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2014 State of the Huron Conference is this Thursday! Register now!

We are putting together a fantastic conference for you and couldn’t be more excited for the 2014 State of the Huron Conference!

Learn about the focus of the April 24th event including keynote speakers, conference theme, and registration details at www.hrwc.org/sohc2014.

Join us for the only conference dedicated solely to the Huron River where community leaders, planners, scientists, educators, engineers, residents, and business owners engage in a conversation and celebration of this irreplaceable river.

Amy and Dave Freeman will share their enthusiasm for river adventure. credit: D. Freeman


Study asks: Is there an easier way to locate at-risk septic systems?

Huron River Watershed Council failing septics MDEQ research

Collapse of a residential septic system tank

Septic systems are essential to rural living.

Communities have standards for their design, construction, and, increasingly, maintenance. Yet, even with those standards, septic systems can fail. When a septic system fails, the polluted water it releases can pose a human health risk, an expensive repair and a water quality problem for groundwater, streams and lakes.

Over the past three years, HRWC led a team of researchers and public health managers in pursuit of a new approach to detect failed septic systems that may reduce pollutants entering the Huron River in Michigan and yield a cost-effective approach for county health departments to monitor and rectify problem septic systems. Pollutants from failing septic systems — pathogens and phosphorus — play a role in the health of the Huron River and its tributary streams located in rural areas.

In fact, one of the more perplexing questions about water pollution in this river has been “how much of a problem are failing septics?”

The overall project goals were to 1) reduce the quantity of phosphorus and bacteria entering the middle Huron River, and 2) develop a cost‐effective approach for monitoring and rectifying problems with septic systems for County Health Departments.

Learn more about the study design and our findings.

Senate approves bill to battle algal blooms

The Senate last night approved legislation from a bipartisan group of lawmakers to boost federal efforts against the harmful algae blooms that haunt many of the nation’s waters.

S. 1254, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013, is sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and 18 colleagues, would authorize interagency work on algae blooms and the dead zones, suffering from a lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, that they frequently spawn. The legislation would also create a national program with a research plan and action strategy. The legislation also requires the interagency Task Force to: (1) submit within 18 months to Congress and the President an integrated assessment that examines the causes, consequences, and approaches to reduce hypoxia and harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes; and (2) develop and submit to Congress a plan, based on such assessment, for reducing, mitigating, and controlling such hypoxia and blooms.

The upper chamber approved the legislation by unanimous consent.

Algae blooms, a result of nutrient pollution that washes off farm fields and suburban streets and comes from wastewater treatment plants, are an entrenched problem across the United States. Sprawling algae blooms on Florida’s east and west coasts this summer kept people from the water and contributed to the deaths of sea animals, including the highest recorded annual death count for manatees (Greenwire, Dec. 20, 2013). Closer to home, nuisance algal blooms impact Ford Lake and Belleville Lake, impoundments of the Huron River, reducing access to the waters for fishing, swimming, and other outdoor pursuits.

“We can’t sit back and let endangered creatures disappear along with jobs in the fishing industry,” Nelson said when he introduced the legislation in June.

Elizabeth Riggs

Elizabeth directs RiverUp!, the signature placemaking initiative for Huron River communities, and also serves as Deputy Director for the Watershed Council. She thinks this may be the year that she finally invests in her own kayak or canoe - suggestions welcome.

Anita Twardesky joins RiverUp!

LinkedIn profile imageThe Huron River Watershed Council is pleased to announce that  Anita Twardesky has joined the RiverUp! initiative as Trail Towns Coordinator. Anita will guide the five largest communities on the river – Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Flat Rock – in becoming Trail Towns, trailside and gateway communities that are true recreational destinations. The Huron River Water Trail is a project of RiverUp!, the initiative to make the Huron River a new “Main Street” for the river towns where residents and tourists recreate, live, commute, do business, and treasure their riverfronts.

Anita is an experienced and respected recreation and trails professional. She  also serves as Public Relations & Community Outreach for Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte where she is responsible for promoting outdoor recreation, paddlesports, and the ecotourism in the region. Previously, she served as Parks & Recreation Director for the cities of Woodhaven and Flat Rock. Her appointments include co-chair of the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, Chair of the Trails Committee for the Michigan Recreation & Parks Association, and a member of the State Wide Advisory Group Michigan Water Trails.

The Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the river’s natural environment, its history, and the communities it touches in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The Huron River Water Trail is a consortium of interested groups and communities, and is a project of the Huron River Watershed Council and RiverUp!.

Do You Need a Fishing License for That?

In case you need more evidence that storm drains really do connect directly to streams and rivers, spend the next minute watching a young man fishing in his neighborhood storm drain. The video, and others like it, are courtesy of Kyle Naegeli of Texas via his YouTube channel. Tips for protecting water quality in curb and gutter areas include capturing rain water at home and limiting salt use on sidewalks and driveways. Check out more tips on our website under Take Action.

Still from Kyle Naegeli’s fishing video


Looking for signs of RiverUp! around the Great Lakes

chicago lakefront

Strolling along Lake Michigan, Chicago

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?

RiverUp! scores another win for river users

  • Quiet waters for landing and launching at Island Park Quiet waters for landing and launching at Island Park
  • Soil erosion and sediment control measures are installed prior to earth-moving 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 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 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? 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. 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.


Your New Resource for Water Trail Trip Planning

Welcome to the virtual launch for the new Huron River Water Trail website!

HRWT_newweb_screenshot-300x275The new online tool, seven months in the making, offers a nearly complete Water Trail experience . . . minus the water.

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!.

Eager beavers on Portage Creek

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.

Huron River Portage Creek beaver dam



Final River Expedition Dispatch

Day 5: Lower Huron Metropark to Lake Erie

The crew celebrates the completion of their adventure at Pointe Mouillee with the waters of Great Lake Erie behind them

The crew celebrates the completion of their adventure at Pointe Mouillee with the waters of Great Lake Erie behind them

27 miles
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

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