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News to Us

Tubing at Argo Cascades. Photo credit: Andy Piper via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Tubing at Argo Cascades. Photo credit: Andy Piper via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Climate change, river recreation and regulating toxics are all in this edition of News to Us – the HRWC monthly brief on water and watershed related news that catches our attention.

In hot water: Climate change is affecting North American fish
This blog summarizes the conclusions from several recent research articles on the impacts of climate change to fish. Coldwater species and those in arid environments are most vulnerable.  Fisheries are already experiencing measurable change from climate change that impacts ecosystems, recreation and the economy.  HRWC is wrapping up a two year project to help the Huron adapt to climate change.  You can read more about this project here.

U.S. Needs Smarter Disaster Planning
Disaster planning is one way to protect human communities from the impacts of climate change.  Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Municipalities each develop plans to protect their communities from, respond to and recover from natural disasters.  This article discusses the importance of incorporating climate change into these plans.

Ann Arbor trying to curb alcohol, parking problems at popular tubing spot
A growing number of complaints pertaining to visitors of Argo Cascades in Ann Arbor is leading the city to consider how to address the issues. While we love to see people enjoying the river, we encourage everyone to consider appropriate safety and etiquette.  Visit the Huron River Water Trail website for ways to have fun on the river without impacting other users, river neighbors and the river itself.

Editorial: Ann Arbor joins VBT, Scio in banning coal tar sealants
The Belleville Independent published an editorial highlighting progress locally to ban coal tar pavement sealers. Van Buren Township led the way on this issue in Michigan banning the toxic substance in December 2015.  Recently, Scio Township and Ann Arbor have joined Van Buren on the front lines to reduce health risks to humans and aquatic communities due to PAH compounds which occur in very high amounts in a commonly used pavement sealer. You can help HRWC continue to tackle this issue in our watershed by donating to our Coal Tar Free Huron campaign.

Strange brew: How chemical reform legislation falls short
Last month, the federal government signed into law a reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The new law has met with very mixed reviews from companies and groups working to reduce the number of toxic chemicals in consumer products. The chemicals ultimately end up in our bodies and environment and little is known about the thousands of chemical brought to market each year. Read this bloggers take on the good and the bad of the new law.  It may have implications for our ability to regulate chemicals at the local level including coal tar pavement sealers.



Follow the Huron River Water Trail to adventure . . .

Explore the scenic Huron River in Milford

The natural beauty of the Upper Huron can be explored by kayak, canoe, paddle board, or tube, and the gentle flowing river can be enjoyed by beginners to advanced paddlers alike.

The Huron River at Norton Creek in Milford.

The Huron River at Norton Creek in Milford.

Milford is proud of its heritage and connection to the Huron River, and boasting two liveries plus being a designated Trail Town, Milford is a destination for paddling recreation.  Many times during the summer months I venture out to paddle, sometimes with my husband in our tandem kayak, and sometimes on my own in my single person kayak.

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A turtle enjoys the sunshine in the Huron River in Milford.

When I am with my husband in our tandem kayak, we usually start in Proud Lake Recreation Area, and finish at Kent Lake.  During the journey we are often greeted by many turtles sunning themselves on logs, swans, ducks, and herons.  Dragonflies land on our kayak to hitch a ride with us. Looking down into the clear water fish can be seen darting about.  Other paddlers pass and wave or smile with a friendly hello.  Tubers float without a care in the world, and anglers in boats or on the shore wait for their bait to be nabbed.  We pass by natural areas, and lovely waterfront homes in the Village of Milford. Central Park is a good place to take a break, or take a short stroll and visit downtown Milford.

Tunnel under railroad near Central Park in Milford.

Tunnel under railroad near Central Park in Milford.

If continuing on downstream, portaging over Hubbell Dam is simple enough, but helpful if there is a buddy or other kind paddler to assist in taking your vessel over.  After that you will be rewarded with seeing the part of the river that feels more like you are up north in a less populated area as you paddle through the wooded shorelines of Kensington Metropark. The river opens up to Kent Lake, where beautiful water lilies abound.

A beautiful water lily from Kent Lake decorates my kayak.

A beautiful water lily from Kent Lake decorates my kayak.

The Huron River in Milford is calm enough that one can paddle upstream, so you do not necessarily have to worry about where to park your car or drop off your kayak or canoe. Just park at a launch site, and you can paddle upstream and then back downstream, or vice versa.  There are many options for paddling short or long distances, from 0.9 river miles to 8+ river miles. You can opt to stay near the Trail Town, or venture out to see the river in the natural areas of Proud Lake Recreation Area or Kensington Metropark.

View an interactive map of the Huron River in Milford and plan your next paddle trip there.

Have fun, stay safe with these TIPS from the Trail!

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River Water Trail in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron from Flat Rock or paddle to Milford from Proud Lake, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket, hear a river history talk or learn to fly fish! Sponsored by TOYOTA.
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Boating on the Huron’s Chain of Lakes

Evening on Little Portage Lake, on the Pinckney Chain of Lakes. Our favorite time to go boating and swimming.

Evening on Little Portage Lake, on the Pinckney Chain of Lakes. Our favorite time to go boating and swimming.

Things we wonder about . . .

I live in Pinckney, and we keep a boat on the Chain of Lakes there. We love everything about it from the serenity of some of the less-traveled spots, to the camaraderie found within the local boating crowd. And we also find ourselves musing on, for lack of a better description, natural history trivia. I took some time to write down the more pressing inquiries and thought “I am going to find an expert and get some answers!’

So, of course, the first thing I did was walk into the next office to chat with our very own Dr. Paul Steen, one of our two watershed ecologists on staff. The Question: What are the creepy spider things that scurry around after we uncover the boat?

Water_strider_G_remigisThe Answer: “They are water striders. Common in rivers, streams and ponds.” Also, bugs are not creepy to aquatic entomologists. AND “It’s not a spider, it’s an insect,” Dr. Steen nicely corrects me.

My next question was based on something that almost actually happened last summer. We were anchored on Little Portage Lake and an osprey flew low over the boat, with a fish in its talons. The load was clearly either larger than expected, or unbalanced, because the flight – and the grip – appeared to be extremely unsteady. The Question: If an osprey drops a fish in my boat, can I keep it? The Answer: I had to contact the DNR for this one. “In order to possess the fish all laws would still apply, so the person would need a fishing license, it would need to be the open season for that fish, the fish would need to be of legal length, and if the person was fishing for that fish they would need to include it in their daily catch. If any of these do not apply they would need to immediately toss it back in the water. And the question comes up “well what if it is already dead?” Again, I would say throw it back. I’m guessing the osprey will come back and grab it after the boat gets out of the area, otherwise it will feed other fish/crayfish/etc.”  And I was looking forward to serving pan-fried fish with puncture wounds…

Horseflies are one of the more awful boating companions, and I wanted to know why they have such a nasty bite. The Question: Why are horseflies always around water, and why is their bite so nasty? Dr. Steen had to turn to the internet for this one.  The Answer: They lay their eggs near water. And only the females bite, because they need blood for egg development. The bite is nasty because they have huge mandibles with jagged edges. And yes, the pictures are gruesome.

For my swan questions, I went to Dea Armstrong, former ornithologist for the City of Ann Arbor and an active member of HRWC. The Question: We see large swan families at the beginning of every summer, but sometimes the cygnet numbers go from five to one in a short amount of time. What’s going on? The Answer: “Predators or just unable to feed itself has always been my guess. Very few hatch year birds of any species make it past the first year.” Predators can range from eagles, foxes and raccoons, to turtles and even fish.

We also are amused at the cygnets hitching rides. The Question: Why do cygnets ride on the back of mom or dad? The Answer: “Cygnets can swim right away, but spend time riding on their parents’ backs probably (like loons and mergansers) to rest, conserve heat, and avoid predators such as large fish, snapping turtles, gulls and eagles.”

Speaking of snapping turtles, a common question when floating around on noodles or inner tubes with a group of friends is about snapping turtle hazards. Specifically, the possibility of turtles going after any dangly bits. The Question: If I am floating in the lake, minding my own business, will snapping turtles bite my toes? The Answer: “Is there beer involved in that conversation?” asks Dr. Steen. The rest of his answer is hardly reassuring. “Well, they are like sharks – it’s extremely rare, but they can mistake toes for fish or other prey. But they’re just looking for food, not targeting humans.” Well, I sure feel better now.

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River Water Trail in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron from Flat Rock or paddle to Milford from Proud Lake, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket, hear a river history talk or learn to fly fish! 

toyota_logoHuron River Appreciation Day is sponsored by TOYOTA.

 



Follow the Huron River Water Trail to adventure . . .

Paddling on Pickerel Lake

For some quietPickerelblog water paddling sure to supply us with awesome wildlife viewing opportunities I take my family to Pickerel Lake. A little off the beaten path (technically the Water Trail is the main stem of the Huron), this non-motorized lake is frequented mostly by swimmers. There is a site to launch from but you need to carry the boat about 100 yards from the parking lot to the water.

We load our three small children into a canoe and paddle a slow adventure around the perimeter of the lake. Nestled within Pinckney Recreation Area, there is no development in sight. The shoreline is a beautiful mosaic of rushes, sedges and water lilies, wetlands and mpickerel2ature forest. The lake is spring fed making the water clean, clear and cool. The kids spend their time searching for fish and turtles. We stop to point out nesting waterfoul, sandhill cranes and great blue herons.

For a longer paddle, you can take the connecting channel up to Crooked Lake and back. Though not a fisherman myself, rumor has it you can catch some nice smallmouth bass. Also, there is a lovely hiking trail loop around the lake that takes you through some beautiful and rare ecosystems unique to this area. Paddle, swim or hike, it is a gem of a place to visit in our watershed.

Have fun, stay safe with these TIPS from the Trail!

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River Water Trail in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron from Flat Rock or paddle to Milford from Proud Lake, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket, hear a river history talk or learn to fly fish! Sponsored by TOYOTA.
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Follow the Huron River Water Trail to adventure . . .

Try Fishing a Stretch of the Huron’s Productive Waters

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I love to explore the watershed and hunt for fish habitat. The Huron River watershed is full of great habitat for a variety of species including sport fishes like small and large-mouth bass, rock bass, perch, steelhead, walleye and pike, and many other unique and diverse species. I like to fly fish the river and some of the larger tributaries for bass because bass are aggressive predators and strong fighters and I enjoy trying to mimic their prey. I am getting better at actually catching them, and our productive river is a good teacher with its wide gentle flow and lots of good hidey holes for big and small fish alike. Mostly, I just like the peaceful time to stand in the flow and take in the sights and sounds of life along the river.

Fly fish the Huron River.

Fly fish the Huron River.

Now that my kids are bigger, I have started taking each of them along with me. Both enjoy different aspects of the experience. Foster likes to think like a fish, while Ally likes being in the water and perfecting her casting skill.

One of our favorite places to fish is along Riverside Park in Ypsilanti. The river is wide there and fairly easy to navigate. We usually start by paying a visit to Schultz Outfitters to get the low down on river conditions and what the fish are feeding on. They have lots of great flies to fill our bait boxes as well. This stretch of the river has LOTS of bass! Most of them are on the small side, but since the RiverUp! restoration project was completed, the guides have been seeing some larger catch.

Ally with her first lake fish

Ally with her first lake fish

There are other great places to fish along the river. There is really good lake fishing in many of the in-line lakes throughout the watershed, and many river runs near Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, and Flat Rock. One of our most memorable times was when my wife caught her first fish while we were canoeing upstream of Barton Pond. She was so excited that she screamed and frightened then 2-year-old Ally.

Have fun, stay safe with these TIPS from the Trail!

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River Water Trail in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron from Flat Rock or paddle to Milford from Proud Lake, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket, hear a river history talk or learn to fly fish! 

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Huron River Appreciation Day is sponsored by TOYOTA.



Follow the Huron River Water Trail to Adventure

Paddling and Biking Upstream of Dexter
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One of our family’s favoritePaddlerHudsonMills trips on the Huron takes us through the Huron’s Natural River District, a designation recognizing the natural and scenic beauty of the river as it flows between Kent Lake and the western boundary of Ann Arbor.

We like to load kayaks as well as bicycles for a “paddle-down-cycle-up trip,” but you can of course also use two cars for a shuttle trip.  We start just above Mile 69 on the Water Trail (page 10 on HRWC’s Paddler’s Companion) at the DNR launch site off McGregor Road in Dexter Township after dropping the bikes (or other car) off at Dexter-Huron Metropark (you will need a Metropark pass).

We launch the kayaks into Portage Lake, but quickly need to get out again to portage the Flook Dam.  After the portage, we float into a seeming wilderness, with crystal waters clear down to the sand and gravel bottom, where we can watch fish torpedo by.  My husband commences counting turtles sunning themselves on logs.  I zig-zag from shore to shore, doing some float-by botany of the cardinal flowers, bluebells, and other flora.

The 8 mile trip takes us through Hudson Mills Metropark as well as the City of Dexter, where you can take a short side trip up Mill Creek (if flow conditions permit), take out at Mill Creek Park, and enjoy the beautiful trails the city has constructed along the restored creek.  You can taste baked goods from the Dexter Bakery or have lunch at one of the many restaurants, or an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen.

Paddling under the B2B non-motorized bridge in Dexter-Huron Metropark

Paddling under the B2B non-motorized bridge in Dexter-Huron Metropark

We take out at Dexter-Huron Metropark, where we jump on our bikes and head back up to the car along the Border-to-Border Trail, a non-motorized pathway that, when completed, will run all the way from Washtenaw County’s border with Wayne County (down by Ford Lake)  to its border with Livingston County (back at Portage Lake). The B2B Trail takes us back upstream along asphalt and boardwalks along the river and through wooded swamps and wetlands.  We get another chance for a snack as we bike through Dexter and up to Mill Creek Park.  Then the B2B takes us through Hudson Mills Metropark, where it ends, and we need to complete the trip along North Territorial and up Dexter-Pinckney Road to get back to our car at the DNR boat launch.  The road is passable, but it will sure be nice when the county completes this section of the B2B, and we can make our entire trip free of auto traffic.

Have fun, stay safe with these TIPS from the Trail!

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River Water Trail in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron from Flat Rock or paddle to Milford from Proud Lake, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket, hear a river history talk or learn to fly fish! 

toyota_logoHuron River Appreciation Day is sponsored by TOYOTA.



News to Us

mudsnail

New Zealand mudsnails are a new invasive species in Michigan Rivers. Photo credit: USGS

In this edition of News to Us: a new invasive affects inland waterways of Michigan, Green Oak tries to resolve flooding issues, a new report quantifies the gap between what we are spending and what we need to spend on our water infrastructure, and a new House Bill threatens to reduce Michigan’s power to protect our natural resources.

Invasive New Zealand mudsnail reaches Au Sable River
One of Michigan’s most recent aquatic invasives is on the move.  While we have not found it in the Huron River yet, we are concerned about the damage the mudsnail can cause. Your diligence can help avoid its further spread. Cleaning boats, waders and even shoes as you move from one waterbody to the next can reduce the chance of spreading the mudsnail to new rivers (especially if you have been on the Pere Marquette or Au Sable). For more information, and to report new sightings of New Zealand mudsnails to the DEQ and DNR, go to www.michigan.gov/invasives.

Flooded or forced out of their homes?
Repetitive flooding has plagued one corner of Green Oak Township for some time now.  And the problem is getting worse. The Township recently applied for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help acquire homes at fair market value and allowing the land to function as a floodway without risk to personal property or human health.

Q&A: PSC’s Jon Beard discusses how much Michigan should be spending on its water infrastructure
This is an interesting interview about a study that estimated the amount of money Michigan needs to spend on drinking water, stormwater and wastewater in order to meet the growing demands of aging infrastructure.  The research found Michiganders should be spending between $284 and $563 million more each year on water infrastructure.  While this is a lot of money, with about 10 million residents in the state, the gap could be filled by increasing water bills by as little as $3 to $6 each month.

‘No stricter than federal’ bill aims to make Michigan mediocre again
This blog put out by the Michigan Environmental Council provides commentary on House Bill 5613 which attempts to bar Michigan from passing rules stricter than an established federal standard. Read this blogger’s opinion on the implications of the bill to Michigan’s water and other natural resources. Since the writing of the blog, the House has passed the bill.  It is awaiting a vote by the Senate.



Follow the Huron Water Trail to adventure…

Fish, paddle, or play at the Bell Road access point

Located slightly north of the intersection of Huron River Drive and North Territorial, this Huron River access site has it all. The river is absolutely lovely here, with lush forested riparian zones, shallow rocky riffles, deep pools, and a path that stretches upstream and downstream along the river.

The parking area is a little confusing. It is at the end of a dead-end road and there is no parking lot and you can’t see the river.  The site is officially a DNR access point though, so parking is allowed here.  Park at the end of the road and walk fifty yards down the path to get to the river.

I now call this location my “swimming hole” and regularly take my six year old son to play in the river, tube up and down the small rapids, throw rocks, and jump off logs and the small rock dam. It is also on a section of the river known for a superb smallmouth bass population (please catch and release!), and many people use it as a starting point for paddling instead of the busier Hudson-Mills Metropark slightly downstream.

An early spring shot of the Huron River at Bell Road.



Follow the Huron River Water Trail to Adventure . . .

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Best way to get to Kensington

Get carried away on the north side of the ‘shed

One mcanoe at pick upy my favorite vacation days last summer was when my hubby and I rented a kayak from Heavner’s for an afternoon ride on the river. Heavner’s is in the Proud Lake State Rec Area so our trip started with an ‘instant, just add water” effort for gaining immediate access to nature.  We loved pushing off the dock and into a peaceful path bordered by tall grasses and trees.

A+ for excellent buffer zone!

A+ for excellent buffer zone!

After a very easy paddle for about 2 miles, we entered Milford, a cute town with a gorgeous bridge that looks like a portal to Narnia. If we had known about the River’s Edge Brewing Company in Milford, we certainly would have stopped for a beer. Our oversight was a novice mistake that can easily be avoided now that our Huron River Water Trail site is launched.  [Novice tip: before heading out, go to the site to find fun places to stop, sip, and snack in any trail town. Here’s a link to Milford’s page–check out the links in the map to plan ahead for fun places to visit.]

You can camp here!

Check out our Huron River Water Trail signs. We posted these at one of the four spots for river access camping on the Huron:  Canoe Camp

Past Milford, we spotted a pair of humans — less abundant in this area than farther South — who delighted us by “pulling over” to remove trash from a party spot along the shore. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of them sporting a Huron River Watershed Council volunteer t-shirt.   (Way to represent, peeps!)

Kensington pick upWe ended our trip at the agreed upon pick up spot in Kensington Park and the Heavner shuttle driver arrived on-time to take us back to our car.  The whole trip was very easy and we could have gone for several more miles. Next time, we will!

Have fun, stay safe with these TIPS from the Trail.

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River Water Trail in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron from Flat Rock or paddle to Milford from Proud Lake, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket, hear a river history talk or learn to fly fish!

toyota_logoHuron River Appreciation Day is sponsored by TOYOTA.



Mounting evidence against coal tar pavement sealers

Coal tar pavement sealers are much more toxic than we thought

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HRWC has been advocating for the elimination of coal tar sealcoating in our watershed. This is a widely used asphalt maintenance practice in our area and coal tar sealcoats have very high levels of PAHs, many of which are known to be harmful to aquatic life and people.

New research has found that previous studies have, if anything, underestimated the toxicity of coal tar sealcoats. Researchers at Oregon State University investigated the toxicity of both coal tar and asphalt based sealcoats. Unique to this study, a much larger number of PAHs were analyzed.  Researchers also assessed toxicity to zebrafish.

When a larger number of PAHs found in sealcoats were included, the indicator for carcinogenicity was 4-39% higher than had been found in previous studies.* Asphalt-based sealcoats, while still toxic, were found to be far less toxic than their coal tar counterparts.

We recommend residents, businesses and other property owners choose asphalt-based sealcoat or abstain from sealcoating altogether when considering options for asphalt pavement maintenance. The risk to our environment and communities is too high and the evidence is mounting.  Learn more at hrwc.org/coaltar.

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*range represents the results from two coal tar products and whether the carcinogenicity was determined using USEPA or Health Canada standards, which are more stringent.

 




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