I grew up in Milwaukee, which means that during my childhood I assumed every city smelled of malted barley, yeast, and hops, ended the work week with Friday night fish fries, and designed their waterfronts for walking, biking, kite flying, sunbathing, swimming, dining, boating, and music and ethnic festivals.
Not until I was a bit older and had done some traveling did I notice that some cities embraced their position on the water and some (unfathomably!) had turned their backs to it. While traveling to several waterfront cities this fall, I have been reminded of what a special place my hometown is for the foresight of the city’s planners to provide beautiful spaces for people to experience Lake Michigan. I have also been reminded of the power of HRWC’s work with river towns and partners on RiverUp! to create a renaissance for the Huron River and turn our villages and cities to face – and embrace — the water.
So what of my observations of these waterfront cities? Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Cleveland, like Milwaukee, necessarily utilize at least portions of their waterfront for trade and commerce. Industrial uses aside, I was on the lookout for how these places physically connect people to the water and the waterfront to downtown.
Chicago does an admirable job of connecting people and downtown to Lake Michigan even amid the skyscrapers. The city’s investment in landscaping and trail maintenance along the waterfront is rewarded by the throngs of people enjoying this space between downtown and the water. A morning run along the lake was a treat for me since I miss living next to a Great Lake.
Grand Rapids is on a quest similar to RiverUp! through its revitalization of downtown that includes returning the rapids to the Grand River. The city, with its limited water frontage, will be challenged to incorporate more green space between the river and downtown that can provide a respite for city dwellers and ecological benefits at the river’s edges. But the motivation and the private and public investment focused on the city should take this city’s re-birth far.
Cleveland still mostly has its back on Lake Erie. In Cleveland, unlike Milwaukee and Chicago, downtown beaches, recreational paths, and open public green spaces are lacking. Rather, the space between the water and downtown is mostly paved and occupied by a stadium and industrial uses. I try to go for a run in most places that I visit for my own fitness and as a great way to experience a place. I had hoped for a waterfront route but had to bail on that idea when the hotel desk clerk (a runner herself) indicated that such a route was neither safe nor accessible on foot nor very scenic. I’d love to see Cleveland take a page from Milwaukee and celebrate its location on the Great Lake Erie. This city has its gems, to be sure, and the waterfront could be the most dazzling jewel in the crown.
Which cities do you think celebrate their waterfronts?
- Quiet waters for landing and launching at Island Park
- Soil erosion and sediment control measures are installed prior to earth-moving
- The site is graded to achieve an easy slope for hauling canoes and kayaks
- Boulders at the site are used to stabilize the new design. This gravel won't scratch canoes and kayaks
- Our friend Mike happened to be fly fishing near the project site. Catch anything?
- The perfect spot for one, two or ten boats to rest.
RiverUp! strikes again! Another makeover at the river’s edge is nearing completion, this time in Ann Arbor’s Island Park.
The construction crew just wrapped up at the new canoe and kayak access located at river mile 49.4 on the Huron River Water Trail. The new launch and landing replaces the eroded and undersized (and unofficial) landing just upstream near the footbridge that had become the taking out spot for paddlers. Way-finding signage will be installed soon directing river users to the improved access point.
City of Ann Arbor Liveries Manager Cheryl Saam envisioned a better option at the new site. RiverUp! program staff and project consultant SmithGroupJJR worked with Cheryl and the city to design and implement the project. Upon visiting the site this week, Cheryl offered, “All looks really good. I think the landing is easily seen from the main river, and I really like the pea gravel mix for boat dragging.” Island Park is situated along the popular Argo to Gallup paddle trip. Cheryl adds, “We will be directing many groups to this launch since Island Park is the best stopping off point for wading, playing, picnicking and restroom breaks.”
This river access improvement was made possible through the generous support of Marguerite Smith whose own experiences with the river motivates her philanthropy. “My husband was an avid outdoorsman and particularly enjoyed solo canoeing,” shares Marguerite. “The Huron River was a favorite of his and he paddled the entire length over a period of two summers,” she recalls, “He would be pleased with the improvements that are underway through RiverUp! to enhance access and enjoyment of this wonderful resource.”
RiverUp! is the signature placemaking initiative for the Huron River and its communities. Through this effort, we are working to assist communities to maximize the Huron River as a community asset to attract residents, visitors, and businesses. From the launch of the initiative in August 2011 to present, RiverUp! is generating interest in the river and its communities, and is part of a broader Great Lakes vision to maximize freshwater resources for community development.
Welcome to the virtual launch for the new Huron River Water Trail website!
While nothing beats trying out the site for yourself, here’s a sample of what to expect:
- Clean, user-friendly interactive trip planning maps
- Extensive trail amenities – where to grab a sandwich? where to pitch a tent? what activities are happening in the Trail Towns?
- Real-time weather and stream flow information
- Outfitters with canoe and kayak rentals
- And much, much more
Are you looking for a lazy float on flat water or a chance to try your whitewater skills? Flat water, flowing river, portages, and other trail features are all mapped with recommended trips to last a few hours to a few days. Investigate the distance, time, level of difficulty, highlights, and more for each recommended trip.
The trail information and graphics complement the new Paddler’s Companion, the indispensable waterproof map book for the Huron River Water Trail. Get your own copy today!
Help us spread the word about the new planning tool for the Huron River Water Trail. Use it to plan your next trip! Tell you friends and family! And become a part of it by sharing your observations and photos.
HRWC acknowledges the planning and design team of The Greenway Collaborative, Inc. and Imageweaver Studio, the Partners of the Huron River Water Trail for their review and recommendations, and the support of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Erb Family Foundation, and the many partners of RiverUp!.
This just in from the Portage Creek corner of the watershed:
A couple of beavers are building a dam on the creek, no permits required! The observant land owner who snapped this photo writes, “Depending on how much work [the beavers accomplish], the creek could be raised 3 to 4 feet. At this point, it looks like maybe one or two beavers can take the credit for this project that has been going on for the last two weeks.”
The presence of beaver on Portage Creek is a testament to the expansive natural areas of its drainage area, as well as to the stewardship of some waterside residents who keep the streambanks lush with trees, shrubs, and native grasses.
Day 5: Lower Huron Metropark to Lake Erie
6.5 hrs paddling
After another quiet and peaceful night camping, we’re up early for an 8 am start. Mike George arrives to accompany us as far as Oakwoods Metropark, and Jim Pershing, Superintendent for the Park arrives to bid us a Bon Voyage.
This next stretch of river is perhaps the best kept secret of the whole river. It’s surprisingly remote and mostly natural with few houses or intrusions; only negative is the constant noise of jet traffic overhead (choose a day with north winds if you can when paddling this stretch, as the jets will be taking off in the other direction). Herons, Kingfishers and Orioles escorted us along the banks. Sycamores, Catalpas and Redbuds provided the greenery. We didn’t glimpse the Paw Paw trees but knew they were there. Future Water Trail mile markers and sign posts will be a welcome addition as landmarks are few and far between. Highway and railroad bridges are soon passed and we enter the backwaters of the Flat Rock impoundment and Oakwoods Metropark, a wonderful stretch of oxbows and bayous.
Our weather karma wanes a little as the east wind gets funneled down the lake giving us a stiff headwind for the crossing. Mike George waves goodbye and heads for the Nature Center, and we set our sights on the right end of the Flat Rock Dam anticipating the portage and lunch stop ahead. Flat Rock Metals has graciously left the gate unlocked so the portage is surprisingly quick and easy, we move our gear to the bank below the low dam by the covered bridge and enjoy our well deserved lunch. Ten miles to go.
The current helps along for the next few miles and the woods gradually gives away to more open marsh and wetlands. A few more houses along the banks with some impressive metal breakwalls, and soon the Jefferson St bridge is in view. We pause to collect the group and marvel at the remains of the circa 1800 plank road [editor's note: the road built for the War of 1812 known as Hull's Trace] visible along the shoreline and ready for the last push across the river mouth to Pt. Mouillee. Kay, Klaus and Aileen are there to greet us with our shuttle vehicles await in the parking lot.
What a great adventure. I couldn’t have asked for better paddling companions and our shore support was wonderful. Once I get home and unpacked, notes and photos sorted, I’ll post a Trip Epilogue with more details and observations. Until then, thanks to all that made this adventure truly special.
Total river miles: 101.8
Total hours paddling: 28
Day 3: Hudson Mills to Superior Pond
6.5 hrs paddling
Total miles (so far) 60.09
On the water before 8 am. Up close and personal look at the tornado damage from March 15 2012. Some impressive “tornado art” just above Mill Creek. Great blue herons escorting us all the way down the river. Several elected to run Delhi Rapids; the rest of us chose to portage.
I forget how nice the stretch below Delhi is to paddle, must do it more often.
Our good paddling karma continued with a tailwind across Barton Pond, two egrets and an osprey inspired us on. Quick stop to salute the Huron River Watershed Council staff then on to lunch at the Argo Livery before tackling the Cascades. Be sure to stop and enjoy the Ned Sharples bench in front of the livery–he inspired many of us to paddle and enjoy and protect the river. We ran with empty boats without incident but all dragged our sterns on the rock on the last drop.
Easy run across Gallup Pond and quick portage over the Geddes Dam put us in Superior Pond. We discussed the history of this forgotten and peaceful stretch of river, waiving to the Governor and ogling the mansions on the high bank. We end the day at a secret campsite we’ve nicknamed “Superior Bluffs– a gated community”.
Two days, forty miles, four challenging portages to go…
All is going well for Ron and the crew. Visit HRWC on Facebook for more photos from their trip.
Day 2: Island Lake Camp to Hudson Mills
6.5 hrs paddling
2 hrs stopped
3.4 MPH moving avg
Peaceful camping overnight, no drinking water available on site. Paul Seelbach (one of the original Riverfesters) joined us in the evening for the rest of the trip. 8:00 am start on the water through one of the nicest stretches of the river. Deb and Klaus joined us at Place ways for the day. The rest of the morning was very pleasant paddle dodging fallen trees. First lunch at Huron Meadows, then on to the lakes.
Good paddling karma gave us light following breezes across Strawberry, Woodburn and Galleger Lakes and got us to Base Line where we stopped for second lunch at the Michigan Sailing Club. Paul explained how we were leaving the first phase of the river– upland wetland woodland and entering the section that works its way through the rocky, gravelly glacial moraines.
Mink, muskrat, great blue heron, orioles, catbirds, kingfishers, killdeer, cygnets riding on the back of a swan, owl (barred?), pileated woodpecker.
Many carp splashing, suckers along the bottom and small mouth bass. A fisherman at the rapids at Hudson Mills reported catching (and releasing) 27 this day.
Great day on the river, 60 some miles to go . . .
For the next five days, we’ll post blogs from Ron Sell and his merry crew of paddlers as they complete their through-paddle of the 104-mile long Huron River. We look forward to hearing about their adventures and sharing their observations with you.
A little over 20 years ago, Joan Martin (HRWC Adopt-A-Stream director emeritus) had the wonderful idea of getting a bunch of people together and paddling the whole length of the river. After a year of planning, her simple idea had grown into RIVERFEST, a nine-day celebration of the river from start to finish.
It seemed like time to do the trip again, see what has changed over 20 years. And armed with the new River Paddler’s Companion guide book, find out how close we have come to making a true water trail. Today a smaller group of 7 started the day at Heavner’s Canoe Livery headed to Lake Erie in five days. We’ll report along the way and share our findings as we go. Stay tuned….
Proud Lake to Island Lake canoe camp.
14.63 mi, 4 hrs 29 min
Beautiful weather, lots of birds and fishes. Light tail wind made the 3 mi crossing of Kent Lake a breeze. Two easy portages, nice clean water after the Kent Lake Dam. Canoe camp is very pleasant and secluded. Finished earlier than planned, lots of time to relax.
FLAT ROCK — The culmination of more than 10 years of work will be recognized at 4 p.m. today at Huroc Park with the groundbreaking for the Flat Rock-Oakwoods connector trail. HRWC will be there to celebrate the work of many partners over the past decade who made this important link happen. In addition, we’ll kickoff the Huron River Water Trail Paddlers Companion in this Trail Town.
Sponsored by the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, the one-mile trail will be the final piece of the east-west connector trail. The project includes construction of the path from Huroc Park to Oakwoods Metropark in Huron Township, work at a railroad crossing and route signage.
Funding for the $684,300 trail is provided by federal funds and a local match from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources.
The 24-mile east-west route stretches from Belleville Lake to the shores of Lake Erie. It encompasses nearly 20,000 acres, runs through four metroparks and follows the Huron River. In fact, just a few undeveloped trail miles in Van Buren Charter Township separates the downriver route from the Border to Border Trail system in Washtenaw County, an eventual 35-mile contiguous non-motorized path along the Huron River.
The ceremony will feature remarks from Rodney Stokes, special adviser for city placemaking for Gov. Rick Snyder; Vince Ranger, grant coordinator for the Michigan Department of Transportation; Mayor Jonathan Dropiewski; Tom Woiwode, Community Foundation Southeast Michigan’s Greenways Initiative director; John McCulloch, Huron-Clinton Metroparks director; Elizabeth Riggs, Huron River Watershed Council deputy director; and Anita Twardesky, co-chair of greenways initiative.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-12th District) is invited to attend.
Join us today at 4 p.m. to help celebrate the realization of a vision where residents and visitors come together to live, work and play on the shores of the Huron River.
Chances are good that if you’re a regular to HRWC blogs, then you’ve already heard about Senate Bill 78 that would prohibit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from taking actions that achieve or maintain biological diversity. In doing so, it would prevent the department from carrying out a central tenet of its mission to conserve and protect our natural resources. Biological diversity is critical to our environmental legacy and to the health of the Huron River system.
The bill has passed the full Senate primarily along party-lines, despite the opposition of residents, professors from a number of Michigan’s universities, and environmental and conservation organizations.
Aside from restricting the ability of the DNR to make decisions based on a basic scientific principle, the legislation could also jeopardize Michigan’s ability to receive federal funding for forest management, endanger our forest certifications and put at risk areas of our state that have long been appreciated by Michigan residents for outdoor recreation and their scenic beauty.
The bill is now on its way to the House Natural Resources Committee. To share your views and concerns about SB 78, tell your State Representative to contact Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, Chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and urge her to stop this bill.
SB 78 is anything but Pure Michigan.
For additional reading on this issue, we recommend the following links:
“State Senate bill puts forests at risk of disease, pests, environmentalists say.” Detroit Free Press.
“Legislation redefining conservation puts Michigan’s diversity of nature at risk: MEC Commentary.” Detroit Free Press
“Anti-Biodiversity Bill hearings Continue.” MEC blog: http://michigandistilled.org/