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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

History Grand Rapids by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission


Why This Place is Called Grand Rapids

Many people living in Grand Rapids have given little thought to the origin of the name of their home city. There is nothing in the present aspect of the river itself to suggest any rapids, to say nothing of any grand rapids. In the very early days the river presented a much different aspect than it does now. Then there were some very grand rapids—rushing waters that extended from near Sixth Street to Wealthy Street. To give one an idea of the great decline or fall in the river bed, we have only to compare it with the rapids at Sault Ste. Marie.

The Soo Rapids have a fall of 20.6 feet in approximately three miles, and the rushing waters near the International Bridge are a source of interest to the many visitors that go to that part of Michigan.

The fall in the river bed at Grand Rapids from Sixth Street to Wealthy Street is 17.4 feet, or only an approximate of four feet less than the fall that covers three miles and more at Sault Ste. Marie.

This sharp fall or decline in the river bed at Grand Rapids is disguised because of the power canals on each side of the river which take up the water and carry it through many factories and out through numerous tail races, so that the name “Grand Rapids” is not suggested any more by the present appearance of the river. 

From Grand Rapids Progress, July 1913, page 125.



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