Loading

Archive for the ‘General HRWC’ Category

The Big Ballooning Adventure

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

Bit of a nice view, yes? Kent Lake from our balloon, with a companion balloon nicely providing the "money shot."

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, 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, 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.

 

 

 

 

Mill Creek: the many benefits of field work

AATU members opening Mill Creek

AATU members opening Mill Creek

HRWC’s woody debris maintenance program, piloted in 2014, has expanded its staffing and impact. As the spring (and early summer) high waters recede, Ann Arbor Trout Unlimited (AATU) members have been working in conjunction with HRWC to keep Mill Creek open for fishing and paddling. As of last week Mill Creek is now free of impediments from the Sloan Preserve, through Dexter, to the Huron River. Note, Mill Creek from Dexter down to the Huron can be a leisurely paddle, while upstream is sometimes technical due to rock outcroppings and narrow passage.

Illicit Construction on Mill Creek

Illicit Construction on Mill Creek

Field work always offers multiple benefits. There’s the obvious work – clearing the stream or collecting water quality data. Another reason for field work is to offer citizens the opportunity to experience nature or gain some responsibility over our shared resources. Lastly, HRWC volunteers often discover amazing things. Sometimes a heron, baled eagle, turtle, or clam. Sometimes an egregious violation of local and state law. AATU volunteers came across a sea wall being installed on Mill Creek, with nearly zero protections to the creek, and no township, county, or state permits. With a quick call to HRWC’s office and a little detective work by staff, this work site was stopped within 18 hours. County and state officials will be working with the land owner and construction company to remediate the damage that has been done to this lovely riparian area.

As the summer draws to an end, make sure you get out and enjoy the river and its creeks. And while you’re there, keep your eyes open – you’ll never know what you’ll discover!

Conservation Stewards Leadership Training

indian springsLooking for a way to expand your knowledge about ecosystems, invasives, and the history of conservation in Michigan?

The Michigan Conservation Stewards program has been brought back to Washtenaw County by a collaboration of HRWC and peer organizations. We hope you, as a supporter of the Huron, will take the opportunity to strengthen your knowledge and thus ability to advocate for our natural resources. This 6-week course covers all the basics of conservation, introduces participants to a wide-array of topic experts, and is a great networking opportunity.

 

Click here for details and to register.

 

 

Building Bipartisan Support for the River in Lansing

Visit me at the office and you’ll find the Citizen’s Guide to State Government for the 98th Legislature within arm’s reach on my desk. During HRWC’s 50th year, we’re making it a priority to establish and deepen relationships with our elected officials through one-on-one meetings. Watershed communities are represented by no fewer than 10 representatives and four senators in Lansing whose votes and decisions can impact the watershed.

What do we hope to get out of these conversations? We are sharing current information on water issues relevant to each district as well as strategic opportunities to protect and enhance the resource for a diverse mix of uses (municipal, recreation, business, etc.). The conversations also are vehicles for developing more regular communications between the elected officials and HRWC.

Simply put: We want the needs and concerns for the river and its watershed communities to be heard.

HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin and I are wrapping up several months of traveling the watershed – and sometimes beyond – to meet with the following state elected officials (see the maps of Senate and House districts overlaid on the watershed boundary):

 

Michigan House Legislative Districts (2010)

Michigan House Legislative Districts (2010)

Representatives
Gretchen Driskell (District 52)
Jeff Irwin (District 53)
Klint Kesto (District 39)
Bill LaVoy (District 17)
Kristy Pagan (District 21)
Jim Runestad (District 44)
David Rutledge (District 54)
Pat Somerville (District 23)
Lana Theis (District 42)
Adam Zemke (District 55)

 

Michigan Senate Legislative Districts (2010)

Michigan Senate Legislative Districts (2010)

 

 

Senators
Hoon-Yung Hopgood (District 6)
Joe Hune (District 22)
Mike Kowall (District 15)
Rebekah Warren (District 18)

 

 

 

 

 

The conversations were productive and friendly, and most of the officials were very responsive to our requests for meetings. Next steps entail additional information sharing on current projects, and planning a guided legislative canoe and kayak trip on the river to highlight progress and challenges. The frequency of follow-up meetings hasn’t been determined, but we can be certain that term limits will necessitate on-going conversations as new public servants represent the watershed.

The state-level meetings build on a long tradition of engagement from local and county public officials and representatives. In fact, HRWC was formed by the Michigan Legislature in 1965 and the Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from member governments. HRWC is a nonpartisan research and education organization that protects and restores the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

My Huron River (Argo)

600_156384952

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

My desk at work faces the office window overlooking Argo Pond. Since my arrival 8 years ago it has been a constant source of inspiration, for my life and my fundraising work.  Some would argue that I am writing about a pond, an impoundment and not the river.  However, like the river, I will keep moving on, and appreciate the view of Argo and what it has taught me as a companion of solace all these years. The view has taught me to take my time, and to enjoy the scenery and the beauty and to see what is more interesting by not rushing through my work day. It reminds me that my work is all about what I am looking at.  It encourages me to go with the flow, but to also diverge when the opportunity presents, because changing direction can have beneficial impacts. I am but a witness to change. Change in weather, the change of light from morning to night and changes in color of trees over seasons. In my neighborhood, just outside my window, I have seen the most popular sport change from club rowing to paddle boarding.  I have seen eagles, osprey, foxes, ice skaters, early morning runners training, cyclists, walkers, and pet owners with all species of dogs go round the pond.  And then there is the dam.  A favorite inspiration on difficult days? The dam. The dam reminds me that we can overcome obstacles, because the river always finds a way.

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

My Huron River (Huron River delta)

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

A favorite spot for me on the Huron River is the delta where the voluminous waters fan out and feed western Lake Erie. There’s something satisfying about witnessing the transition from river to Great Lake, and picturing the individual stories of how – and in what shape – those droplets traveled from their places of origin. I am reminded, then, that all of our collective actions in the watershed are woven into the waters flowing past me and I hope that we’ve done justice to the blue.

Kayaking at the Huron River delta, River Mile 0. credit: L & S Small Craft Coastal Explorations

Kayaking at the Huron River delta, River Mile 0. credit: L & S Small Craft Coastal Explorations

The river delta flies under people’s radars as a destination, especially for those who live outside the Downriver area. Few signs or road markers give away the location of the river’s terminus. The 40-minute drive from my house to this spot means that I don’t visit as often as I would like. But, in the past couple of years have I come to appreciate the last few miles of the river and its confluence with the lake for its natural beauty, as well as its historical significance and new opportunities for trail-based recreation. Besides, where else on the Huron River can you see a massive barge traversing the Great Lakes, or paddle into big water?DSC_0200

The expansive view of water, land, and sky is always changing and always beautiful. The marshlands and forested floodplains of Point Mouillee and nearby islands provide critical habitat for plants and animals as well as stopover locations for migrating birds and waterfowl. The delta sits within the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, a binational refuge covering nearly 6,000 acres of islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands along 48 miles of Detroit River and western Lake Erie shorelines.

Hull's Trace, military road built during the War of 1812

Hull’s Trace, military road built during the War of 1812

An old log road built during the War of 1812 remains under West Jefferson Avenue and is now known as Hull’s Trace – the newest addition to River Raisin National Battlefield Park. The National Park Service presence is increasing appreciation for this area through its educational programs both on- and off- the water, and reestablishing connections with the Wyandotte Nation that has deep roots here. The anonymity of the Huron River delta is slowly giving way as the National Park Service develops operations and as the  Huron River National Water Trail gains paddling and fishing fans.

Drop me a line if you visit the delta and share your photos with HRWC on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the tag #huronriver50.

 

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.

 

Panoramic view east at the Huron River delta

Panoramic view east at the Huron River delta

My Huron River (Arms Creek)

One of the perks of my job as a co-director of the Adopt-a-Stream program at HRWC is that I get to see places that many others miss out on.  And so while I love the main branch of the Huron River and spend many hours at our metroparks, I decided to focus on a small creek in Webster township– Arms Creek.

An HRWC volunteer explores Arms Creek.

An HRWC volunteer explores Arms Creek.

Arms Creek at the intersection of Walsh Road is known internally here at HRWC as “Adopt-a-Stream Site Number 1″, meaning that it was the first site to be picked as a part of the program way back in 1992.  The watershed council and our many volunteers have been visiting this location and collecting information on this creek for 23 years! The creek contains many insect families that are sensitive to pollution and their presence tells us that the creek has good water quality.  In fact, the insect population has been getting better over time, so conditions here have improved over the past 20 years.  A thick riparian zone of trees and shrubs provides ample shade for the creek and plentiful groundwater inputs keep the water quite cold.  Many decades ago, the DNR actually stocked Arms Creek with trout, which is very rare for the Huron Watershed, but not enough fisherman utilized the creek to make this worth the cost. Last year HRWC staff wrote a creekshed report for Arms Creek, which can be found here along with a clickable and zoomable map.

 

independence150

The shores of Independence Lake

The Arms creekshed also contains Independence Lake, a beautiful county park located only a few miles from my
house and a spot that my family visits many times during the year. In the summer it is our go-to spot for swimming and waterslides, and in the other seasons we play on the playground and take walks through wetlands and fields. Winter is a great time to visit as the park is all but deserted.  Last winter we spent a long time throwing rocks onto the lake and listening to the musical “plunk-plink-plunk-pppppppp” of the rocks echoing and reverberating against the ice.

independence151

“More rocks, Daddy. More rocks!”

My Huron River (Hudson Mills to Barton Pond)

Dad and daughter enjoying a paddle.

Dad and daughter enjoying a paddle.

I fell in love with the Huron on this beautiful stretch of river. River mile 67 to mile 56 is one of the longest undammed strands of rolling water in SE Michigan. The banks along the river are thick with large, old willows, maples and a good diversity of hardwoods and a smattering of cedars, thanks to a wide riparian corridor protected by the Natural River Zone. My family and I like to take a nice, slow paddle along this piece of river to forget our worries and reconnect with the living planet as we flow through it. I find my mind wandering as I scout for trophy bass in deep pools, and sometimes forget I am only a few miles from home.

This Father’s Day my wife Kathy, son Foster and daughter Ally took me out for a beautiful trip. The water was high and fast from recent rains and a bit tawny, but clear at the start of the trip. Song birds called out across the river to potential mates or rivals on the other bank. We crossed a sad run where a tornado ripped across the river three years ago and tree damage is still evident. When we reached the confluence with Mill Creek the mixing zone is stark. The clear waters of the upper Huron get colored by the roiling, sediment-filled outwash from Mill Creek. The water volume almost doubles here and the river picks up pace, quickly taking the boat along its course to the rapids at Delhi, where we took the canoes out. Along the way, the kids jumped out and enjoyed a free-form float to cool off in the river’s embrace.

Fly fish the Huron River.

Fly fishing downstream of Delhi Rapids.

I also like to spend a few hours fly fishing on the upper parts of this river stretch. The river varies nicely from wide, shallow riffles, through quick narrow runs, to long stretches of slow, deeper water and pools — great for hiding big fish (though I never seem to be able to find them). I cherish the moments of quiet reflection as a gentle breeze rustles the leaves and I attempt to flick my fly into that hole where I just know a big one is waiting for a meal to swim by. To be honest, though, I find that any time spent on or in the Huron is time well spent.

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.

My Huron River (Kensington MetroPark)

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

Growing up in Farmington, Michigan, the Big Beach trip in our family was to take a cooler and some lawn chairs up to Kensington MetroPark, where I had a great time digging in the sand, picnicking, and swimming at Maple Beach.  But the highlight of the trip was always the visit to the Kensington Nature Center.  Here is where I could actually touch Things From Nature!  Like furs, and skulls, and the mystery boxes you put your hand in to guess what was inside.  Here is where I could watch the bees for hours (well, I’m sure now it was really minutes) toiling away in the glass-walled hive.  It was here, I believe, (along with weekly episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” on Channel 7), where I also discovered the importance of wildlife, natural areas, and water to our quality of life, and thus was planted the seed of my future career as an advocate for the environment.  Little did I know at the time that I was recreating on the Huron River and enjoying its surrounding natural beauty, and that it would be my future workplace.

So, thank you Kensington, MetroPark, for helping to make me who I am!

IslandDriveKensingtonbyEllenm1Kensington MetroPark.  Photo: ellenm1

 

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.

 

My Huron River (upstream of Hudson Mills)

At Dusk

At Dusk
credit: J. Lloyd

One of my favorite spots to visit on the Huron is just downstream of the Flook (Portage Lake) dam and upstream of the old Bell Road bridge on the main stem of the river.  The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA) opened a fishing access site on Dexter-Pinckney Road about 10 years ago.  This section of the river is noted for it’s exceptional smallmouth bass fishery, but I love it for the gravel and cobble bottom, the shallow depth, and the clear, cool water.

Rocks and Riffles

Rocks and Riffles
credit: J. Lloyd

It’s an perfect place to visit on a warm summer day for some wading and swimming.  You must wear some footwear to protect the soles of your feet (the zebra mussel shells are pretty sharp!).  But my family simply wades in and walks upstream and downstream exploring the rocks and riffles and the occasional plunge pool.  It’s a popular spot for anglers but when I’ve visited it is relatively quiet and you feel like no one is around.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use #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.


Donate to HRWC
John Holland
Suds
Donate to HRWC
Huron River Water Trail
Calendar
RiverUp
rss .FaceBook-Logo.twitter-logo