffles and minor rapids along the way, but you don’t run into your next “heads up” spot until you head towards the railroad bridge right before the Route 84 bridge. The tresses act as “tree catchers” and when you come up on the railroad bridge, depending on water levels, you may need to scout/portage depending on the situation. We were able to sneak under/next to a few branches and not exit our boats. If you at all uneasy about maneuvering the boat near that bridge, just simply portage around the tresses on river right. Right past the railroad bridge the water starts moving more. There are some rocks in the water that cause some minor waves after the bridge but it is nothing to truly worry about.

    As you pass under the Route 84 bridge there is a rapid with a small ledge and some rocks. The easiest line on that rapid is to stay river right and to go through the rapid fairly straight, with a small drift to the right (after you get past the small rock island by the bridge).

    After the Rt 84 bridge you’ll make a long sweeping left hand turn and then you’ll start hearing the sounds of some rushing water. This rapid I would consider a class II under the right water conditions. The rapid is a boulder garden. Overall drop through the rapid could be a good three to five feet and there are a couple very large rocks in this garden. The problem is there isn’t a good spot to scout this rapid and before you know it, you are in it whether you like it or not! 🙂 Use caution in that rock garden.

    Once you get towards Recreation Park, there is a considerable rapid that stretches about 50-75yds before the Main St bridge all the way past the bridge and into the park. The nastiest part of this rapid is dead center (decent sized rocks dead center under the bridge). Utilize the right side of the river and pretty much stay dead on straight, missing the very large 4-5ft boulder in the right-center of the river.

    The take out in recreation park is at the very end of the park on river left. I would not recommend getting out at the bridge, simply because you have to hike the boat to the park anyway (plus you miss a nice sized chunk of the rapid 🙂 ). While you are running next to Recreation Park, there are two more minor rapids/fast water spots before the take out.

    There is a very large pile of rocks on river left towards the end of the park. These rocks could be under water depending on river height, but the river would have to be SCREAMING for these rocks to be under water. Honestly, the rocks are pretty hard to miss, but if you do, just go to the very end of the park on river left and take out before you pass the end of the park. Right next to those large rocks in the river is a small incline that you can take the boat up into the park to your car (about 30 ft from parking spots in the park).

    I just wanted to share some info on the trip. We never went past Rec Park because once you get passed the Route 2 bridge, the water turns super slow and we all figured it would be a rough way to end the trip by paddling hard the last 2-3miles. The rock gardens by Rt 20 and Rt 2 look like a LOT of fun though!!

    I don’t understand why more people don’t want to paddle the Grand River… is it because of Painesville’s reputation? On this final section of river, you only get to see some apartments that are river level (river right). Otherwise, the river does a good job of hiding civilization high up on the tops of cliffs all the way, even through the heart of Painesville itself.

    I highly recommend the trip! Thank you once again for this great information and I’m sure I’ll catch you on the river some day! 🙂

    1. Jimmy, thank you for the great comment and the additional details. The Grand River is truly a gem right in our backyard. This section is my most paddled section mainly because of it’s close proximity to home.

      I will have to look more closely for the small incline at the end of the park as a pullout. Most of it seems to be a fairly high and steep bank. There is parking right at the pullout after the bridge, enough to hold 4 cars or so. This can be a tough pullout to hit in high water though and the spring or fall the lot is often times full of Stealhead fisherman.

      Again, thanks for the comment.

      –Jeff

      1. You’re welcome! The more info we can get out, the more people will see just how much fun this “gem in our backyards” really is.

        I know of the take out after the bridge that you’re describing. The problem with that take out is that you start on river right going under the bridge. The rapid goes past the bridge some 20-30 yards before you can start working your way to the left and then back 10-15yards to the take out. Like you said, at high water it’s not the easiest take out to hit.

        At the very northern end of recreation park (directly before the old exit up to route 20) there is parking for approximately 14-20 cars (or more). You can walk right down to the river and see the rocks in the water close to the left bank that I was talking about (where you’re standing). You can walk down “the incline” to the rocks in the water. We’ve always taken out here and haven’t had a problem.

        I can see high water possibly putting those rocks under water, but the river would be pretty high at that point. Under most circumstances those rocks will serve as a guide to the incline by the north parking lot. 🙂

        Check it out next time you’re down there. Thanks again for the article! 🙂

      2. My group and I just completed the Vrooman to Rec Park trip yesterday and I wanted to update this information (just in case people use my information as somewhat of a guide).

        First, the “Class II” rapid approximately a mile from Rec Park that I talked about in my first long comment; this is a solid class 2 and with the right water levels I can imagine it being rated as a II+ or an easier III. The run for this rapid is on the right with a slight right to left path. If you run this boulder garden on the left, you are in for a crazy and somewhat dangerous time. The water was pretty low yesterday (193CFS on the gauge; (this rapid is past the gauge after you make a left-hand turn)) and with it being so low, we could see all the rocks. We walked through the river into the middle of the rapid to scout it. The left is a no go, even if the water level is very high. There are just too many large rocks on the left side to have any sort of a clear pathway. There is a left to right chute, but only take the chute if the water level permits it. Honestly, you want to stay right.

        I was also reminded that the rapid heading under the Main/Mill St bridge next to Rec park is to be run from LEFT to RIGHT. Stay far left until the water starts going from left to right, and then stay in the flow. Always make sure you are river right heading under the bridge.

        I will be working on a rapid map sometime in the near future. I’m hoping to get it finished this year, but the weather is changing and it’s not too light out after I get out of work nowadays so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to complete it this year, but I’m hoping to. I’ll make sure to send it out to you once it’s completed. 🙂

        Have a great day!

        1. What a great day to be on the river; sunny blue skies, mild temperatures and rain the prior day for some additional water flow. You are providing some great details here. Thank you for this.

          -Jeff

    2. Any one wanting to do a Harpersfield to klassen Rd pick up (same route as madhatter run) or anywhere up to vrooman or pvill park let me know. I did the madhatter a few times in a hardshell back near 2010 but now getting back into it w an inflatable sevylor quikpak 5 unit . Rated only up to class 2 though.

  4. This is great information. I live near the Grand River and enjoy kayaking, but I am always leery to try new stretches of river because I don’t know what to expect. This blog is great, there is really no other river information available which is a shame.

    I kayak in the Ashtabula are, I know you can put in at Rt 6 in Rome, there is a livery. You can put in at Callender Rd at the Nature Conservancy, it is a nice area. You can put in at the Riverdale covered bridge, but the embankment is steep and there is really no parking. You can put in at Tote Rd. I am hoping to continue using this blog to get more information and to help me plan trips throughout the summer.

    I am a relatively inexperienced kayaker and was considering kayaking from the Grand River Manor to the Harpersfield Bridge. Do you know how long this would take and if there are any rapids? I was also considering doing Harpersfield Bridge to Masons Landing?

    Thanks!

    1. Stacey, I am not as familiar upstream of Harpersfield dam. I have kayaked from Grand River Livery on Fobes road to Tote road a few times and found it easy going and a several hour trip.

      In general, most of the rapids in the Grand River will be found downstream of the dam through the Painesville/Fairport area. None off them are bad unless the river is really high but use your best judgment as only you know your abilities .

      Harpersfield to Mason’s Landing is a nice trip. Lake Metroparks added a new landing (Beaty Landing) at route 84 in Painesville if you wanted to extend the trip.

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