Friends of the St. Clair River periodically highlights guest opinion-editorial pieces.
The content contained in guest articles does not reflect the opinions of Friends of the St. Clair River.
By: Lily Smalstig, Recreation Intern, Friends of the St. Clair River
Living in St. Clair County we are so lucky to have the natural features that we do. Our main feature is the St. Clair River, but that’s not all we have to offer. Additionally, we have three other rivers that flow into this big river and they are the Belle, Pine, and Black Rivers. All four of these rivers in St. Clair County have thriving ecosystems and contributes to the massive Great Lakes freshwater system. The river that is my personal favorite is the Belle River.
The Belle River has many things to offer that make it so great. The river is an astounding 73.5 miles long! That is almost double the length of the St. Clair River! The headwaters are in southeastern Lapeer County and the river flows east into the St. Clair River at the mouth in Marine City. Depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall we get, the depth of the river varies widely. At some points, near the headwaters, the river can be a few inches deep while in Marine City the depth reaches about 12-13 feet deep.
Wide varieties of species call this river home, like mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and fish. Over 50 different fish species are found in the Belle River including the eastern sand darter, which is a state-threatened species. The Belle River is a healthy ecosystem and we know this because of the native freshwater mussels found here. Mussels are easily harmed by pollution and toxins and are becoming harder and harder to find. They can only survive in high-quality waters. In the Belle River there are over 25 different species of mussels that have been found. This is a great sign of healthy water!
The reason I love the Belle River so much is because I live on the river in Marine City and every day I get to take in the beautiful view. On a nice, sunny warm day, I can walk out to the river and see fish jumping out of the water, turtles basking in the sun, ducks searching for their next meal, people kayaking up the river, boaters loading up their vessels for a day of swimming, and people of all ages fishing off the seawall. Every day I see kids riding their bikes and scooters with their tackle box in their backpack and pole ready to fish. Not all the fun happens in the summer though. When the ice freezes in the winter, people are out ice fishing, snowmobiling, and having a great time.
The middle stretch of the Belle River runs through East China Township Park, Columbus County Park, and Memphis Park. Located in Columbus County Park is one of our photo monitoring stations where anyone with a camera phone can snap a photo of the Belle River and upload it to our video timelapse website. This citizen science monitoring is done to gauge the health of the riverbank, erosion, and flooding. I encourage you to check out this photo station and all the great views of the meandering Belle River in the park at https://www.chronolog.io/project/SCR.
The Belle River is home to a diverse and thriving ecosystem. With that being said, we all have a responsibility to help preserve the quality of our natural waterways. We do not want to cause more damage to our natural ecosystems than what’s already been done. Our watersheds must be protected. Check out our tips to protect the watershed at https://www.scriver.org/get-involved/protect-our-watershed/.
“Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss”. — (David Bolling, How to Save a River: Handbook for Citizen Action)
Lily is the recreation intern for Friends of the St. Clair River. She is finishing up her Freshwater Science bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. She grew up enjoying all the wonders the Belle River has to offer and loves the integrate freshwater system located in St. Clair County.