Restoring the Pine River

This past summer (2021), the sounds of trucks, bobcats and excavators echoed down from the high bluffs above the Pine River in Northwest Lower Michigan as a new kind of sediment control structure was pieced together. Attempting to mimic nature, the Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) and its partners designed and built a log jam like no other in Michigan, stabilizing a sand bluff and creating new fish habitat.

Amy Beyer

Part of the greater Manistee River Watershed, the Pine River has been popular with both trout fishermen and recreational paddlers for many years. The Pine enjoys special status as a Federally designated Wild and Scenic River and a Michigan Natural River. But like most of Northern Michigan’s rivers, damage done by logging over a century ago and the development that followed continues to cause trouble today.

CRA’s Executive Director, Amy Beyer points out that it’s not just erosion control. “We joined the opportunity to stabilize the bank and add habitat at the same time.”

In this video, we witness the construction of an erosion control structure that is the first-of-its-kind in Michigan. Answering a problem that began in the clear-cut logging days, the structure was designed to stop the collapse of a bluff along a popular hiking trail above the Pine River.

Nate Winkler

Applying a technique used in western states, this project involved stacking very large logs that are held in place by heavy boulders bolted to one end. Layers of logs were stacked and interconnected at the foot of the bluff, then filled in with tree slash to create a log jam that looks natural, stabilizing the bluff and adding fish habitat.

As Biologist, Nate Winkler points out natural rivers usually include a lot of wood from trees and tree branches falling in over time. This woody debris, particularly larger logs and snags alter the hydraulics of flowing water, helping to create riffles and pools. The woody debris also provides fish habitat including areas of safety and places for spawning

“Wood provides a physical separation between adult trout,” Winkler says. The slash or woody debris also “provides a mosaic of habitat for juvenile trout and other forage species.”

Another special feature of this project is the very large partnership of organizations that helped make it possible. At the end of the film, you’ll find this list of Project Funders:

  • Pine River Association Watershed Enhancement Fund
  • Lake County Community Foundation
  • Pine River Area Chapter of Trout Unlimited
  • Trout and Salmon Foundation
  • Michigan Fly Fishing Club
  • Challenge Chapter of Trout Unlimited
  • Fly Fishers International
  • Kalamazoo Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited
  • Scientific Anglers
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Environmental Protection Agency, Section 319 Program
  • The George Fund
  • Walters Family Foundation
  • DTE Energy Foundation, and
  • numerous individual CRA River Care Supporters including Ron and Linda Hamilton

One thought on “Restoring the Pine River

  1. Wow! What a wonderful Nature Change segment. I thought the narrator was excellent. All of the on-screen interviews were authentic and effective. The videography was excellent. I learned a lot.

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