It’s hard to imagine Washtenaw County without the magnificent presence of the Huron River. Stretching for 104 miles and riddled with various flora and fauna, the Huron River is as beautiful as it is a vital component of the culture, recreation and economies of the communities that border it.
Every year when the weather warms, Argo Livery fills to the brim with eager canoists, and across the river sunbathers pack the crew team dock. The serious kayaker or canoist will be happy to learn that earlier this year, the River received designation as the 18th trail in the National Water Trail System by the National Park Services. This means that the Huron River has been adopted into a national, cohesive system of waterways from all across the country that attracts all you kayakers, canoeists and other water enthusiasts from both near and far.
Maintaining Our Waterway
The River has always been a relentlessly popular summer destination for visitors and townies alike, and as a result, our community members are considering ways to better link water-visitors to the towns and cities on its banks. The RiverUp! project is spearheading that very task by launching a “Huron River Renaissance”. Considering that Great Lakes residents comprise 20.5% of canoeists and 14% of kayakers nationwide, a significant portion of visitors exploring the river for those purposes come from within our own state, and water tourism enjoyed by out-of-state patrons is only expected to increase. In order to protect and enhance this resource cherished by so many, The RiverUp! project is taking on the challenge to fully restore, revitalize, and incorporate the river into southeastern Michigan’s economy!
Formed by a group of community and business leaders along with the Huron River Watershed Council, RiverUp! is “a vision, a goal and a plan” regarding the future of the Huron River. The project is structured by three long-term objectives: FixUp! by investing in recreation infrastructure; CleanUp! by improving the ecological health of the river; BuildUp! by facing our communities toward the river and transform the river corridor into a premier destination. If you are considering visiting the Huron River in the near future, here are some of the innovations you can expect to be taking place:
In order to guide visitors between the Water Trail and Trail Towns, RiverUp! will implement crucial infrastructural elements for the users’ convenience through the FixUp! component of the plan. That way, you could stop for lunch at a waterside eatery on a day-long trip down the River. The construction of lockers for canoes and kayaks will allow you to store their equipment safely should you decide to explore a nearby community on foot. Within the Water Trail itself, steel slide rails ease the trek across portages up or down steep hills depending on the direction of your trip. This provides a clever alternative to trudging the terrain while carrying a heavy vessel overhead. Your arms will thank you (or RiverUp! rather)!
Of course, the successes of the RiverUp! project depends on the health of the river itself. CleanUp! aims to improve the ecological quality of the waterway. Restoring natural shorelines and river flows through better management of dams and removing any impediments to the natural way of the current will undoubtedly benefit both critters and paddlers. Keeping our waterways beautiful and maintaining habitats for wildlife is incredibly important to improving your experience as well as that of the little guys that hang out in the same neighborhood.
BuildUp! involves the creation of “Trail Towns”, or destinations along the Huron River Water Trail that provide opportunity for trail users to explore the scenery and services of those communities as part of their excursion. There, a lazy day on the river is no longer so far removed from amenities like restaurants and shops, connecting the resources of urban lifestyle with that of the outdoors. Towns along the river are already investing in parks that touch the water, connecting their residents to the river as well as maintaining green infrastructure in their communities. Parks like these also offer additional recreational opportunities for visitors traveling via the Water Trail - picnic, anyone?
Out of the five communities targeted for Trail Town reinvention, three are part of Washtenaw County: Dexter, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. We are proud and excited to be a part of this monumental endeavor, as well as for the opportunities it holds in store for our riverside communities. To learn more about RiverUp!, visit: http://www.hrwc.org/category/huron-river-water-trail/