The news delighted all twenty-three communities from Holly to Chesaning when 88 miles of the Shiawassee River were designated a National Paddling Trail on October 22, 2020. It especially pleased NOHLC which has been a member of the Shiawassee River Water Trail Coalition for the five years that it has taken to achieve this recognition.
NOHLC envisioned the advantages of more paddlers in Northwest Oakland County when concluded an easement with Susan Gill in 2005, who owned an acre of riverfront property.The easement specified that parking and an access point could be built, so long as water quality was maintained and the natural resources of the floodplain were protected. Thus, canoe and kayak paddlers became river sentinels.
They have participated in trash clean-ups, managed the woody debris for fish protection as well as boat passage, and raised funds for signs. Awareness of the need to protect the riverbanks and add land protection to preserve the wild aspects of the river has increased.
The headwaters section of the Shiawassee River is indeed a scenic river. A quiet paddle from the trailhead in Holly to Fenton, the next community downstream, takes 3 ½ leisurely hours.
On the way kingfishers, blue herons and even eagles can be seen. Deer, muskrats, mink and an occasional beaver appear on the riverbank. Ecology-minded paddlers can find plants that nurture wildlife including spicebush, grapevines, buttonbush, viburnum, and Michigan holly.
NOHLC welcomes the opportunity to increase conservation along this still wild river that starts in Oakland County and ends up in Saginaw Bay.