Simple guide down the Shiawassee River
By CHRISTINA GUENTHNER
Argus-Press Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2013 9:34 am
SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — Navigating the Shiawassee River is becoming a little easier, thanks to a Warren man with a passion for kayaking.
Willi Gutmann, 49, has put created a smartphone app he describes as a “digital brochure” of the Shiawassee River. The iShiawassee app, available for 99 cents through iTunes, highlights destinations along the river and provides photos and details of different sights. It also allows users to track where they are on the river using GPS and a satellite map.
“It’s kind of like a GPS with pictures,” Gutmann said. “There is nothing else on the market like it.”
A resident of Metro Detroit, Gutmann first experienced the Shiawassee River when a friend of his who lives in the Holly area invited him to spend the day kayaking. He fell in love. After years of kayaking on the Shiawassee River, Gutmann realized he had hundreds of photos of landmarks along the river, and he decided to partner with a college buddy from Wayne State University to create the app. Charles Rice, who now lives in Portland, Ore., helped out with the project from afar, doing all of the coding for the app, Gutmann said. “I just had a ton of pictures,” Gutmann said, adding that he wanted to share his knowledge with the public.
“I would like to push the Shiawassee River into the forefront of people’s mind as ‘the’ river to paddle upon in Southeastern Michigan,” Gutmann wrote in an email to The Argus-Press. He said there are 100 miles of navigable river starting in Oakland County at Waterworks Park in Holly, going through Fenton, Argentine, Linden, Corunna, Owosso and on to Bay City. The iShiawassee app currently only covers the headwaters to the Parshallburg area, near Chesaning, but he has plans to expand it farther north.
Gutmann recently met with a group from Pure Michigan, at his request, about partnering to expand the app.
“What we’re hoping for is that we can get kind of a quid-pro-quo thing going,” Gutmann said, adding that Pure Michigan could help provide information that he could use in the app, and that the travel campaign would advertise the app on its website. He hopes to one day provide information about nearby businesses on the app.
A Pure Michigan representative confirmed that a group had met with Gutmann, but said it was preliminary to say whether they would pursue a partnership.
“We’re always interested in how we can reach travelers,” said Michelle Begnoche, public relations manager with Pure Michigan.
Begnoche said the group is willing to partner with individuals who can provide travel resources.
“We’re always open to working with some of the local people,” she said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Of the iShiawassee app, Begnoche said it could be good for the travel industry.
“I think the easier it is to access these kind of resources, the more likely it is that they’ll want to explore all of the great resources Michigan has to offer,” she said.
Gutmann said he also see potential for apps to provide information on other waterways across the state.
“Michigan has more water than almost any other state in the country, but you’ve got diddly-squat on the Internet,” he said. Gutmann would like to see more people out enjoying the water. “I think it’s a lot of fun to paddle and understand how the river flows,” he said. “For me, it’s about getting back to the roots.”