This tour explores one of the many tributaries to the Grand River; Crockery Creek. The Indian name, “Nunica,” means “pottery,” or earthenware. At or near the mouth of the creek that bears the name, considerable quantities of Indian pottery were found, which caused it to be called Crockery Creek.”
Put in at the Robinson Township boating access, located on the south bank of the Grand River. Access is at the end of 118th street off of N. Cedar drive. From here the mouth of Crockery Creek is visible to the Northeast.
The Crockery Creek Tour is completed as an out-and-back paddle. This allows the trip to be taken using only one vehicle making it more convenient. This also allows an open time frame as the kayaker can turn around and head back at any point. After heavy rainfall, or during times of high water levels, usually during spring, Crockery Creek may have a slightly faster current. This will cause the upstream paddle to take longer then usual; however the paddle time back downstream will be shortened due to the quicker current.
Crockery Creek can be enjoyed by kayakers of any experience level. The current is slow making it possible to navigate upstream as well as downstream. In early spring there is a possibility of obstacles in the form of fallen trees or limbs that have not been removed. Most of these obstacles can be navigated around, and large obstacles will be removed when possible.
Starting from either access point the kayaker will paddle east until reaching the mouth of Crockery Creek along the north bank of the river. As you approach the mouth of the creek, try to imagine what the landscape looked like in the late 1700’s early 1800’s.
Joseph LaFramboise built a fur-trading post on this site in 1782. In 1806 Magdalene Marcotte Laframboise assumed administrative responsibilities for the post when her husband Joseph was brutally murdered by an irate native demanding whiskey.
Magdalene Marcotte Laframboise was born in 1780 to Jean Bapiste Marcotte and Timothee, daughter of Ke-wi-na-quot, the powerful Odawa headman “Returning Cloud.” Her father died when “Madeline” was an infant. Timothee returned to her tribal community located on Crockery Creek near Nunica, where she raised Madeline in Odawa ways. Madame Lamframboise sold the post to Rix Robinson when he came to Grand Haven.
The site of the old trading post would also become the site of Spooville. Spoonville, now completely gone, was a neat little village on the banks of the Grand River in the early 1880s. It lay west of Crockery Creek and two and one-half miles south of Nunica.
The railway line to Holland crossed the river at Spoonville, which was a flag station till it was destroyed in about 1882. The principal building was the saw mill built by John Spoon in 1856, when there was only one log house. The mill had all modern improvements and cut seven and one-half million feet of lumber a day.
Spoon’s barn was said to be the largest in the county, 100’x40′, with 24′ posts. It was 60′ high to the top of the cupola and cost $2000 to build. A hand-operated Spoonville ferry crossed the river for many years, but was replaced by a railroad bridge in 1870.
On the Spoon farm were found remarkable mounds containing a large number of skeletons, stone and copper implements, and elaborately ornamented earthen vases. In recent times, Grand Valley College archeology students have dug extensively in this area. On the high ground was an Indian Village and burial mounds
Ottawa County Park’s property boundary markers will be visible on the east side of the creek along a majority of the route marking the boundary of Crockery Creek Natural Area. The Crockery Creek Natural Area is 331 acres and offers over 2 miles of hiking and cross country ski trails. An informal trail used by fisherman offers access to the hiking trails. This trail is about 30 minutes up the creek; there is a high bank on the right hand side and a bench along the trail. Varying water levels can make exiting a kayak difficult due to muddy slippery conditions.
Paddle upstream and there will be expansive views to the East and to the North overlooking wetland and floodplain ecosystems. This would be a good opportunity to get out binoculars and scan the area for wildlife. It is common to view Blue Herons, Deer, and Sand Hill Cranes in these areas. These sites and other similar sites around this route are the best place to scan the sky for Bald Eagles.
There are some unique mammals that have been known to be spotted in the Crockery Creek Area from time to time. One semi-aquatic mammal is the American Mink. The American Mink have long slender body and short webbed legs which make them an excellent swimmer. The little minks have long tail and its tail itself comprises of one third of its body. It has thick glossy hair usually brown to black in color throughout its body and a patch of white under the chin and throat. The soft furs of the minks are covered with waterproof oily hair.
The American minks are aggressive predators and often hunt down animals bigger than themselves. Since they are good swimmers, they dive and catch fishes and feed on muskrats, rabbits, frogs, chipmunks and snakes etc. Mink do most of their hunting during the night, but are also active during the day.
Another aquatic mammal in this area is the North American River Otter. The North American River Otter is the only river otter found north of Mexico. Its luscious pelt, which is waterproof and allows the river otter to regulate its temperature, was also a staple of the French fur trade in the 1700-1800s, has drawn hunters for hundreds of years.
The color of its fur ranges from grey and white to brown and black. River otters are very playful animals and can often be seen playing games. Social groups are typically made up of adult females and their pups. There are also groups of individual males. River otters are most active at night.
Crockery Creek is an ideal location for bird watching. Some common sightings include Blue Herons, Sand Hill Cranes, and Bald Eagles.
The Sandhill Crane is one of only 15 species of cranes in the world and is one of just two crane species native to North America. While the Whooping Crane, our other native crane, is highly endangered and restricted to only a few areas of the West, the Sandhill is more widespread and in most areas is more abundant. Once nearly eliminated from Michigan, Sandhill Cranes have made a comeback and now are becoming one of the state’s most popular watch-able wildlife species.
Another common site along the creek is reptiles and amphibians, including several types of turtles and frogs.
After around a 45 minute paddle upstream you should be approaching the Leonard Rd. Bridge. During spring and parts of summer water levels typically allow the kayaker to continue on beyond this point, however navigation may be limited by fallen limbs and trees. The paddle downstream will take about half the time due to the current.