Huron River Restoration Brings

Community Back to the River

Restoring habitat and removing dams along the Huron River has restored its ecological health, expanded recreational opportunities, and re-oriented riverfront communities towards fully utilizing the river.


The Huron River provides many services to its surrounding communities in southeast Michigan, including swimming, fishing, and drinking water. The river is largely buffered by natural areas, with two-thirds of parks, trails, and recreation lands in southeast Michigan found right on the Huron. Unfortunately, urban development funnels stormwater, along with industrial and residential pollutants, into the river, causing several sections to be impaired by pollutants, dissolved oxygen depletion, and sedimentation. Erratic stormwater flow also alters the Huron’s natural hydrology and disrupts habitat features, impacting the river’s biologic communities.


Thanks to efforts that raised $29 million, the Huron River Watershed Council has implemented a program called RiverUp! that addresses these threats, celebrates the river’s importance to the region, and works to keep the river relatively healthy. RiverUp! installed large woody debris and boulders to diversify aquatic habitats, removed or adjusted dams to naturalize stream flow, and shored up stream banks to prevent erosion. The program also assisted in the cleanup of contaminated properties within the watershed. RiverUp! has been developing the Huron River Water Trail to promote canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and other recreational uses of the river. Online materials and signage along the river provide information such as the distance to Lake Erie, the location of rapids, nearby outfitters, guides, and other local businesses that cater to recreation. RiverUp! is repairing portages and launches to increase safety, and developing the extensive park and trail system along the river to provide space for biking, walking, bird watching, and fishing. RiverUp! is also working with the five largest riverfront communities in the area (Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Flat Rock) to turn the Huron River into a “new main street” for the community, with signage welcoming trail users and providing information on taverns, restaurants, overnight lodging, and other community attractions. The towns are also developing other amenities along the river, such as bathrooms, potable water, and other supplies. The goal for these communities is to make the Huron River a destination for the outdoor recreationalists of southeast Michigan and beyond.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Non-point source pollutants
  • Dissolved oxygen depletion
  • Sediment build up
  • Excessive stormwater
  • Lack of outdoor recreation options


Paddling guide cover with river view

RiverUp! designed a flipbook of waterproof maps showing the 104 miles of the Huron River Water Trail. Credit: Elizabeth Riggs.

Results and Accomplishments

Installing woody debris and boulders enhanced aquatic habitats, while removing dams naturalized stream flow. Stabilizing stream banks and cleaning contaminated sites reduced the flow of pollutants and sediment into the river. Repairing portages and launches increased safety for boaters travelling down the Huron River Water Trail. Trails, parks, and fishing spots along the river are also being developed. Integration with the Huron River Water Trail will spur economic development for riverfront communities.