PHOTO ESSAY: Take Me To The River
Michigan has long had a love affair with the water. Chances are your Facebook or Instagram feeds are full of friends' photos capturing the shoreline of some beautiful body of Michigan water.
Some place hundreds of miles north of here.
Yet how many of us in Washtenaw county spend an entire summer without setting foot in the mostly undeveloped and nearly pristine 130 mile long Huron River? A river that literally runs right through our own backyard?
While there are many amazing places to visit on the Huron, most of the river is vastly underutilized and fairly inaccessible - unless you're paddling downstream. And even in a canoe or kayak you'll face some serious challenges. There are 96 dams along the Huron River, a testimony to the vibrancy of Michigan's early industry, but now largely inoperative hindrances to recreational travel and natural flow. While there is the occasional portage, you'll need superhuman kayaking skills to even consider navigating the Peninsular Paper dam in Ypsilanti, to name just one.
Over the past year, however, there have been some encouraging signs of life on the Huron. The opening of the Argo Cascades now allows canoes and kayaks to bypass the Argo Dam and head down river to Gallup Park. The cascades have brought a huge increase in paddlers to the Argo Park Canoe Livery and bike paths along the cascades now link Argo to Broadway Park.
Downriver the opening of Schultz Outfitters, overlooking the Huron in Depot Town, has lead to an enthusiastic explosion of fly fishing in Ypsilanti.
A key component to any city's redevelopment is taking advantage of the recreational, shopping and dining opportunities of a waterfront. The examples from other cities abound - The Ferry Building in San Francisco, The Flats in Cleveland or Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston to name just a few. It's not exactly a new idea. Unfortunately Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, much like Detroit, have been slow to transition their river fronts from their industrial past to a future that views the river as recreational, community, and cultural destination.
In Ypsilanti an amazing stretch of downtown property on Water Street, right along the Huron, lies undeveloped while the bonds on the property threaten to push the city into bankruptcy. In Ann Arbor, the stretches of river closest to downtown are, in most places, inaccessible or underdeveloped.
Tentative plans have emerged for cleaning the contaminated MichCon site by Ann Arbor's Broadway Bridge and turning it into a park along with a restaurant overlooking the river but nothing formal has been announced. Until then, if you want to dine within view of the Huron River you'll need to head up to the Zukey Lake Tavern or down to Johnny's Grill in Belleville.
I look forward to a day, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, when Ill be able to paddle from Ann Arbor's downtown to Ypsilanti's Depot Town for dinner and drinks.
Until then, I offer up these photos as a reminder of why the Huron is such a wonderful asset to our communities, and how the river binds all of us together.
We start at E Dehli Bridge in Scio Township and head down river to North Bay Park.
Soundtrack by Washtenaw County's finest - The Great Lakes Myth Society.