Photograph by Nicole Duplaix
Photograph by Nicole Duplaix.

What a day on the river and around the watershed!

After a week of stupendous, gushing thunderstorms, Sunday, July 7 brought a beautiful Michigan summer day not to be spent inside.  My first treat was a 31-mile bike ride through 5 of the watershed’s some 26 creeksheds (5 of our 63 communities) in Washtenaw and Livingston counties, along rolling country roads winding by green farms, shady woodlands, and beautiful wetlands and lakes.

Next, a paddle down the river itself, from Delhi Metropark to Barton Dam.  The muddy, fast flowing river was practically spilling from its banks from the week’s storms, but the river carried our kayaks safely through rapids, runs, and stillwater, and it provided a zoo-ful of faunal sightings, including an osprey, a red-tailed hawk, which lazily circled back and forth over our kayaks, dozens of turtles (including little babies hiding in the reeds), a black-crowned night heron, a muskrat, kingbirds pirouetting over us catching flying insects, damsel and dragonflies frantically hooking up, and, yes, a river otter!

But wait, there was more!  A raccoon skittered across the Delhi Metropark entry drive; to cap off the trip, a red fox sauntered along Huron River Drive as we were on our way home!

These sites reminded me how fortunate we are to have the Huron River watershed, and why it is the prime recreational gem that it is:

  • The large areas of farmland, open space and natural areas that still remain in our watershed provide cool, clear, constant water to the river by absorbing rainwater and polluted runoff and slowly releasing it after cooling it down and filtering out dirt, excess nutrients, and other pollution.
  • Most of the river’s adjacent lands are part of the Huron Clinton Metroparks system, keeping it and its riparian area natural.
  • For much of its length, the Huron is a Natural River Zone, meaning any building along its banks must be set back 125 feet from the river, including a 50-foot buffer of natural vegetation.  The value of this regulation was clear to us as we paddled through the Natural River Zone.  Though we were surrounded by private lots on either side of the river, from our kayaks it lookedlike we were up north in a wilderness area.  The minute we left the zone, the scene changed.  Large homes loomed over the river, their treeless, manicured lawns (mowed right down to the riverbank) leaving no doubt that we were in a City.

The Huron River is the cleanest river in Southeast Michigan thanks to those who work to protect it by preserving open spaces and natural areas throughout its watershed and by enacting policies and regulations to preserve its quality.