Voices of the Boardman River: Tawny Hammond

Aug 29, 2018

Two years ago, Tawny Hammond fulfilled a lifelong dream when she moved Up North and took over a kayak rental business on Boardman Lake. Even when she was a teenager, Hammond knew she would end up in Traverse City.

“it just felt home to me, I felt like I belonged here,” Hammond says.


Hammond visited northern Michigan often, competing in cross country ski races and camping with her family.

“There was something calling me,” she says. “It’s where I was supposed to be, and that’s really rare. … It felt remarkable and special, and so I spent a lifetime trying to get here.”

After 30 years of living and working in Virginia and Texas, Hammond’s dream finally came true two years ago. She bought a home by Boardman Lake and took over The River Outfitters, a guide service that rents out paddleboards, canoes and kayaks.

“I was a customer of the river outfitters for the past seven or eight years and I would joke with the owner that I was going to come up and sling kayaks for him,” says Hammond.

And that’s exactly what Hammond did. Eventually, the owner asked if she’d be interested in running the business with him. She didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Hammond too over The River Outfitters at a time when the Brown Bridge Dam was pulled out, and the Boardman Dam was being removed. A third dam – the Sabin Dam – will soon be gone, too.

Hammond says it’s time for the dams to go.

“If you’re not creating electricity with it and it’s falling apart, and it’s old and it’s going to stay to decay and it costs money to take care of… and you’ve disrupted what used to be this beautiful, natural river … it’s got to come out,” says Hammond.

Some residents along the Boardman River are upset about the dam removal because they grew up with the dams, which hold special memories.

“The whole concept of ownership is funny,” says Hammond. “We don’t own anything in life; we don’t control anything in life. We think we control what’s going to happen next, and there’s so many factors that can come to play and get in the way of us doing what we think we’re going to do next. You know, we have to think for the greater good.”

Right now, Hammond’s goal is to make sure her customers are having fun, but she’s also thinking of ways to educate and spread awareness about the importance of the river.

“I think we all want to be thinking about our legacy,” she says. “I want my legacy to be one that I made the world a little bit better and the places that I touched. That’s what I want to be remembered for.”