The 68 mile long Paw Paw River Water Trail begins in the Village of Paw Paw in Van Buren County. There are two impoundments (Briggs Pond and Maple Lake) in the village above the dam which can be paddled. The river portion of the water trail begins immediately below the Maple Lake Dam. The Paw Paw River then winds its way 66 miles through a large, wildlife rich floodplain forest corridor through Van Buren and Berrien Counties. Scroll down to the map for trailhead and access locations.
Along the way, the river runs through or skirts the edge of the communities of Lawrence, Hartford, Watervliet, Coloma, and Riverside. Ultimately, the Paw Paw River joins the St. Joseph River in Benton Harbor, approximately one half mile from Lake Michigan.
ATTENTION May 2019: Paw Paw River Paddlers! On a beautiful day like today, there is a natural urge to get out and paddle the river. But be smart and first check the USGS river gauge.
The river is currently running at 1100 cubic feet per second which is about twice normal flow and an all time record for this date. The force of this much current can pin you under a snag even wearing a life jacket. Also, we have done no trail maintenance on the river since last year which means there is a whole winter's worth of fallen trees obstructing passage. Our contractors will not be getting on the river for at least a month so be prepared for snags/obstructions even on the Beginner sections.
Paddle pathway clearing work has been completed in 2018 on many, but not all, sections of the river below Maple Lake Dam and recommended skill levels for the 20 plus segments of the water trail range from Beginner to Intermediate to Advanced. ATTENTION: Expect to encounter fallen trees and other obstructions. Individual water trail segment information will be updated as maintenance occurs on some, but not all trail segments throughout the year. You can follow the pathway clearing progress on Facebook. Please understand that we do our best to keep this information updated, but the river is always changing and logs may fall and/or move downstream creating new obstacles. Also please be sure to check the weather forecast and up-to-date river flow conditions on the USGS web page. Click Here for an Important Note about SAFETY, LIABILITY AND PADDLING ETIQUETTE. Also check out the weather and safety information web page on this site for more information about responsible paddling.
Most important, help us keep the Paw Paw River a beautiful, wild and thriving floodplain forest eco-system. Pack out ALL your trash and consider taking along a trash bag and picking up any trash you encounter along the river. Thanks and enjoy the river!