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Posted on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 9:30 a.m.

Ann Arbor's Argo Cascades on the Huron River receives state and national honors

By Ryan J. Stanton

It seems Argo is continuing its winning ways.

Although the Argo Park in Ann Arbor has nothing to do with the Oscar-winning movie that goes by the same name, it's still gaining statewide and national attention lately.


The Argo Cascades on the Huron River is a popular destination for kayakers.

Courtesy of city of Ann Arbor

The city of Ann Arbor has won the 2012 Michigan Recreation and Park Association's Park Design Award for the Argo Cascades feature along the Huron River.

The annual award is given to MRPA member organizations for outstanding work in the areas of facility and landscape/site design.

MRPA is a statewide nonprofit association representing the parks and recreation industry with a membership of nearly 2,000 professionals.

"It is an honor to be recognized by MRPA for the Argo Cascades," said Colin Smith, the city's parks and recreation manager. "Many elected city officials, staff and departments worked together to make the Argo Cascades a success. This project addressed challenges and, at the same time, created an opportunity to improve the recreational experience for people on the Huron River."

The Argo Cascades also received a "Frontline Park" designation for the month of March by the City Parks Alliance, a national organization. That honor is reserved for projects that demonstrate inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship.

The Argo Cascades is now highlighted at

Ann Arbor completed the Argo Cascades project on the Huron River in May 2012 with the $1.17 million reconstruction of the bypass channel around Argo Dam in the old millrace.

For the first time since 1830, when the channel was built to power mills, the section of river became free-flowing with a cumbersome portage removed and transformed into a series of nine drops and pools for people in tubes, rafts, canoes and kayaks.

Other new features include a wider and paved Border-to-Border Trail section and pedestrian bridges installed at each end of the millrace.

"The Huron River in Ann Arbor is now a fun and exciting destination, more than ever before," said Canoe Livery Supervisor Cheryl Saam. "The number of livery customers paddling on river trips has basically doubled since the Argo Cascades were built; and the Cascades has allowed for more recreational opportunities such as tubing and rafting."

If you haven't already, when the weather warms up, Ar-go check it out.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

Biggest BLOWN opportunity for A2 in the past 10 years... This COULD have been one of the nicest urban whitewater parks in the midwest... enough elevation and plenty of flow...


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

DannyA Ever heard of positive thinking? Go suck another lemon.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

Congrats to Cheryl Saam and the Parks Dept

Nick Danger

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.


Rork Kuick

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

"the section of river became free-flowing". Perhaps you failed to notice the nearby dam artificially raising the water level. The article conveniently doesn't mention the dam at all.

Rork Kuick

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Sorry for repeating myself - thought my other comment had evaporated.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

@ Townspeak, re: "Also, i felt it was kind of dangerous with all those jagged rocks next to it..." You know, they couldn't have dumbed it down much more. Nerf rocks, maybe? Escalators? Porters? How about acquiring some paddling skills? See my post above to get an idea of what those can consist of. Not that you have to get that good, just acquire the basic skills. The "Cascades" (Man, do I hate that name!) are below, or –– at the very best –– at the absolute bottom of The American Whitewater Association's River Rating System. And, re: "Not to be a dorthey downer..." I'm afraid that at this point, all you can do is ask the editors to delete your post.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

@ Rork Kuick, re: "For some of us, it's still a just a sign that you failed to get rid of the dam." You got that right! Arboriginal is right that there are toxic sediments we'd have to be cautious about exposing, but, Hey! Ya gotta clean up after yourself at some point! The DTE cleanup is a case in point. My recipe for the dam removal/cleanup would be to lower the pond gradually by cutting (and reinforcing!) notches in the dam. Lower the pond one foot, say, clean up the newly exposed shoreline, notch again, clean up again. Rinse and Repeat, as they say. Encounter cost overruns? Wait a few years to cut the next notch. Everyone knows it's gotta come out at some point!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

way to go. the most fun you can have try it!

Rork Kuick

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

For some of us, it's still a just a sign that you failed to get rid of the dam. Yeah, it's better than before, but it could have been much better. Stanton still doesn't know what free flowing river is, or perhaps, he refuses to.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

I have been told Mother Nature is much better off with the toxic sediment staying put in Argo Pond. I too wanted the dam gone but allowing many years of poison to be exposed to the elements is not a good idea in my book.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

i hope they have more water flowing to it this year. Also, i felt it was kind of dangerous with all those jagged rocks next to it in some narrow areas where someone could be propelled out of their boat. Not to be a dorthey downer, i do like the idea, i just believe they could have been more safely constructed.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

@ Arboriginal, re: "I do those backwards in my rowboat." Hey, I said anything APPROACHING whitewater. But catch it at Spring flood levels, and Delhi is an honest Class II. And what most people do is what we paddlers call, "Hey diddle-diddle, let's go down the middle" –– in the top, and out the bottom, without stopping. Nothing wrong with that if you're just out for a day of fishing... But then there's catching eddies along the way, eddy-hopping back upstream, surfing and ferrying. That's a whole 'nother ball game, and there's plenty of that to be done at Delhi! If you can drop over the lip of the River-Left channel and immediately catch that tiny eddy on the left, you're a paddler. Then peel out, catch one of the eddies middle-right, surf across with an S-turn to catch the bottom eddy by the big rock, climb up to the top of that eddy and surf the wave back to the middle without getting swept down into the strainers on Marian's Island... Do all that in a solo canoe, and I'd call you a paddler. Paddling Delhi is nothing to be ashamed of.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

Delhi is always fun!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

I don't understand the excitement, myself. Yes, the "Cascades" are a convenient alternate to having to portage around the dam. And the minimal flow makes it so that no paddling skills are needed to navigate them. Great. But as a destination? I just don't get that. WAY too much exposed concrete –– they do a better job when they build theme parks! And the more we hear about it, it sounds like the closest we're going to get to the whitewater they promised us is that embarrassingly-grandiose name –– neither the HRWC nor the DNR like the idea of man-made alterations to the main channel, and I don't really blame them, especially if it was to end up looking as artificial as the "Cascades." The paddling community will still have to go further afield, to the Delhi Rapids, or to the drop we call "Tubbs Rd," to find anything approaching whitewater to play in.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

Delhi & Tubbs? You're joking right? I do those backwards in my flat bottom rowboat!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

The Cascades were a great addition to Ann Arbor's community. I hope that their success results in continued development of the riverfront.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

Easily the most legal fun I've had in years!! Can't wait for warm weather!!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Bring back the Slide!!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

The slide was great! After dark you can swim down the Cascades and not get hassled by the Man!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

I've seen so much blood spilled from that slide...was awesome though!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

I cant wait for summer to get back out on the cascades!

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

Any awards and honors are well deserved. The Cascades are wonderful!


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7 p.m.

Not as wonderful as removing the dam instead and restoring the river to its natural state.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

the state park people give the city park people an award. Yayyy! Now have a gala and hand out statues and tell each other how great you are for doing what you're supposed to be doing!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

Um DannyA? "MRPA is a statewide nonprofit association representing the parks and recreation industry" - NOT the state park people

Dog Guy

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

I count these as two more "top ten" listings for Ann Arbor.