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Watershed Festivals: Celebrating our Progress and Partnerships

March 29, 2023

By Erin Parker, Interpretive Services Supervisor

Quick! Do you know which watershed you live in among all the rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams that make up southeast Michigan? Everyone lives in a watershed, defined as the area of land that drains into a particular basin or water body. Here in Michigan, our watersheds can seem confusing because we’ve channelized water to keep it off roads and out of cities, our landscape doesn’t have a tremendous amount of elevation change to make following the flow of water easy, and we have a lot of water everywhere you look. You can locate your watershed at Type in your zip code or city, and you’ll see the boundaries of your watershed as well as learn a lot about the water quality there.

Local students have many opportunities to engage with our local watersheds, through participation in one of the many upcoming watershed festivals.

Local watersheds, local education

With the arrival of spring, teachers and students look to take their learning outdoors. One way to do this is to participate in one of the many watershed festivals that help connect students to hands-on understanding of how we keep our local waterways clean for recreation, wildlife, aesthetics, and even our own drinking water source.

The Lake St. Clair Water Festival and Lake Erie Water Festival both take place on Tuesday, May 16th this year. Each festival invites local presenters from water and conservation-based organizations to help teach students in the fourth and fifth grades everything from the science of water quality testing to the wildlife that thrives here. Students and teachers rotate through stations, covering a variety of topics and learning to connect to their place in the watershed.

The Rouge River traditionally hosts two opportunities for learning- one at the University of Michigan-Dearborn Campus and another at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Celebrating both the upper and lower reaches of what was once one of the most polluted rivers in the region, major clean up initiatives and policy changes mean that this highly urbanized and highly accessible river once again provide opportunities for recreation, wildlife habitat, and aesthetic value.

Later that week, the Clinton River Water Festival takes place on Friday, May 19th, and encourages students to better understand water and its many uses. Presentations and exhibits are designed to be hands-on and meaningfully engage with fifth grade students, complimenting their in-class science curriculum.

In the fall, students in the Detroit River watershed can visit Belle Isle State Park for a water festival focused on the Detroit River and its changes through time as a hub for human travel and industry, wildlife recovery, and community gathering space. This festival typically takes place in late September.

Water festivals aren’t just for kids, though, On May 21st, the public is invited to the family-friendly Huron River Days and on June 10, the Clinton River Day takes place. Celebrate your local river and the organizations that work hard to keep it clean with guided hikes to paddle sports rental opportunities and even try your hand at fly fishing.

Fresh water abounds in this part of the Great Lakes region, and while it can pose challenges, its also worth celebrating!

Resources and links to upcoming watershed events:

Lake St Clair Water Festival – May 16th, 2023

Lake Erie Water Festival – May 16th, 2023

Clinton River Water Festival – May 19th, 2023

Rouge River Water Festival – Date TBD, 2023

Huron River Day Festival– May 21, 2023

Clinton River Day—June 10, 2023

Detroit River Water Festival – Date TBD, Fall 2023

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