How does this trip have anything to do with “reuniting” rivers?
Many many moons ago the landscape of Michigan looked significantly different and water ruled. That changed, of course, when Europeans arrived. Michigan was an intricate puzzle of low wetlands and rolling hills dotted with great old grandfather trees and their offspring. These temperate savannas were called “Oak Openings”. Remnants of these ecosystems still exist around the state and many organizations are working to bring them back to their full potential. In fact many of the large trees we see out in fields are oaks, century old offspring of the ancient trees the first settlers cleared for farming, skeletons of a once vibrant ecosystem.
As the population outgrew the initial clearings we began to dig ditches to empty the wetlands during the early 1800s. Before the draining, the water table in southern Michigan was 3-4 ft higher! What are now small creeks were once capable of carrying canoes! Everywhere you turned there was life sustaining water and the new drainage ditches allowed for all of that water to rush away unchecked and leave us relatively high and dry. What are now fields may have once been expansive marshes, providing habitat for countless species and acting as water reservoirs to protect against dry spells.
“Wow, thats interesting, but what about reuniting?” When water levels were high enough during floods, the head-waters of our rivers would converge in the area around Somerset Center where the Raisin River, Grand River, St. Joe River, Kalamazoo River and Tiffin River all get their beginnings. There was no longer any dry land between the rivers, in effect a large shallow lake was created in the middle of the state with rivers flowing both east and west. With the rivers physically “one”, natives and early explorers could theoretically paddle ACROSS Michigan without ever getting out of their canoe. Fallen trees over the rivers often made this practically unfeasible but there are many accounts of people being able to canoe from one river to the other without having to portage. A person could go just about anywhere they wanted.
By accomplishing this journey we hope to reunite these two rivers by reopening them as a complete water trail while paying homage to historic floodwaters.
Join us on June 7th or any other days for the next three weeks to help recreate a piece of the past!