Detroit’s Water Renaissance: Rediscovering Detroit’s lost waterways

Bloody Run Creek was once called Parent's Creek. The name was changed after a battle during Pontiac's Rebellion. The waterway was said to have run red with British blood. Photo: Emanuele Berry

Bloody Run Creek was once called Parent’s Creek. The name was changed after a battle during Pontiac’s Rebellion. The waterway was said to have run red with British blood. Photo: Emanuele Berry

Water attracted early settlers to Detroit and water fueled its growth. Now it’s an important asset to the city’s recovery.

Join us in the coming weeks as we explore Detroit’s waterfront: Challenges and opportunities. This series is produced by Current State and Great Lakes Echo with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Today we kick off our series by going back to the days before industrialization, when the city of Detroit was a maze of fresh waterways. In 1702, Antonie de la Mothe Cadillac  sent Louis the XIV a letter from the new world. He described Detroit as a  “country, so temperate, so fertile and so beautiful that it may justly be called the earthly paradise of North America.”

Emanuele Berry has more on the disappearing waters that once flowed through the Eden of Detroit.

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Rediscovering Detroit’s lost waterways by Great Lakes Echo

 

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A line of grates cover the outflow of Savoyard Creek. Before it was encased in pipes, the creek was navigable and used to carry building materials to the city center. Photo: Emaunele Berry

Elmwood Cemetery was established in 1846. The only portion of Bloody Run Creek that is exposed today lies in the cemetery. The rest of the creek became part of the city's sewer system over a century ago. Photo: Emanuele Berry

Elmwood Cemetery was established in 1846. The only portion of Bloody Run Creek that is exposed today lies in the cemetery. The rest of the creek became part of the city’s sewer system over a century ago. Photo: Emanuele Berry

Virginia Stanard is the Director of Urban Design at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture. The DCDC is planning to daylight Bloody Run Creek on Detroit’s east side. Photo:Emanuele Berry

Virginia Stanard is the Director of Urban Design at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture. The DCDC is planning to daylight Bloody Run Creek on Detroit’s east side. Photo: Emanuele Berry

The plans to daylight Bloody Run Creek beyond the cemetery include: space for recreational activities such as kayaking, jogging, and cycling. The development also incorporates, research, and green energy initiatives. Photo: Emanuele Berry

The plans to daylight Bloody Run Creek beyond the cemetery include: space for recreational activities such as kayaking, jogging, and cycling. The development also incorporates, research, and green energy initiatives. Photo: Emanuele Berry

More stories from the Detroit Water Renaissance Series:

Detroit’s walleye fishing industry nets millions 

New shorelines, old problems on the Detroit River

4 thoughts on “Detroit’s Water Renaissance: Rediscovering Detroit’s lost waterways

  1. So many cities across the country and around the world have lost their original rivers and streams in this way – think London, Paris and New York. And yet it’s Detroit that’s working on returning some of these streams to daylight. Kudos to Emanuele Berry on her reporting. A fascinating story!

  2. In all of Wayne County, about one-third of the Rouge River tributaries have been enclosed in sewers at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. These sewers, in turn, have cost taxpayers billions in excess costs and lowered water quality.

    As recently as 1986–at the same time Friends of the Rouge was pushing for river cleanups and respect for the natural river system–the state allowed several hundred feet of Tonquish Creek to be enclosed into a sewer. The purpose? So the Dick Scott Chrysler dealership in Plymouth could build a parking lot over the creek. And the state approved it. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

  3. Very interesting topic. I never realized the extent of this water containment. I look forward to reading more.

  4. my parents used to play along Baby Creek in SW Detroit on “Riverside Dr” near Patton Park & Woodmere Cemetery. It’s been covered up since since the 1930’s. No more river at Riverside Dr.

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