Author Archive

Run for HRWC at the Big Foot Small Print Trail Run

4-Mile Trail Run and 1-Mile Kids’ Fun Run

Saturday, September 30, 2017Big Foot Small Print Trail Run
8am-Noon
Independence Lake County Park

Are you a runner? Or a walker?  Do you like beautiful trails, fall color, and helping your favorite watershed council (that would be us) AND supporting Washtenaw County Parks? We have the event for you! The Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission is partnering with the Huron River Watershed Council in the Big Foot Small Print Trail Run to support healthy and vibrant communities in Washtenaw County.

Your $35 ($40 after September 18) entry fee lets you enjoy a beautiful fall morning at Independence Lake County Park while running or kids-mile-startwalking a scenic 4-mile course. Also on offer – a 1 mile kid’s fun run/walk for children of all ages, for just $10 ($15 after September 17), so bring the whole family! Park entry fee is included in the registration for both county residents and non-residents. Sign up on the county parks website (click the “Browse Activities” link and search using keyword “run“).

“Running? Uphill both ways? Not me!” you might be saying. We need volunteers too! Contact Hannah Cooley, at cooleyh@ewashtenaw.org or (734)971-6337 x 319. Lots of fun jobs from helping with registration and packet pick-up to handing medals to racers at the finish.

How Science-y Are HRWC Scientists? Very.

img_6161We have a very large whiteboard in the conference room at HRWC, and the holidays prompted some doodling across its vast expanse. Suddenly, the Huron River was populated with all sorts of creatures having some winter fun, skating away…you know, like they do.

The scientists loved it – mostly. Just a few quibbles, really, and what struck me was that the concerns were NOT that the scene included Santa and his reindeer, a snowman, and that all the watershed animals were on skates. Oh, no. That was all fine! The two issues were:

  1. the crayfish was skating forward and not backward as nature intended
  2. there was a bear in the scene, and there are no bears in the watershed

The ensuing conversation, while amusing (the 2011 black bear sighting at Hudson Mills was submitted, and rejected, as evidence as it seems he/she was “just passing through”), showed the depth and breadth of scientific inquiry that is the norm at HRWC. We take a good hard look at everything, and that is to the advantage of the river, the watershed and all the creatures in it.

You just can’t get away with fake news at HRWC. A skating bear on the Huron is going to get fact-checked in all directions. A crayfish with forward momentum is simply not right, and all the

Crayfish, skating in the correct direction now

Crayfish, skating in the correct direction now

scientists on staff are going to let you know this (nicely, of course!), and then you are going to get to examine the crayfish poster (yes, we have a crayfish poster!) for information, and the conversation spirals off into what are common to the watershed (virile, northern clearwater and others) and can you eat them like crawdads (yes) and what kind of crayfish are crawdads anyway (red swamp crayfish – invasive to Michigan).

And when you have that level of examination over a cartoon crayfish, you can imagine what happens here on the more serious issues. Impacts of 1,4 dioxane on aquatic life? We are searching globally for the latest science. PAH content of “synthetic” coal tar sealants? We’re on it.

Because that’s how we do things here.

To learn more about the science behind our work, please join us on Thurs, Jan 19, 6-8pm for our Volunteer Appreciation and Season Results Presentation. Through the lens of the Huron’s many creeksheds, HRWC staff will share stories and lessons learned from our 2016 field season at this fun annual event. We will feature 2016 highlights and 2017 plans from our Bioreserve, Fish Habitat, River Bug Studies, and Water Quality programs. NEW Center, 2nd Floor, 1100 North Main Street, Ann Arbor. Register by email: jfrenzel@hrwc.org.

–Rebecca Foster, Development Associate

HRWC Membership – Why Should You Join?

Greetings from the Membership Department and your friendly HRWC Membership Coordinator!

Did you know that membership support is critical to HRWC’s ongoing research and education efforts? Our membership has been growing each year, with most members contributing at the $35-$100 “invertebrate” levels (Mayfly, Crayfish, Dragonfly).  Just like in the watershed, the invertebrates are leading indicators of the health of HRWC and contributions at these levels provide over 60% of our annual membership income.

And what do we do with your money? The steady income from memberships allows HRWC to launch new programs in response to issues in the watershed – programs that do not initially have identified funding sources. When our efforts to ban the use of coal tar pavement sealants were just beginning, it was membership dollars that supported the initial research into the problem and how best to address it, which then led to our coal tar campaign to fund a broader effort to help local municipalities implement ordinance restrictions to reduce the use of this toxic material.

Some of our Green Infrastructure planning and Natural Rivers District work is also funded through membership support, which allows HRWC to send key staff members to local governments to assist in land use planning, ordinances and policies designed to protect the natural stretches of the Huron through several of our townships.

Membership also funds the little things, like when you call to let us know about an issue in the watershed. It might not seem like it takes much to respond to a call about clear-cutting property all the way to the riverbank, but once we get off the phone with you, we are making calls and sending emails to make sure the proper agencies are notified, and that they respond (so, yeah, members are funding our pestering abilities!). Often, one of our staff members will travel out to the property in question.

As a member, you can be proud of your connection to HRWC and your role in the important work we do every day in support of the Huron River and its watershed. Not a member? Consider getting in touch with your inner Mayfly and join our hundreds of other membership invertebrates! It’s easy to join online today.

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.

 

Holiday Shopping with HRWC!

Holiday Giving for email-01 (002)You know it. I know it. We all know it.

Nobody really wants another tie. And please don’t re-gift that fruitcake.

Shopping for a meaningful gift? Of course you are, and we have you covered. Shop with us this holiday season!

We have Paddler’s Companions, waterproof map flip books of the Huron River, for that river recreationist in your life – AND these are interesting and useful even if you don’t own a kayak or canoe. Want to float down a section of the river on an inner tube? Need to know where to park and access the river for fishing or just splashing around with the kids? Did you know the Huron is a National Water Trail? $15, and they are easy to wrap, mail or stuff in a stocking.

Are you an HRWC member? Do you want all your friends and relatives to be members? (We do.) Membership dollars help support our programs and new initiatives, adding to our ability to be responsive to issues as they arise in the watershed. You can join here, and also purchase gift memberships for all those friends and relatives. Membership levels start at $35.

For the map or history geeks (or art, or engineering, or river, or…just about any kind of geek, really) in your life, we have archival-quality reproductions of Gardner Williams’ survey maps of the Huron River, c. 1905-1908. Generously donated by Stantec engineering, and now housed at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, these maps are a detailed and beautiful view of the river and its surrounding landscape a century ago. The level of detail requires a large format, so these maps come in a 3 ft x 3 ft size for $110 and a 4 ft x 4 ft for $150. These maps are printed to order, so please order by December 9 for pick-up at our offices by December 22. Shipping is available for the 3 x 3 size only for an extra $10.

And now…for that impossible-to-buy-for-person. Everyone has at least one of these, right? I know I have, like, five. You can make a contribution to HRWC in their honor. Gifts to the Wilson Water Quality Fund are directed to our water quality programs that monitor river and watershed conditions to ensure science-based responses to protect the Huron. Just click the “make this a gift” box on the checkout page, and choose to donate on behalf, in honor, or in memory of that special someone.

Thank you for shopping with HRWC and supporting our river protection work in the process!

 

 

 

The Big Ballooning Adventure

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” – Winnie The Pooh

Bit of a nice view, <a href=

search yes? Kent Lake from our balloon, with a companion balloon nicely providing the "money shot."” src=”http://www.hrwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/balloon-kent-lake-300×225.jpg” width=”300″ height=”225″ /> Bit of a nice view, yes? Kent Lake from our balloon, with a companion balloon nicely providing the “money shot.”

Pooh Bear, he knows. My husband and I were grinning for two hours, from beginning to end of our first hot air balloon ride. And really, and we still grinning.

A bucket list item for both of us, this trip also coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary. And although we did not have any inflated expectations (come on, it had to be said!), what few preconceived notions we had were pretty much…burst.

Ha, sorry.

OK, not really.

I thought I would need a jacket. It’s cooler at higher altitudes, right? Didn’t think about the propane burner, and the very small space shared with two large men.

We both thought the ride would be bumpier, discount but there’s more turbulence on your average domestic airline flight than we experienced on this ride. Heck, my drive into work is rougher.

We also both envisioned a large landing area – you know, BIG, like a field, or open park space. We landed in the cul-de-sac of a subdivision. Much the delight of the residents – and the 6 kids who got a short tethered ride as a result.

Pilot Scott Lorenz filling the balloon

Pilot Scott Lorenz filling the balloon

Our pilot was Scott Lorenz of Westwind Balloon Company, which typically takes off near Kensington Metropark and Island State Recreation Area near Milford, MI. We met him at a park-and-ride lot, along with three other balloon companies. After sending up two trial balloons to test the wind direction – both of which went in opposite directions, leading all the pilots to shrug and say “OK, whatever” – we drove over to Island State Rec, which has thoughtfully provided a possibly-unofficial balloon “docking” area for just this activity.

After helping lay out and inflate the balloon with a huge fan, we climbed in the basket, and with a few shot of the burner – up, up and away we went (yes, in a beautiful balloon, just like the song, you old geezers you).

Kent Lake view

Kent Lake view

Wow. We could see the Detroit skyline, that’s how clear it was…and the view of the Huron River and Kent Lake was amazing. My photos don’t remotely capture the real thing. Picturesque also seems like an inadequate word for the view of our companion balloons, splashes of color against a gorgeous backdrop of Island Lake Rec Area and Kensington Metropark, the Huron glistening below them.

We flew for about 45 minutes in a remote kind of quiet that was interrupted only by the bursts from the propane burner to keep us aloft at about 500-1000 feet, and occasional conversation on what we were seeing.

View from the basket, as the burner sends a shot of hot air into the balloon

View from the basket, as the burner sends a shot of hot air into the balloon

Scott started scanning for a landing spot and decided – much to our surprise – on a cul-de-sac in a small subdivision. His crew captain, Gary, had already spotted us and was waiting for specifics on where we were going to end up.  By the time we touched down, several dads and assorted kids had already gathered, and Scott piled the kids into the basket for a short tethered lift.

After deflating and packing up the balloon, it was time for the post-ballooning champagne – a tradition started with the earliest French ballooning flights. Upon seeing the smoke-belching balloons landing in their fields, residents were inclined to get out the pitchforks and stab the “demons” into submission. The French being…well, French…the problem was solved by offering champagne upon landing.

Watching the balloon gracefully defalte

Watching the balloon gracefully defalte

 

Champagne is almost always a good idea, isn’t it? And a perfect ending to a ballooning adventure.

 

 

 

 

My Huron River (Happy Hour on Little Portage Lake)

HRWC staff picks of favorite watershed spots, celebrating 50 years of river protection and restoration work.

A typical view while sipping wine on Little Portage Lake In Pinckney

                                            A typical view while sipping wine on Little Portage Lake in Pinckney

I live in Pinckney and one of my favorite places is Little Portage Lake on the Chain of Lakes. Little Portage is a small lake that is the western end of the Chain and is also fed by Portage Creek, one of the most pristine creeks in the watershed.

This is not your typical Michigan inland lake, crowded with houses and docks. The lake is surrounded on 3 sides by woods and wetlands, and on weekday evenings in particular, there is virtually no boat traffic.

We rent dock space from Klave’s at the mouth of Portage Creek, and my husband and I often head out for happy hour, knowing we will only be sharing the lake with swans, swallows, frogs, turtles, and the occasional muskrat and sandhill crane.

We like to drop anchor in a cove at the west end of the lake. The water is about 15′ deep here, and there are no houses at all. Just woods and wetlands, and the background music is the soft slap of the water against the boat, bird calls, insect songs, and sometimes a swan kerfluffle with wings batting at the water surface and echoing across the lake.

It’s the very definition of peace and tranquility, and goes well with a chilled sauvignon blanc or your favorite microbrew.

HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!

Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.

Connect and share river ruminations or captured moments with us on FacebookTwitter and InstagramUse #huronriver50 to mark your posts!

Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.

 

 

 

Vote for local student Hannah Hu’s Google Doodle

We have an HRWC shout-out for Hannah Hu, a Logan Elementary student who is the Michigan representative for the Doodle 4 Google contest going on now. You can vote HERE.

Ocean Cleaner Google Doodle

Hannah Hu’s “Ocean Cleaner”

Google’s challenge to students? “If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place…” Hannah’s entry is an Ocean Cleaner (pictured below). Here’s what she had to say on the Google 4 Doodle contest page:

“The Machine that I invented to make the world a better place is an ocean cleaner. It helps to clean the trash and pollution that people put into the ocean, and releases fresh and clean ocean water. So the animals that live in the ocean can be very happy, healthy, and strong.”

The winner of the Google 4 Doodle contest will receive a $30,000 scholarship and $50,000 technology grant for their school. So tell all your friends to vote for Hannah’s terrific doodle.

We are all about clean water here at HRWC! Maybe Hannah can invent a smaller version for rivers?

 

Bids on the River Open Nov 25-Dec 2

HRWC’s holiday auction includes our largest collection of fabulous items for your bidding pleasure! This year we have over 40 items listed online at BiddingForGood and all proceeds benefit HRWC’s efforts to restore and protect the watershed.

Bids on the River is online now until December 2 and is the perfect shopping opportunity for the holidays or any occasion.

It’s a toss up between Paddle Board Lessons and Schultz Outfitters Fly Fishing Lessons or a Jolly Irish Christmas. Something for everyone. Outdoor recreation, birding, paddle boarding, baked goods, entertainment, unique experiences and cooking lessons.

Bid early and remember to check back for new items.

The auction closes on Dec 2 so start your bidding soon and check back often. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to purchase a beautiful gift for yourself or special someone and support HRWC with just a couple of clicks! Auction proceeds this year will support HRWC’s core programs, such as water quality monitoring.

 

 

Headwaters Field Trip for HRWC Staff

view indian springs

Our recent trip to Indian Springs Metropark was officially called a “staff outing, ailment ” which we all know is just grown-up-speak for a  field trip. What a gorgeous day for exploring the headwaters of the Huron River! I know this was the first time I had been to the area, and the origins of the Huron were not at all what I was expecting – somehow, in my head, I had a visual of  a large lake or significant bubbling spring (Ok, I admit it, the picture in my head was a dramatic geyser, but I knew that was not happening!).

The reality is that the headwaters are a series of ponds, wetlands and small streams making a joint effort to create the beautiful Huron.

shade indian springs

Shady pool, part of the headwaters of the Huron

Yuck! But that goopy orange stuff is normal - produced by bacteria in acidic soils.

Yuck! But that goopy orange stuff is normal – produced by bacteria in acidic soils.

stream indian springs

Sunny little creek, part of the headwaters of the Huron River.

One of several snakes we saw on our hike - possibly a Northern water snake?

One of several snakes we saw on our hike – possibly a Northern water snake?


Donate to HRWC
Volunteer
Coal Tar Sealers
Calendar
Huron River Water Trail
RiverUp
Donate to HRWC
SwiftRun
rss .FaceBook-Logo.twitter-logo Youtubelogo