Think the only place to play in the water is Up North? Think again.
More and more metro Detroiters are finding all sorts of watery fun right here in southeast Michigan, according to travel experts.
“Metro Detroit is an ideal location for fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and just relaxing along a beautiful stretch of water,” said Hank Stancato of the Michigan Wildlife Council.
The Michigan Wildlife Council is entrusted with educating the public about the importance of conserving our state’s natural resources and about funding those efforts so that future generations can continue to enjoy Michigan’s beautiful forests, waters and wildlife.
Fishermen play a huge role in conserving Michigan’s waters. That is because management of water and wildlife is not funded through state taxes.
“Not only are fishing and hunting license fees used to stock lakes and pay for species conservation; they’re also used to preserve Michigan’s beautiful forests, public lands and river quality,” Stancato said.
Metro Detroit is a perfect place to see all that hard work paying off.
Fantastic fishing abounds in Greater Detroit
Intense conservation efforts – including pollution cleanup, shoreline restoration and the creation of spawning reefs – make the southeast Michigan region an attractive place for fish.
Yet many people are still surprised about the great fishing there.
In fact, the Detroit River and Lake Erie offer some of the best walleye fishing in the nation. Yellow perch, smallmouth bass, white bass, trout and muskie love it, too.
That’s because the Detroit River has everything several fish species need to survive: Fast and clean water, numerous spawning grounds, and plenty of food for young fish.
Conservation efforts come from local, regional and national agencies, as well as volunteer sportsmen organizations such as Michigan Trout Unlimited, Detroit Area Steelheaders, Lake St. Clair Muskies and St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow.
Local chapters work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and watershed councils to construct stream improvements, monitor aquatic organisms and water quality, host educational programs and do fundraising.
In southeast Michigan, preservation most often centers on the Clinton River, Huron River and Paint Creek, which are popular with local fishermen, said Jeremy Geist, Great Lakes stream restoration manager for Michigan Trout Unlimited.
“In southeast Michigan, we have such amazing natural resources right in our own backyards. These rivers, lakes and streams are great places to take the family fishing and get the kids away from the screens and just enjoy the outdoors,” Geist said.
Paddler’s paradise right in Detroit’s backyard
A watershed is an area of land that drains into a common body of water. Much of metro Detroit – 760 square miles – is located in the Clinton River Watershed.
The Clinton River Watershed covers four southeast Michigan counties: about 40 percent of eastern Oakland County, about 75 percent of Macomb County, and small portions of southern Lapeer and St. Clair counties. The river and its tributaries flow through 60 rural, suburban, and urban communities with a total population of more than 1.4 million.
That’s a lot of water.
“Our watershed includes more than 1,000 miles of streams,” said Amanda Oparka, of the Clinton River Watershed Council. “Our region has become a very popular paddling destination. We’re all working together to let everyone know you don’t have to travel north to find great paddling.”
Southeast Michigan has eight water trails that are part of Michigan Water Trails, a nonprofit organization working to promote and link regional water trails to form a statewide trail system.
The Detroit River Heritage River Walk Trail is one of Michigan’s most diverse water trails, traveling past the skyscrapers of downtown Detroit and Canada. Its four segments take paddlers from Belle Isle to the Rouge River, Huron River and the Lower Detroit River.
Yet the abundance of paddling in the region is still one of Michigan’s best-kept secrets.
“We held an event last fall on the Clinton River for first-time paddlers and 46 people showed up. Most of them said they’d lived in Clinton Township for years, but had no idea you could paddle there,” Oparka said.
Even if you are not into muscle-powered boats, there are plenty of motorboat and sailing opportunities in the region as well.
Water soothes the soul
Even if you’re not interested in fishing or paddling, sometimes it is just nice to get outside near a lake, stream or river and just soak in the magic.
Downtown Detroiters have plenty of opportunities to get outdoors at Milliken State Park and Harbor, the first urban park in Michigan. The 31-acre green oasis in the midst of a bustling downtown offers a welcome respite any day of the week.
On the west, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is working to develop 5.5 miles of riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge on the west to Gabriel Richard Park, just east of the MacArthur Bridge.
Whatever your idea of water fun is, just do it, Oparka said.
“When we get people out and about to experience the water, then they have a real connection,” she said. “That’s really true for our kids because they’re going to be the next generation of environmental stewards in Michigan.
“Getting them out and excited about nature means they’ll start taking pride in Michigan’s natural resources. And that’s really important for our future.”