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Paddling paradise: Au Train River restoration project continues

People canoeing on Au Train River.
Paddlers near the recently completed site 10. USDA Forest Service photo.

MICHIGAN—The beautiful, meandering Au Train River offers a quiet, relaxing outing for paddlers. The trail starts in the Au Train Lake Campground in the Hiawatha National Forest and proceeds north approximately 10 miles to Lake Superior. Recreationists can spot a variety of wildlife, including songbirds, great blue herons, kingfishers, muskrats, turtles, walleye, perch and salmon, during their spring and fall runs.

Crew installing fencing.
Great Lakes Climate Corps crew members assist with installing fencing and steps at site 12. USDA Forest Service photo.


However, severe erosion and insufficient recreation infrastructure threatened the longevity of the popular area and riverway. “In 2018, a project decision was signed envisioning a new, healthy waterway and sustainable recreation area to be enjoyed for generations to come,” said Becky Cain, project leader and West Zone NEPA coordinator/planner. “Our goal is to provide a safe and sustainable recreational experience for visitors to the Au Train River Recreation Area.”

Now in its fourth year of project implementation, partners restored riverbank at three erosion sites on the Au Train River, stabilizing eroded banks using a variety of methods, including vegetation bundles (fascines), sandbags, coir logs (fiber logs), and cobble. Work was completed under a partnership with Superior Watershed Partnership (Great Lakes Climate Corps) and YouthWorks (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians). Some experimental passive stabilization (seeding, live transplants, and dead and down material placement) took place at secondary erosion areas and new, small user-created sites.

Crew installing fencing.
YouthWorks crew members assist with split-rail fencing at Site 8. USDA Forest Service photo.


Improvements made at site 4, 5 and 6 include the harvesting and planting of 2,000 live willow and dogwood stakes, as well as installation of vessel tie-offs and latrines at sites 4 and 5. One double vault concrete outhouse was purchased and will be installed this fall between sites 3 and 8, using stewardship retained receipts.

“This project has taken a tremendous amount of coordination across different program areas and with multiple project partners. There have been many Forest Service staff involved with the planning of this project and it’s great to see the rehabilitation finally taking form on the ground. I look forward to the next three years of continuing integrated implementation on this project,” said Lindsey Goss, project leader and West Zone Hydrologist.

In 2022, the forest hopes to finalize design plans, complete a floodplain analysis, conduct a Capacity Analysis and secure additional funding for the new launches. On the ground, work will include completion of the stewardship timber sale, installation of vegetation transplants and live stakes at sites implemented in 2021, as well as continued restoration of sites 3 and 8 using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds. 


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