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Posted on Sat, May 12, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

Ann Arbor's vision for Huron River part of new kayaking opportunities across Lower Michigan

By Paula Gardner

Ann Arbor's new Argo Cascades and the city's vision for more Huron River recreation opportunities joins similar goals among Michigan communities seeking to increase kayaking and whitewater rafting options, according to a report in the Detroit News.


Courtesy of city of Ann Arbor

Communities across Lower Michigan are turning to their many lakes and rivers to create white-water rafting and kayaking features, according to the report.

According to the Detroit News story: "Cities such as Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Flint, Traverse City and Eaton Rapids are considering engineering steps that will alter local rivers to increase drops, create obstacles and pools and manufacture eddies for safety."

Ann Arbor got a start on that this spring when it opened the Argo Cascades, a $1.17 million kayaking feature in a bypass channel near the Argo Dam.

And it could add to that when the former MichCon site is cleaned up and developed, a process that started recently.

Read the full story.



Mon, May 14, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

A few things to clear the air coming from various sources: 1. The cascades were never intended to serve as a whitewater park. While the name may be unfortunate, the cascades were designed to enable novice and intermediate paddlers to pass the headrace without a portage. This in turn was a distinct secondary of the project: the primary intent was to either repair the headrace embankment drains, or to render them obsolete . Lowering the headrace in steps or pools did just that. The fact that the same comments appear month after month tells me the public is ignorant of the plans. Which tells me that news agencies are missing the story. 2. Two drops in the main channel were proposed as a part of the project and agreed upon by the City as an added cost. The research was done by a firm specializing in whitewater parks. If Mr. Miller is talking about this plan, he is speaking out of turn. The main stream just below the dam has the velocity and drop required to create a 1'-3' standing wave, which is all a "park and play" whitewater park is: a series of pools with eddies, and standing waves. 3. The statement by the DEQ is partly true. But these improvements, if engineered and installed correctly, need not be detrimental to native fish habitat; in fact, these improvements can also be beneficial. But IMO the state seems to be taking a very strange approach to a possibly beneficial but certainly eventual improvement in more than one location across the state. I'm not sure by reading for the last few monhs that people can envision the type of improvement we're talking about. Browse the detroit news article for images of what such an improvement can look like. Take a look at parks in downtown Reno or Boulder, where the setting isn't so dissimilar topographically from the Argo area. There is absolutely no reason for it to have the same appearance of the Cascades.


Mon, May 14, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

Too bad they didnt make this new cascade the white water park... Several cities out west have done this and they've been a HUGE draw for boaters... They blew a huge opportunity to make that a really cool (but short) whitewater park ;( AND they could have controlled the flow very easily, have a time of day for beginners, intermediates, and advanced paddlers... This would have a been a huge tourist draw, how many waterwater parks or rivers are even near here? Id much rather drive an hour vs. 8+ to WV.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

@ Tru2Blu76: Wow! Where did that one come from?


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Those wanting to "protect" the Huron River's "natural state" had better first come up with a way of erasing all traces human presence at least 100 meters on either side of the river and its tributaries_and_prohibiting any future human contact within that humans-free zone. That's 130 miles for the main water course alone, not counting tributaries. We're starting a little late: 180 years of human presence / influence must be erased. All non-native plants, fish and animals must be removed and replaced with whatever existed before. Thereafter: complete withdrawal of humans from the Human Free Huron River will be enforced as a capital crime. Anyone got a cost estimate for this "noble project?" Doesn't matter: future generations will certainly thank us for completely separating them from this precious (to whom?) all-natural resource. :-)


Mon, May 14, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

I applaud you in return, trublu. We live within this planet, not outside of it. The fact that we're the only species to realize this doesn't mean we should remove all traces of our existence.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 11:36 p.m.

I guess that means we shouldn't do anything then. Might as well let the huron go the way of the Cuyahoga. Let anyone who wants to dump gasoline and oil into the river and set it on fire.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Oops! Lost the last few words! That last sentence was supposed to end with, ...leads to a lot of confusion.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

The Detroit News piece is a good one. One thing that it does is provide some input from the DNR, something that I have been asking to provide us with for some time, re the MichCon project. The DN article says, "Making changes to a river, for whatever purpose, can be potentially damaging to ecosystems. White-water courses require approval from not only local planning officials, but Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers." The article goes on to quote a DNR guy, who says, "Typically, our concern with these projects is that (they) can be detrimental to the river both upstream and downstream." For that reason, and also given that the "Argo Cascades" project used huge amounts of highly-visible poured concrete, the DNR's approval of the proposed, MichCon-built, "whitewater features" is by no means a slam dunk. So once again, I encourage to do some reporting on the DNR's take on this project. The Detroit News also avoids using's misleading "kayaking feature" language to describe the novice bypass around the Argo Dam. This phrase, combined with the bypass's embarrassingly-grandiose "Argo Cascades" name, has led many people to believe that "whitewater features" have already been built. I cannot for the life of me figure out why insists on using this language. Part of the problem with these semantics is that, and the public at large, seems to equate "kayak" with "whitewater." Granted, kayaks are easier to learn to paddle, and easier to paddle in whitewater, but scroll through the Detroit News article's accompanying photo gallery, and you will see that whitewater courses are not just for kayaks. Some of us vastly prefer solo canoes. The fact remains, though, that using the phrase "kayaking feature" to describe something expressly designed to safely accommodate the lowest common denominator — those novices who occasionally rent one of the livery's barges — leads to a


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

@ ribs1: One of the early proposals had the rapids starting at a notch in the dam, with four successive drops down to river level. The drawing also showed a long peninsula built to separate the Allen Creek flow from the main stream, for precisely the reason you speak of: "That section is not safe for human skin contact." Russ Miller, who was in on Argo discussions from the get-go, wrote me here on that the Huron simply doesn't have enough flow for a set of rapids that big, and I'm willing to take his word for it. But the current plans do not deal with Allen Creek runoff at all. When I mentioned a settling/retention pond for the creek, City Council's Steve Kunselman said that the site is not big enough for that. Myself, I don't know enough about the hydrology to be able to say, one way or the other. It is my understanding that the HRWC favors a settling pond, though. What if, in order to properly deal with the Allen Creek pollution, it would be necessary to dedicate the entire MichCon site to a retention/settling pond? Is Ann Arbor Green enough to do that?


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 11:33 p.m.

That would be the ideal situation in my opinion.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Keep dreaming. Allen Creek comes in just below argo dam. That section is not safe for human skin contact.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

I love the idea. My wife and saw a similar "engineered" river park in Missoula, MT a few years ago---right near the downtown area. People did kayak, surfboard and canoe stunts, while other folks photographed them from observation decks---while sipping upscale coffee from local shops.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.

The huron river is a great paddling destination for recreational paddlers. It is a beautiful river, especially between Hudson Mill and Dexter. If a white water area were added the numbers of paddlers coming to Ann Arbor would grow exponentially (and concomittantly consumers willing to spend money)


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

I love the idea of this and have actually done some white water rafting. Makes me want to go out and buy a kayak. Then the reality slaps me in the face that our government is in deep fianacial crisis and there are a lot more things that I believe are a priority. Come on all of you disenters; explain to me the economics of how this will work and all of the things I'm not thinking about.