2 March 2011

Upbound on the Detroit River

Posted by John Freeland

“Upbound” photo by Mark J. Burrows, International Joint Commission, December 2010.

I was struck by this photo of the Detroit skyline taken from across the river in Windsor. The river looks so calm when I’m used to seeing it wind swept and turbulent – a rough river for a rough city.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, Detroit, Michigan is north of Windsor, Ontario. The French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac named the river “Rivière du Détroit”, literally “River of the Strait.”

A few physical characterisitics of the Detroit river:
Source: Lake St. Claire, elevation 574 feet (175 m)
Mouth: Lake Erie, 571 feet (174 m)
Length: 32 miles (51 km)
Width: 0.5–2.5 miles (0.8–4.0 km)
Maximum Depth: 53 feet (16m)
Average Discharge: 188,000 cubic feet per second (5,324 m³/s)(1)

The discharge volume is mostly consistent and quite high considering the miniscule gradient: 3 feet of fall over 32 miles. For comparison, the Hudson River at its mouth in New York City has an average discharge of only 21,400 cubic feet (606 m³) per second (2).

Several shoreline restoration projects are planned or under way along the Detroit River in efforts to restore some of the ecological services lost through heavy industrialization. The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the only International Wildlife Refuge in North America.

“Upbound” first appeared in the Great Lakes Echo, a publication of Michigan State University, and is used here according to their republishing guidelines.