Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Bridges of Eaton County: Thornapple River edition

As a wee sprout, I was raised on tales of my dad fishing in the mighty Thornapple River.

My dad spent many of his formative years under the wing of his uncle Wheeler.  They made many road trips to fish the Thornapple.  Fishing was serious business.  It put food on the table.  It was also fun.

Little did I know that the Thornapple river had its origins fairly close to Lansing (where I grew up) and VERY close to where I now live.

This project has been simmering on the back burner for a while.  Today I grabbed a coffee drinking buddy, Onondaga, and we went road tripping.

Perkey Road
The headwaters of the mighty Thornapple River on Perkey Road.  The shadows are long because it is about 7:30 AM.
About as much water as you would expect out of a garden hose.
In Eaton County the East-West roads are called "Highways" and the North-South roads are called "Roads".


1.04 miles from the headwaters as the crow flies (ATCF)
Bell Highway
1.32 miles ATCF
South Royston Road
2.65 miles ATCF

Island Highway
2.88 miles ATCF
Kinsel Highway
4.47 miles ATCF

Onondaga thought this 1973 Super Beetle was in great shape.  I wonder if Kubota....after all, orange is the new black.
North Royston Highway
The corn is up.

This was a difficult bridge to get a good photo of.  4.75 miles ATCF
4.77 miles ATCF from the headwaters but a mile west of the previous bridge.
Shance Highway
4.92 miles ATCF.  Probably 10 miles by river.
 Lansing Road
5.2 miles ATCF
Stewart Road
OK, I get it.  This is not a photo of a bridge.  It is a photo FROM the bridge.  5.49 miles ATCF
East Vermontville Highway
5.94 miles ATCF
East Gresham Highway

Onondaga standing on the bridge for a sense of scale.  6.87 miles ATCF.
Otto Road
The next series of bridges are very close to a mile apart as the Thornapple runs almost due west.
Benton Road
There are groves of pawpaw trees near here.  That is an indicator of Native American settlement.

Somebody made the guardrail pretty.
Onondaga swore that he saw a loon, so I took a photo where he said he saw it.
Cochran Road
Cochran divides the east and west halves of  Eaton County.
Wheaton Road
Moyer Road
Mulliken Road

This house was on Mulliken Road north of the river.  I took a picture of it because Onondaga likes stone houses.  If you zoom in you can see some interesting vertical, cut stone details.
It is now a little bit wider than at the headwaters, 12.33 miles away ATCF

Nice trailers.  I guess I am losing focus.
One reason the Thornapple River grows in size so quickly is because it is fed by many, many tributaries.  This is the three mile run below M-50 and I count 12 small, feeder streams.

West Gresham Highway
An Amish Schoolhouse.

No parking lot but lots of places for bikes.

Beehives!!!!  Amish may wear black but their beehives are all the colors of the rainbow.
West Vermontville Highway
This bridge is dedicated to Commander Ellis E. Austin, USN MIA 21 April, 1966.  There was an American flag atop this plaque but I chopped it off.

Wood Ducks gorge on Silver Maple seeds this time of year.
Shaytown Road
Shaytown Road is a two-fer.  There is the road bridge and a hundred yards downstream is a railroad bridge that I did not see but Onondaga saw.

White violets.
Ionia Road

In Memory of Army Spc 5 Jeffrey N. Duffey  KIA DEC 13 1971
Evidence of good fishing.  And maybe a little huggin-and-kissin.
Mason Road

Looks like good fishing here.  The water is deep and there is a slight back-eddy close to shore.
17.7 miles ATCF from the headwaters.  Technically, this is just west of the Eaton-Barry county line.  The truck gives you a sense of scale for how wide the river is at this point.  We finished about 10:45 AM.


  1. Great pics and quite the variety of bridges there!

    1. I really like the memorial plaques. I don't know if that was a VFW activity or done at the State-of-Michigan level.

      Somebody is keeping the flags on the M-50 bridge fresh. They looked new.

  2. Just think of the tourist revenue if the powers that be turned some of the smaller bridges into covered bridges instead of culverts and concrete. Convert rather than replace as in adding some wooden planks and paint would be cheap enough.