- St. Clair River
The St. Clair River is a
riverin central North Americawhich drains Lake Huroninto Lake St Clair, forming part of the International Boundary between the Canadian province of Ontarioand the U.S. state of Michigan. The river is also a significant component in the Great Lakes Waterwaywith shipping channels permitting cargovessels to travel between the upper and lower Great Lakes.
The river, which some consider a "
strait," [http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/Niag/LakeLevels/isostatic.htm] flows in a southerly direction, connecting the southern end of Lake Huronto the northern end of Lake St. Clair. It branches into several channels near its mouth at Lake St. Clair, creating a broad delta region.
The river is 39 miles (64 km) long and drops 5 feet (1.5 m) in elevation from Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair. The flow rate averages around 182,000 cubic feet per second (5,200 m³/s), and the
drainagearea is 222,400 square miles (576,000 km²). This takes into account the combined drainage areas of Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior.
The shipping channel on Lake St. Clair itself is 35 miles (56 km) long from the end of the St. Clair River to the beginning of the
Detroit River. The Detroit River is 32 miles (51 km) long and drops 3 feet (1 m) in elevation from Lake St. Clair to its mouth at Lake Erie. The Detroit River discharges an average of 186,000 cubic feet per second (5,300 m³/s) into Lake Erie.
In the 1700s, French "
voyageurs" travelled on the river in canoes loaded with furs destined to adorn Europe's royalty. Ships built at Marine City, Michiganduring the mid-1800s carried immigrants up the river on their way to new homes in the American West. During the 20th century, freighters returned from the upper Great Lakes with iron ore, copper, grain - products of some of these settlers' labor.
The St. Clair River and its Lambton County tributaries in Ontario contributes 103,210 acres (418 km²) to the watershed, although this does not include the
Sydenham Riverwatershed. In Michigan, the Black River, Pine River, and Belle River drain 780,600 acres (3,159 km²) in Lapeer, Macomb, Sanilac, and St. Clair counties; the watersheds around Bunce Creekand Marine City are relatively small.
* Stag Island lies between
Corunna, Ontarioand Marysville, Michigan.
* Fawn Island is near
Port Lambton, Ontarioand Marine City, Michigan.
* Walpole, Seaway, Bassett, Squirrel, Pottowatamie, St. Anne, Dickinson, Russell and Harsens islands are located where the St. Clair River flows into Lake St. Clair near
Algonac, Michigan; these islands form the " St. Clair Flats", the only major river delta in the Great Lakes and the largest freshwaterdelta in North America. Six of the islands in this delta are Crown lands being used by the Walpole Island First Nation.
Most of the watershed away from the river in Ontario and Michigan is used for
agriculture. A few forestand wetlandremnants are present, although their area has declined significantly since European settlement.
Much of the shoreline on both sides of the St. Clair River is urbanized andheavily industrialized. Intensive development has occurred in and near the cities of
Port Huron, Michiganand Sarnia, Ontario. The heaviest concentration of industry (including a large petrochemicalcomplex) lies along the Ontario shore south of Sarnia.
Several communities along the St. Clair rely on the river as their primary source of
drinking water. About one-third to one-half of the residents of Michigan receive their water from the St. Clair/Detroit River waterway.
Industries -- including petroleum refineries, chemical manufacturers,
paper mills, salt producers and electric power plants-- also need high quality water for their operations, although there have been some cases in recent years where these industries have contaminated river waters after discharging pollutants.
Land areas of the St. Clair River
shoreline and flats consist of two biological zones: upland and transitional, both of which are normally above the water table, but which may be flooded periodically.
The upland forests consist of
deciduousspecies, many of which are near their northern climatic limit. Most pre-European settlement trees have been cleared for agriculture, industry, or urbanization. Remaining forest stands, such as oaksavannas as well as lakeplain prairies, are found along the southern reaches of the river, particularly on the islands of the St. Clair River Delta and on the Michigan shore in Algonac State Park.
Transitional species are abundant in the low-lying regions, categorized as
shrub ecotones, wet meadows, sedge marshes, and island shorelines and beaches. This habitat is home to water and land mammals, including humans, as well as songbirds, waterfowl, insects, pollinators, reptiles, and amphibians.
The aquatic habitat of the St. Clair River ranges from deep and fast near the
Blue Water Bridgeto shallow and slow in the lower river near its discharge point into Lake St. Clair.
Each area provides a unique habitat for aquatic life:
macrophytes(visible marine plants),
benthic macroinvertebrates( organisms that live at the bottom of a lake or stream),
phytoplanktonand zooplankton(floating plants and animals),
vegetation(plants seen above the water surface),
fish(from minnows to large sport fish).
Area of concern
thumb|right|300 px|Canadian freighter Algorail downbound in the St. Clair RiverThe St. Clair River is listed as an Area of Concern (AOC) because of pollutants such as
bacteria, heavy metals, and toxicorganics, which had come from municipaland industrial discharges, urban and rural runoff, combined sewer overflows(CSOs), and contaminated sediments.
The St. Clair River AOC includes the entire river, from the Blue Water Bridge to the southern tip of Seaway Island, west to
St. Johns Marshand east to include the north shore of Mitchells Bayon Lake St. Clair. Anchor Bayis not included.
Through the Great Lakes agreement, a
Remedial Action Plan(RAP) was created to initiate cleanup measures. It consists of six steps:
* Restrictions on fish consumption
* Bird and animal deformities
* Degradation of
* Restrictions on
* Restrictions on drinking water consumption
* Beach closings
* Degradation of
* Added cost to agriculture and industry
* Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
The RAP for the St. Clair River AOC was initiated in 1985. A binational group, called the RAP Team, was established in 1987 to develop the plan and ensure adequate and appropriate public involvement. The RAP Team included representatives from federal, state, and provincial governments.
This is a list of
bridges and other crossings of the St. Clair River from Lake St. Clairupstream to Lake Huron.
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