Saturday, August 17, 2019

Pere Marquette River Tidbits

Pere Marquette River
Pere Marquette River below Indian Bridge (photo by jhy)

compiled from several sources

The Pere Marquette River flows from near Baldwin, Michigan, to Lake Michigan at Ludington. It is designated as a Wild and Scenic River between the junction of the Middle and Little South Branches to Scottville Road, a distance of 66 miles. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 preserves certain rivers which have outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

Its watershed encompasses 755 square miles, and 380 miles of streams. It is the only completely free-flowing river in the Lake Michigan watershed. Brown trout from Germany were stocked in the Baldwin River, a tributary, in 1883. These were the first brown trout in the United States. The cool river continues to be an excellent trout stream, for both rainbow and browns.

Pere Marquette River
Pere Marquette watershed (graphic by the USDA Forest Service)

The first universally designed access on the Pere Marquette has been installed at Custer Bridge, as a result of grants from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. An accessible latrine has also been added at this site.

After logging in the early 20th century stripped the banks, the river was once labeled "dead." As the Manistee National Forest was established in 1939, many reforestation projects were undertaken, and the river began to recover. Now, many agencies and organizations work together to protect the river. For example, the Lake County Road Commission has installed open-bottom culverts on some tributaries to better provide for the health of fish and aquatic wildlife.

The river is named for Jacques Marquette a Roman Catholic priest and explorer who traveled extensively in West Michigan in the 1600s. His traditional death location is near the mouth of the river, although his final grave is now located in St. Ignace.

The Wild and Scenic River designation means that the waterway will be kept in as pristine condition as possible. It does mean that permits are required to be on the water in the designated segment between the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend. Watercraft hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

An additional consequence of the designation is that it is unlikely the North Country Trail will ever have a single-use footbridge across the river. The crossing is now accomplished at Upper Branch Bridge on South Branch Road, and requires a short road walk to reconnect with off-road trail.

The Pere Marquette is popular with paddlers, anglers, and campers (at designated sites).

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