The Bear River is a unique resource that links Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. The Bear River starts at Walloon Lake and runs east, then north, flowing into Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey. The quality of the Bear River depends upon the integrity of the tributaries flowing into it. In addition to its main tributaries, Haymarsh Creek and Spring Brook, there are several smaller unnamed springs and streams that provide cold water to the Bear River and its extensive wetland system. The Bear flows through farmland and wetland that provide habitat for deer, bear, bobcat, and other wildlife. The Bear's last mile contains the steepest drop of any river in Michigan's lower peninsula (approximately 75 feet). The Bear's watershed provides excellent recreational opportunities for hunting, hiking, fishing, canoeing, birdwatching, and exploring.
Many of the Bear's water quality and habitat problems started over 150 years ago. The Bear was considered a "working river" and its resources generated substantial economic wealth and greatly contributed to the establishment of Petoskey. The Bear's watershed provided rich fish and game resources and valuable timber. Over time, seven dams were built on the Bear to float logs to Lake Michigan, power mills, or generate electricity. As evidenced by the results of a recent river cleanup, the Bear was also seen as a cheap place to dump refuse.
Today, numerous erosion sites along the Bear River, Spring Brook, and Haymarsh Creek degrade water quality and fish habitat. Past abuses are evident in the excessive sand bed loading and widened stream channel. Beaver dams and areas where shoreline vegetation have been removed cause warming. Trash and debris defile the beauty of the river. Changes to the watershed have increased the amount of polluted stormwater runoff. An old dump along the shore has recently been exposed as a result of shoreline erosion. Because rivers carry their illnesses with them, these ailments are transferred to Petoskey's Harbor and Little Traverse Bay.
Local Support of the Bear River
Founded in 1979, the Watershed Council has a long history of working on individual projects in the Bear River watershed, including assistance to landowners regarding shoreline erosion control and wildlife habitat enhancement, review and comment on wetland permits, identification of potentially restorable wetlands in the watershed, review and comment on planning and zoning decisions, beaver control and management, water quality sampling, adopt-a-stream programs, aquatic field trips, assistance with educational interpretation by NCMC, and numerous educational presentations and programs.
In 1999, the Watershed Council initiated a project called "Healing the Bear." The goal of this project is to restore the Bear River watershed to a high quality river ecosystem through a community-based watershed approach. By fixing problem erosion sites, enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, and planning for future watershed activities, the ecological integrity and recreational opportunities of the Bear will be more fully realized. Elements of "Healing the Bear" are funded by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation, the Charlevoix County Community Foundation, and the Conservation Resource Alliance.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I've been communicating with Brian Kozminski throughout this trash contest, and he's provided me with some great information and some inspiring reports on the work he and his TU chapter have done in Michigan. If you don't know Brian, he is the president of the Miller-Van Winkle chapter of Trout Unlimited. He has been especially active in efforts to benefit Bear River, and I asked him to give me a little background on that waterway. Here is what he replied with:
Posted by Will K at 6:37 PM