Connections Along the Grand River

Connections Along the Grand River features histories of communities, industries, and environments along the Grand River: how they came into being, and the role of the river in their survival and revitalization. This project paints a dynamic portrait of how a single body of water impacted generations of Michiganders in similar and contrasting ways.

The Kutsche Office of Local History partnered with more than 20 local history organizations and local historians in West Michigan. After many discussions, debates, and planning and listening sessions, there is now a traveling exhibit of all featured communities, standalone exhibit panels for each organization, and both a print and digital magazine to share this work even further.


This project was made possible through the dedication of local history organizations and local historians in West Michigan, including: Ada Historical Society, Allendale Historical Society, Boston Saranac Historical Society, Jan Brashler, Cascade Historical Society, Matthew Daley, Wally and Jane Ewing, Kayne Ferrier, Grand Rapids City Archives & Records Center, Grand Rapids Historical Commission, Grand Rapids Historical Society, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grandville Historical Commission, Jenison Historical Association, Betty Kingma, Lowell Area Historical Museum, Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds, Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Commission, Plainfield Charter Township Historical Preservation Advisory Committee, Portland Area Historical Society, Rochelle Reagan, Tri-Cities Historical Museum, Paul Trap, and the West Michigan Tourist Association.

This project is funded by a Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan grant from Michigan Humanities, with support from the VanderVeen Center for the Book Fund of the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation, and the Grand Rapids Historical Society.

Connections Along the Grand River magazine cover

Click here to view and download a digital copy of the full magazine.

Take a Virtual Tour

Follow along the Grand River any time, from your phone, tablet, or computer. This virtual journey takes you up the river from Grand Haven to Portland, and from 12,000 years ago to the present. Each stop features images and history bites from communities featured in the full Connections Along the Grand River magazine.


Click here to start your journey.

Hear The History

Listen to local historians share a snapshot of their communities’ unique histories.


These interviews were conducted in spring 2019.

Bridging the Grand

Gina Bivens of the Grand Rapids Historical Society describes the many bridges that criss-crossed the Grand River near Grand Rapids.

Plainfield Village

Suzanne Carpenter of Plainfield Charter Township Historical Committee explains what happened to Plainfield Village, a once-bustling place that is now just a blip on the map.

Straightening the Thornapple

Kristen Wildes of the Ada Historical Society discusses how a single bridge over the Grand reshaped Ada.

Stopping the Floods

Jeanne Beauvais of the Grandville Historical Commission on how Grandville has dealt with repeated flooding throughout its history.

Getting Around Georgetown

Ken Williams of the Jenison Historical Association reflects on the many landings that connected Georgetown Township.