Our Project

The goal of this project is to design a naturalize the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids.  The design will include remodeling the dams downstream of the 4th Street Dam to create safe passage for kayakers and boaters as well as make the river more aesthetically pleasing.  It will also include some whitewater characteristics for the kayakers as well. In addition the team will design a modification to part of the 4th Street Dam to make the river safer for fishermen, boaters, and kayakers.  However, this will not include removing any of the dam.  The design will also include a plan for portaging around the 4th Street Dam and increasing access points to enter and exit the river from.

Our Design

The first objective is to use HEC-RAS to model the Grand River and analyze the impact of the changes to the dams.  This includes the four downstream dams and the 4th Street dam. 

On the 4th Street dam, a stair step structure was proposed to make the river safer for kayakers and fishermen. However, we still do not recommend that kayakers traverse the stair step structure. Specific details regarding the structure can be found in the final report. The following images show the current dam in Grand Rapids, and our proposed design in HEC-RAS.

For Dam #4 (see image above), a complete removal is recommended with a rock weir replacement. This weir will have two open sections for kayakers and boaters, will naturalize the river, and create some whitewater characteristics. The current dam is shown below.

For Dam #3, a partial removal of about 100 feet is recommended with boulders placed around the opening and in spots along the length of the remaining dam. This will create a whitewater chute, break up the monotony of the dam, and make the river look more natural. The current dam is shown below.

For Dam #2, complete removal is recommended due to 100 year flood concerns caused by the added stair step structure upstream. The current dam is shown below.

Dam #1 was left alone due to late summer low flow concerns. If this dam were removed or partially removed, it is likely that the river bottom would be exposed leaving a mud pit in downtown Grand Rapids. The current dam is shown below.

The second objective is to create a benchtop model to simulate our design for the lowhead dams and the 4th Street Dam.

  • Benchtop Model Movie Demonstration
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The third objective is to create a basic site-plan including portage locations for those kayaker who wish to avoid the 4th Street dam, and entry and exit points for the kayakers. 

More information regarding the site planning can be found in the final report and the presentations on the Downloads page. This information includes signage examples, details explaining why each site was chosen, lighting recommendations, hand rail recommendations, and floatable dock recommendations.

Environmental concerns also will need to be addressed.  The river itself has its own natural flow, and we do not want to disrupt that.  The fish and the fishing around the 4th Street dam needs to be considered and maintained as well. 


For more information regarding the project, see the Posters, Presentations, PPFS, and Final Report on the Downloads page.

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