The Shiawassee River has it's beginning in the twisted and chaotic waters of Shiawassee in North Oakland County. A conservation easement owned by North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy protects this headwaters from further development and pollution. Teeming with life under the surface and supporting wildlife and birds, the headwaters is exquisite in it's primitive & untamed state.
Davisburg hosts this wet meadow created when a prescribed burn cleared brush and released the seeds of native plants to once again color the landscape. Beautiful!
An area protected by the Michigan Nature Association known as a fen, this is a special and rare wetland in Michigan. Rather like a bog, the alkaline environment created by groundwater supports many rare plants. Flooding during heavy rains reflects tamarack trees not found in other sections of the river.
Towns along the river have creatively and beautifully established parks. In Fenton, you almost feel like you are up north with the cedar trees reflected as the icy water gently flows north.
Farm land and swampy wetlands meet as the Shiawassee snakes and curls in and out of urban areas. Birds feed off rosehips and other berries that cling in this winter pantry.
Villages, towns and cities, like Owosso, grew up along this river as they do along every river. This is where I lived along it's banks. Now a trail begins here, near Curwood Castle, and continues on to McCurdy Park in Corunna. It passes beneath plum blossoms in the spring, under bridges, through neighborhoods and finally into deep ancient woods.
The Getman family farmed this area for almost 100 years until giving Green Meadows Farms to the city of Owosso for a park. Harmon Patridge Park, known by locals as Green Meadows, has accessible trails, pavilions, beautiful shade trees and low banks great for fishing. With the tannins of oak trees creating a rainbow of khaki, here we can see the real color of the Shiawassee.
At mid-point along the Shiawassee, we begin seeing the land rise as glaciers left their trail. One side of the riverbank will be low and the other high creating spectacular views in all seasons, but especially, autumn.
From the River Bank
As the river flows north it carved into the gravelly hills left by glaciers 10,000 years ago leaving wonderful views for those in kayaks and canoes and for those looking down from the banks to the reflections below.
A century-old, failing dam was replaced by this beautiful riffle created by ledges of rocks and boulders. It opened up approximately 70 miles of river for the first time in a 100 years for fish to once again swim upstream to spawn. I can only imagine how this will help restore health to the river!
Wondering if we had suddenly transported to the bayous of Louisiana, we find ourselves at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge's Ferguson Bayou. It is so lush and mossy and fertile and organic. It seems the very beginning of life could have happened in this Eden of lush richness.
Fly Up at Dawn
The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is a mecca in spring and fall migrations wildfowl. Walking out to the Grefe Pool before dawn and waiting in the stillness for....what? We weren't even sure anything was there. At the break of first light an EXPLOSION, unlike anything we have ever heard, resounded through the air as thousands and thousands of birds took flight.