Superior Dam improvements, signs aid navigation on Huron River Water Trail

It's smooth currents for the organizers of the Huron River Water Trail, a 104-mile inland paddling route intended to improve recreational access and connect communities along the Huron, from its headwaters in northern Oakland County to its mouth in Lake Erie. The Huron River Water Trail is part of RiverUp!, a larger river revitalization initiative.

Superior Dam in Superior Township has just received a $33,000 upgrade for paddler accessibility; paddlers formerly had to wrangle an unmarked and unkempt portage. The overgrown brush around the portage has been cleared and a low deck for easier access, a new graded path, a sign, and a safer and easier put-in on the downstream side of portage have been installed. The Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) partnered with the city of Ann Arbor, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Superior Township, Smith Group JJR for the design, and Michigan Hardscape for construction.

"It's the first water trail improvement project that we completed, and we're pretty excited to start getting some more experience under our belts with making these improvements on the trail, both the portages around dams and the access points for launching and landing," says Elizabeth Riggs, deputy director of the HRWC.

The HRWC now has its eye on completing the installation of wayfinding signs at key points along the river's 104 navigable miles, starting at the upstream end. Signs are starting to go up at Proud Lake and Island Lake Recreation Area. Riggs says the HRWC hopes to have all signage installed by this fall.

As funds become available, Riggs says other projects in the pipeline include installing a landing and launch point at Island Park in Ann Arbor; new portages at Ford Lake Dam in Ypsilanti Township and the French Landing Dam in Van Buren Township; and improving portage access at Flat Rock Dam in the city of Flat Rock. The existing cumbersome portage directs paddlers to a land parcel owned by Flat Rock Metal, Inc. and requires them to call ahead for a company representative to unlock a fence on the property, which runs up to the river bank.

A flipbook of waterproof maps of the entire river should be available by year-end, Riggs says.

Source: Elizabeth Riggs, deputy director,  Huron River Watershed Council
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar
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