NANFA-L-- River Raisin

Crail, Todd (tcrail-in-UTNet.UToledo.Edu)
Mon, 9 Jan 2006 20:29:44 -0500

Howdy gang,

Sheesh. Am I writing a trip report? Holey moley. Good riddance 2005...

Anyway, the Ladyfriend suggested we get outside with a high of 39 degrees, now
that all the gardens and tanks are moved and we can breathe a little. It was
pretty darn fair out:

We wanted to go someplace other than stuff right around here... Thought it was
a good opportunity to head up and check out a Nature Conservancy preserve up
near Ann Arbor, Michigan called the Nan Weston Preserve.

They're the first set of pictures found-in-the root of the directory: (2416 - 2435)

The spring ephemeral flowers there have to be incredible. I can't wait. The
terrain was awesome... It's on a glacial moraine and despite a fair amount of
sand, it seems the soils are fairly poorly drained. Leaves some awesome
heterogeneity to the landscape, and creates all sorts of vernal pools that are
terraced above one another. Great herp spot, I'm sure. Has a really nice
boardwalk in the wetter portion. Pretty upscale for a TNC preserve, that's
for sure.

As we made our way down the moraine, we approached the floodplain of the River
Raisin, which we drove across heading to our Lake Erie spot-in-the 2002
Convention, and is the stream just south of Cabelas, if you've ever made it to
the Michigan store. It's a lake plain stream-in-that point, with heavy
agriculture, so it looks a lot different there than where we were heading. I
expected it to be nice, but what we found blew my mind. It wasn't just
nice... It was textbook. As in, the kind of stream you generally only read

Most of our streams around here are entrenched with high banks and very little
floodplain access except in huge pulse events, which of course, happen every
year. The streams are all surface water from tiles and ditches / drains and
flood frequently. Not here. This was totally groundwater driven instead of
flash. The banks were so nice and low, and the floodplain was enormous, which
keeps the entrenchment down because the discharge is never accelerated-in-high
water. It just lays out flat. It was interesting when Erika asked me what it
looked like in the summer and I giggled and said it was probably about 6
inches shallower. Kinda nice when water makes its way _through_ a watershed,
instead of _over and out_ of a watershed. Erika was also suprised that there
were clay materials in the soils on the banks (further emphasizing how nice
that floodplain was). It wasn't like fine particles were absent... just where
they belong, up on the floodplain.

So then we went to a mill site that we drove past on the way there (which are
the rest of the pictures). We got out, looked around a little bit, and I was
hoping for mega diversity. What we got, was bordering on unbelieveable. The
bottom of the stream-in-this location was coated in mussel valves. The first
one I picked up was a wavy-rayed lampmussel, which we have a hard time finding
in Ohio. I've never seen so many rainbow in one place before. Walking
around, you could hear the bottom crunch. Out in the stream behind logs, bars
of pea clams formed. The one seine picture is from a kick haul.
Unfortunately, because the bank was working properly, there weren't places
where we could get to pick up the mussels. It was too deep in the channel
(beyond the elbow). I guess that part kinda backfired... But sheesh... I
can't wait to snorkel this stream next year! :)

We seined around a little bit and caught greensides, rainbows and fantails...
I'm sure there's orangethroat, blackside and least darter. Got a juvie river
chub and a silver shiner (which we never see), I would be suprised if there
_weren't_ horneyhead chub. Striped shiners were the most abundant minnow.
With all the root wads and crystal clear water, I'm sure there's pirate perch
and banded topminnows too. Just have to get out there and poke around in it.
Oh wait, we can't take darters in Michigan now, can we? Hmmm....

At any rate... I think we need to do an Ohio/Michigan trip here next year.
The fish community was really nice, the mussels unbelieveable. The park there
was really nice and I have another park locality further downstream in
Tecumseh. I can't wait for it to warm up now!

The area is rich with human history too... On the way home, we stopped-in-an
old cemetery right down the road from the mill. There were gravestones from
1813! That's freakin' amazing to me because this person died before Tecumseh
was killed-in-the battle of the Thames (which is where all of this was going
down in the "northwest"). Looking around, we saw how brutal frontier life
was... The gravestones marked not only their years, but their months and even
sometimes, days. Talk about counting down. A lot of women died in childbirth.
It looked like a cholera epidemic hit the area in 1881. One family lost 4
children in 5 days. Thank goodness for sanitary sewers.

A little sample data... And this was a very limited and constrained sample!

Fish Species
Central stoneroller, striped shiner, river chub, silver shiner, creek chub
Rock bass
Greenside, rainbow, fantail, johnny

Mussel Species
Wabash pigtoe, round pigtoe, rainbow, mucket, wavy-rayed lampmussel,
slippershell mussel, plain pocketbook, creek heelsplitter, creeper, elktoe,

The "It was so nice, I almost snorkeled in January" Madness, Toledo, OH
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
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